2021 NFL Draft Optimal Quarterback Landing Spots

by Tyler Mulligan
2021 NFL Draft Optimal Quarterback Landing Spots

Welcome to the 2021 NFL Draft Optimal Quarterback Landing Spots!

In the NFL, the QB is the ultimate needle mover. Year after year, quarterbacks are drafted at the top of their class. The issue with the quarterback position is simple — scarcity.

There aren’t many elite signal-callers within the league. While there are plenty of serviceable quarterbacks within the NFL, the propensity of struggling franchises to select QB’s with their coveted top picks is a testament to the demand for high-level quarterbacks.

In the past 12 drafts, nine first-overall picks were quarterbacks, with defensive ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney and offensive tackle Eric Fisher being the outliers.

Similarly, this year’s draft class is expected to be rife with arm talent, with at least five college stars potentially bursting onto the NFL scene by way of a first-round pick. 2020’s draft saw four first-round quarterback talents selected. 2021’s draft class looks every bit as talented as last year’s draft alumni. 

With the 2021 NFL Draft Optimal QB Landing Spots, we’ll examine this year’s top prospects and determine their best landing spots for fantasy purposes based on their draft range projections and the upcoming season's fantasy implications. This article serves two purposes: 1) projecting where and to whom each quarterback will go and 2) hypothesizing which team or situation would fit them best.

2021 NFL Draft Optimal Quarterback Landing Spots

Check out the rest of our 2021 NFL Draft coverage including mock draft, rankings, and player profiles.

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson Tigers (Draft Projection: 1)

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No surprise here.

Trevor Lawrence has been lauded as the next big thing since his Freshman season at Clemson. By winning a National Championship with the Tigers in 2018 and completing a perfect season, Lawrence was already earmarked as the No.1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

After three stellar seasons with Clemson, racking up 10,098 yards to go along with 108 total touchdowns and only 17 picks, Lawrence’s time to play in the big league is here.

Lawrence can do it all. He has a great arm, above-average legs, and his accuracy has always been on point. Unless the Jaguars plan on breaking the internet on April 29th, he’ll be the first name called on draft night.

Jacksonville Jaguars - Pick #1

Lawrence will step into the Jacksonville Jaguars offense as the leading man from day one.

The Jags have lots of cap space to eventually piece together a team around their prized pick. They’ve also got another first-round pick at 25, where they’ll likely look to help the golden boy on the offensive side of the ball.

With a solid receiving corps headlined by DJ Chark, newly acquired Marvin Jones, and fledgling sophomore Laviska Shenault, Lawrence has an opportunity to become this year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Okay, maybe it’s too early to tell whether he’ll bring home accolades in his first season just yet, but he seems like he’ll likely be the most fantasy-relevant quarterback based on his skillset and the talent around him.

James Robinson was a delightful surprise for fantasy owners in 2020 and should continue to see the bulk of carries in Jacksonville’s backfield. They’ve also added Carlos Hyde, who should be a stabilizing presence within their rushing attack.

Their biggest draft need on offense (outside of quarterback) is at tackle. Their interior line features high-level pass protectors in Andrew Norwell and Brandon Linder, so with the No. 25 pick, expect a left or right tackle to come off the board.

While the Jaguars have a long way to go, they’ve got the most important position shored up with Lawrence going first-overall.

Zach Wilson, BYU (Draft Projection: 2)

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BYU’s Zach Wilson had a meteoric rise up the draft board, thanks to an incredible 2020 season. Although nothing is set in stone, he’ll likely be the second player selected in the upcoming draft—at least that's what the betting odds say.

Wilson was extremely accurate in 2020, converting on 73.5 of his pass attempts for 3,692 passing yards for 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

Although he’s more akin to staying in the pocket, Wilson is no stranger to the running game, adding 10 touchdowns on the ground as well.

With his fiery personality, Wilson is reminiscent of Baker Mayfield when he came out of college.

Wilson is slated to be a New York Jet after Sam Darnold was dealt to the Panthers.

New York Jets - Pick #2

The Jets need a facelift. Although QB is their top priority, they’ll have issues becoming a playoff contender anytime soon, which doesn’t bode well for Wilson’s statistics. On the other hand, he’s one of the few rookie quarterbacks that will be starting off the jump for their respective franchise.

On paper, the Jets are shallow at WR. The signing of Corey Davis will help their situation, but injuries have plagued his four-year career and he’s yet to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. While fantasy viable, Jamison Crowder isn't a home run hitter.

On the O-Line front, the Jets still have work to do. Last season, the Jets spent a first-round pick on Mekhi Becton, who impressed in his rookie season despite being hampered by injuries.

Outside of Becton, the Jets were miserable, allowing 2.7 sacks per game in 2020, ranking 24th in the league. The Jets also had only nine rushing touchdowns last year, which ranked dead last in the NFL—demonstrative of both a poor offensive line as well as a lack of ability for the offense as a whole to get into scoring situations.

Wilson will start the season in the Jets driver’s seat, but unfortunately for the BYU alumnus and for potential fantasy owners, he’s driving a lemon.

Mac Jones, Alabama Crimson Tide (Draft Range: 3-25)

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Mac Jones was relatively unknown when he first donned the Crimson Tide uniform in 2018. In the shadows of then college phenom, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts, Jones seemed like he’d receive limited usage.

Fast forward to 2020, where Jones is the starting quarterback for the No.1 offense in the country, where he and the Crimson Tide are crowned National Champions.

In his only full season as a starter, Jones put up 4,500 passing yards with 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also set a record as the NCAA’s most accurate quarterback in a single season with a 77.4 completion percentage. Jones did this while averaging 30.92 attempts per game.

Deservedly so, Jones is now on the radar as a potential Top-3 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Whether the 49ers intend to draft Jones after moving up in the draft remains to be seen, but there’s a good chance they’ll be looking for Jimmy Garoppolo’s eventual replacement.

Las Vegas Raiders - Pick #17

Where Mac Jones will be selected is one of the most intriguing storylines coming into the 2021 NFL Draft.

He’s projected as high as third, which would make him Jimmy G’s successor, but I’m not buying it.

Regardless of where he ends up, his best-case scenario is likely to be a first-year backup, with the potential to usurp the starter down the stretch of the season.

Although he's not likely to drop this far, Las Vegas seems like an ideal fit for Jones with Derek Carr’s contract coming to an end in 2022. Carr will likely demand a hefty price tag as he’s coming off one of his best seasons to date.

Mac Jones would fit in well down the line for many teams, but the Raiders' core of young offensive talent bodes especially well for a young quarterback. With Henry Ruggs stretching the field and Darren Waller as one of the NFL’s elite tight ends, Jones would have plenty of talent around him for the future.

Also, Josh Jacobs is a Top-10 fantasy running back, which translates to less pressure on Jones’ shoulders early in his career.

In 2020, injuries to Richie Incognito and Trent Brown hampered an otherwise talented offensive line. Going forward, Las Vegas’ O-Line should improve compared to their ailment-riddled 2020 season.

San Francisco 49ers - Pick #3

Although I mentioned my skepticism of Jones being selected third overall by the 49ers, anything can happen on draft day.

The Niners are looking for Garoppolo’s replacement after trading up to the third pick ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. Although he’s under contract until after 2022, his $24 million yearly price tag doesn’t seem worth it.

Sure, he took San Francisco to a Super Bowl, but this was largely due to the run-heavy scheme employed by offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan. Also, injury issues as well as Garoppolo’s questionable durability are problematic for his future as a 49er.

If Mac Jones were to be taken at No.3, he’ll be a part of a balanced squad that lends itself to a young quarterback. With a robust rushing attack and George Kittle as an elite tight end, Jones has safety valves all over the field. Not to mention, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk established themselves as playmakers in 2020.

The future looks bright for any young quarterback who may inherit the keys to the San Fransisco offense, whether it's Jones or the next guy on this list.

Justin Fields, Ohio State Buckeyes (Draft Range: 3-15)

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Justin Fields has been in the limelight since he was a high schooler.

Featured in the Netflix series QB1: Beyond the Lights —a docu-series that focuses on the final season of some of the nation’s top high school quarterback recruits— Fields has been used to cameras following him throughout his football journey.

Originally committed to Georgia, Fields served as Jake Fromm’s backup before transferring to Ohio State. In the 24 games he started as a Buckeye, Fields threw for 5,373 yards and 63 touchdowns. While he’s no Michael Vick, Fields flexed his scrambling ability at Ohio State, rushing for 867 yards and 15 touchdowns in his two seasons at Columbus.

While he was expected to be the consensus No.2 QB on the board behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, the rapid rise of BYU’s Zach Wilson, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, and Alabama’s Mac Jones have muddied the waters.

Carolina Panthers - Pick #8

Although the Panthers seem to be stocked at quarterback with Teddy Bridgewater and the newly acquired Sam Darnold, they’re not ruling out going after another quarterback in the draft. In a pre-draft press conference, Matt Rhule surprised many by saying the organization will actively be looking for a quarterback.

Last season, the Panthers struggled with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm. A 5-10 record within the absurdly tough NFC South apparently didn’t cut it. 

Bringing in Darnold is a bit of a dice roll for the Panthers. Darnold was a former third-overall selection from the 2018 draft. Unfortunately for Darnold, he was picked by the Jets and hasn’t been able to break out. He’s sustained numerous injuries and he played for the league’s punching bag, so it’s tough to quantify his potential.

If Fields were to be drafted by the Panthers at No.8, many dominos would need to fall until he’s thrust into a starting position. Despite this, Carolina has an extremely talented offense, spearheaded by running back Christian McCaffrey and receiver D.J. Moore. These weapons increase Fields’ potential exponentially.

Also, Bridgewater’s tenure in Carolina seems to be on thin ice after one season of mediocrity. A trade could be on the horizon.

Denver Broncos - Pick #9

Before last season, I erroneously suggested Drew Lock would be a Top-10 fantasy quarterback. I fell victim to recency bias and admittedly low sample size. Last season Lock had a 57.3% completion rate, with a 16/15 TD/INT ratio.

One season later I’m no longer sold on the 24-year-old and neither are the Broncos, making Fields an intriguing option with the No. 9 pick.

If Fields were to be selected by the Broncos, it could make him a day-one starter at Mile-High Stadium. He’d inherit Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy at wideout as well as the hybrid tight-end Noah Fant as a release option. Having two-time Pro-Bowler Melvin Gordon in the backfield would also help stabilize the offense, keeping the defense in front of Fields honest.

Trey Lance, North Dakota State Bison (Draft Range 3-15)

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Trey Lance is one of the most intriguing players in this year’s draft class. He’s difficult to evaluate because he played only one game in 2020.

In 2019, however, Lance threw for 2,786 yards for 28 touchdowns without an interception. He also rushed for 14 touchdowns and 1,100 yards, making him a true dual-threat quarterback.

The issue for those inclined to draft him in fantasy leagues is not his potential, it’s whether or not he’s ready to play in the NFL. Although he has through-the-roof talent, prospective NFL teams will likely hold onto him for a year, before testing his mettle at the professional level.

Although he’s a project that needs work (namely arm mechanics), Lance has the most athleticism out of any top quarterback in the draft. Those in dynasty leagues may want to take note of Lance because he has real down-the-line promise.

Atlanta Falcons - Pick #4

Although Atlanta has been shopping their fourth-overall pick, there’s no doubt that when the Falcons are ready to select, there will be real QB talent left. 

Assuming the Falcons pick at four, there’s a good chance Lance will be left on the board. If that’s the case, The Falcons brass might look to the future with their pick.

As mentioned before, Lance needs work before he’s ready to start in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons will eventually need to fill Matt Ryan’s shoes, and they may do so with Trey Lance.

The Falcons have weapons on offense. Future Hall-of-Famer, Julio Jones, and Pro-Bowl caliber Calvin Ridley can stretch the field for any quarterback. When you add the versatile playmaking ability Lance has with his legs, defenses across the league will have their hands full when trying to contain the sheer speed of the Falcons offense.

Atlanta’s offensive line is also filled with former first-rounders, easing the pressure on the quarterback.

Matt Ryan still has gas left in the tank, so it may take some time before Lance gets his shot, but once ultimately takes over the offense, the sky is the limit.

New England Patriots - Pick #15

Bill Belichick lost in the divorce of Tom Brady. In fact, he’ll be paying alimony for years. The Patriots missed the playoffs and the Tampa Bay Brady Bunch took home silverware.

New England signed Cam Newton to a 1-year deal worth $5.1 Million to reclaim his starting job at Foxborough. The broken-hearted Belichick did what any guy fresh out of a relationship would do: make your ex jealous by getting better. Instead of working out and posting selfies on social media, Belichick took the NFL’s free agency by storm signing a ton of talent, including TE Jonnu Smith, TE Hunter Henry, WR Nelson Agholor—not to mention a slew of defensive talent.

The Patriots are gearing up to make some noise and Trey Lance could be on their radar. Although it’s unlikely Lance will drop to 15, the Pats might be a deadline day mover. 

As mentioned, Newton is on a one-year deal and Lance could be the future for the new-look New England squad.

Be sure to check out the Fantasy Six Pack 2021 Fantasy Football Mock Draft

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