I know what you’re probably thinking right now.
A 2021 draft primer? The season hasn’t even started yet!
Admittedly, “way too early” draft predictions are exactly what they’re titled: Way too early— and as a result, are very rarely, or perhaps never, accurate at all.
In this draft primer series, we won’t be mocking players to any teams, but rather looking at the top players at each position who could get drafted by the Steelers with their first few picks in 2021. Prospects such as Trevor Lawrence, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Fields, and Penei Sewell, who are all expected to be gone long before where the Steelers are projected to pick in the first round, will not be included.
The goal? Not to make any “hot take” predictions, but rather to look at some players that Steelers fans might want to watch a little closer than usual this college season.
Starting off the series will be the hardest position to evaluate: quarterbacks. They are ranked in no particular order.
Trey Lance, QB #5, North Dakota State
2019 stats: 2,786 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 1,100 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns.
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 221 lbs.
Lance might be the biggest rising prospect since the end of the 2020 draft. The FCS superstar recorded incredible numbers his redshirt freshman year at North Dakota State, leading his team to a 16-0 season and the FCS championship. The dual-threat passer has shown just about everything you could want in a quarterback: accuracy, arm strength, athleticism, and the ability to take care of the ball.
The only knocks on Lance are his competition, as the FCS is a far-cry from the NFL level, and his lack of experience as a starter entering this season. If he can put up similar numbers this year as a redshirt sophomore, it shouldn’t effect his NFL stock at all.
Lance will have massive expectations on his shoulders this year, and if he’s consistent, especially against a much larger school in Oregon, he may be long gone before the Steelers pick. NDSU has had a history of putting out NFL quarterbacks, most recently Carson Wentz and Easton Stick.
The 2021 season will be important for Lance to prove he is not a one-trick pony. A big season in the national spotlight could cement him in the first round with a legitimate chance at being a top-5 prospect.
Some notable articles about Trey Lance:
2021 NFL Draft Prospect: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State University - NFL Draft Diamonds
NDSU quarterback Trey Lance has first-round upside in 2021 - Pro Football Network
Jamie Newman, QB #12, Georgia
2019 stats: 2,868 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 574 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns.
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 230 lbs.
Another dual-threat quarterback with an opportunity to make the first round in 2021. Jamie Newman transferred from Wake Forest to Georgia for his final year of eligibility as Jake Fromm’s succesor.
The Draft Network describes Newman as being “built like a tank”, and he runs like one, too. Newman runs well and hard, putting up 574 rushing yards during his last season at Wake Forest, and drawing some Cam Newton comparisons due to his tough running style.
As a passer, Newman has a good arm and a fast release, with excellent pocket awareness. He doesn’t have the strongest arm you’ll ever see, but his deep ball is definitely strength.
Similarly to Trey Lance, we’ll need to see more of Jamie Newman before we can know where he’ll go in the draft. At Georgia, Newman will be surrounded by much better talent, but will also be playing on a bigger stage against better defenses. It will also be interesting to see how Newman handles the scheme change from Wake Forest to Georgia.
Newman has the physical tools to excel at Georgia and beyond, but his level of play after the change of scenery will be indicative of his future in the NFL. Newman is considered by many to be one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s class, but still has a lot to prove.
Some notable articles about Jamie Newman:
Jamie Newman Draft Profile - The Draft Network
Kellen Mond, QB #11, Texas A&M
2019 stats: 2,897 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 500 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns.
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 217 lbs.
Mond is a good quarterback one play, and a terrible one the next. If consistency wasn’t such an issue, his name could be right next to those near the top of this year’s class. Mond’s flashes of brilliance include his excellent arm strength an athletic ability, but his accuracy remains a major question. He is aggressive to a fault at times as well, which can lead to some ill-advised throws.
As a runner, Mond certainly has the ability, and while his team didn’t incorporate many designed QB runs last year, he was still able to use his athleticism to save some broken plays.
Mond suffered what some considered to be down year in 2019, and wisely sat out the 2020 draft in hopes of raising his stock this year. If Mond can match his skill with his talent, he will be a dangerous quarterback to play against this season, and might have a successful NFL career.
Mond is currently in the second and third round conversation, but a big season would easily push him into the first round.
Some notable articles about Kellen Mond:
Is Kellen Mond a 1st Round Quarterback? - Pro Football Draft
Kellen Mond Draft Profile - The Draft Network
Can Sam Ehlinger and Kellen Mond be backup plans for Justin Fields next year? - Pro Football Network
Sam Ehlinger, QB #11, Texas
2019 stats: 3,663 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 663 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns.
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 230 lbs.
Ehlinger has quietly put together quite the career at Texas, finishing 2019 with some impressive numbers. He’s stayed rather underrated due to Texas’ moderate success, but has every chance this season to become one of the top passers in all of college football.
Ehlinger is continuing to develop as a passer, with a solid skillset and an NFL-caliber arm. He is known for his toughness and as being a good teammate, but that doesn’t mean much if he can’t succeed at the other aspects of the game. Like most college quarterbacks, he’ll have to work on his accuracy and anticipation to succeed on the next level.
Ehlinger’s mobility is one of his strengths, as he has enjoyed success as a runner and scrambler. He is a surprisingly powerful runner as well.
Ehlinger might be one of the most underrated quarterbacks to enter the draft this year. More exciting prospects like Jamie Newman have stolen much of the quarterback spotlight, but Ehlinger has remained productive and consistent during his time at Texas.
Much like Kellen Mond, Ehlinger decided to return to school and forgo the 2020 NFL Draft for an attempt at raising his draft stock. If Ehlinger continues to improve, he has a chance at sneaking into the first round this year, especially if his team can progress with him.
Some notable articles about Sam Ehlinger:
Can Sam Ehlinger and Kellen Mond be backup plans for Justin Fields next year? - Pro Football Network
Sam Ehlinger Draft Profile - The Draft Network
What the experts are saying about Sam Ehlinger in the NFL Draft - Longhorns Wire
Brock Purdy, QB #15, Iowa State
2019 stats: 3,982 passing yards, 27 passing touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 249 rushing yards, 8 rushing touchdowns.
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 210 lbs.
Athleticism is a common theme in this year’s class, and Purdy is no different. The Iowa State passer has put together a great career so far in college, and is considered to be a fringe first-round prospect entering what could be his final year. Thanks to his accuracy and athleticism combination, Purdy nearly put up four thousand passing yards last year, a difficult task for even the best of college passers.
Despite being an above-average athlete, Purdy lacks ideal NFL arm strength. However, he has enough power on his throws to be a competent NFL quarterback. Despite being undersized, Purdy has shown enough football IQ and awareness to make up for his lack of height.
Purdy still needs to prove himself in big moments— especially coming from a lesser known school in Iowa State. A Pro Football Network article highlighted some flaws in Purdy’s consistency, especially in important, close games.
Brock Purdy has the upside to be a more athletic version of Drew Brees— an accurate-yet-undersized quarterback with enough smarts to overcome arm strength limitations. Purdy is firmly in the first/early second round conversation right now for the 2021 draft, and his stock should only go up from here.
Some notable articles about Brock Purdy:
2021 NFL Draft: Brock Purdy is a dark-horse top prospect - Pro Football Network
Some other names to look out for this season include Mississippi State’s K.J. Costello, Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan, Florida’s Kyle Trask, and Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez.
Obviously, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields are currently the two best quarterbacks in their class, and don't look to be coming down any time soon. They will likely not be around by the time the Steelers expect to pick, but are still great prospects to study and watch.
What quarterback would you most like to see as a Pittsburgh Steeler next year?
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So, will quarterback even be a factor in the Steelers’ draft plans after this season?
The short answer? We won’t know until then.
How well Ben Roethlisberger plays in 2020, combined with the possibility he could retire at the end of the season, always makes quarterback a possibility for the team.
The Steelers have shown confidence in Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges as their #2 and #3 options, but it remains to be seen if they believe in Rudolph as a full-time starter post-Big Ben, or would be more interested in drafting a successor.
With so many variables set to change between now and the actual draft, all of the names mentioned in this article and more, have a chance at being a future selection for Pittsburgh Steelers.
If a quarterback is available at the right value, in the right slot in, there’s a good chance the Steelers will pull the trigger.
Let’s just hope that pick is at #32.