National Football League

2021 NFL Draft sets up intriguing QB competitions around the league

2 days ago

Now that the dust has settled after the 2021 NFL Draft, a few teams appear to be in a quarterback quandary.

What happened after Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence was selected No. 1 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets nabbed BYU’s Zach Wilson at No. 2 – both as predicted – came as a shock to many.

The San Francisco 49ers drafted Trey Lance No. 3 overall, so what does that mean for their current starter, Jimmy Garoppolo

After starting only five games in his first season with San Francisco in 2017, Garoppolo missed nearly all of the following season after he tore his left ACL in Week 3. He bounced back in 2019, leading the 49ers to a 13-3 regular-season record and a trip to the Super Bowl, in which they fell 31-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Through his limited time behind center the past four years, Garoppolo is 22-8 in his tenure with the Niners.

Similarly, Lance has also had his time on the field limited. The former North Dakota State QB played in a mere 19 games in three years — two in 2018, 16 in 2019 and one in 2020 — but finished 19-0 and won national championships with NDSU in 2018 and '19.

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In 2019, his first and only full season as the starting quarterback, Lance completed 192 of 287 passes for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions while rushing for 1,110 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He has proven that his ceiling is high, but is it high enough for him to immediately take over the starting role from the seven-year veteran Garoppolo?

On "First Things First," Nick Wright shared his thoughts on why a slow transition in San Francisco is much more likely.

"[The 49ers] have a stable, legitimate starting NFL quarterback on a reasonable contract with multiple years left on it, and [they] are drafting a raw, super-high-ceiling, first-round pick that [they] traded up to get, who theoretically could play his rookie season but absolutely does not have to," Wright said.

"[Lance] can learn the system, he can absorb the Kyle Shanahan offense and information, and he can sit under a professional in Jimmy Goroppolo who, if Jimmy plays poorly — or more likely, if he gets hurt — [Lance] can step in."

Marcellus Wiley agreed with Wright on "Speak For Yourself," pointing out that Lance’s starting role is a work in progress and that Garoppolo will likely be the go-to starter come September.

"When [Lance] hits, it’s gonna be amazing, but he needs so much time," Wiley said. "[This move] buys Shanahan time. It buys Jimmy G time. Jimmy is in a win-win situation."

The next quarterback taken off the board Thursday was Justin Fields after the Chicago Bears traded up for the No. 11 pick. While the Bears were aggressive in grabbing Fields, incumbent starter Andy Dalton was not blindsided by the move and won’t be giving up his role anytime soon, per NFL Insider Ian Rapoport. 

"There’s going to be pressure to win, but [the Bears’] goal is to have Andy Dalton play the entire year, have Fields develop under the radar and then pass the torch the following year," Rapoport said.

Dalton played nine years with the Cincinnati Bengals before he was released after the team drafted Joe Burrow last year. Dalton spent the 2020 season in Dallas and is now headed to the Windy City, where he joins Nick Foles on the roster.

On "The Herd," Colin Cowherd shared his thoughts on the role Dalton will play this season while Bears head coach Matt Nagy works with his potential franchise quarterback. 

"Andy Dalton, for the record … a great mentor for a year. Andy watches the draft. He knows his role: Play until [Fields] is ready," Cowherd said. 

Speaking of franchise quarterbacks, the New England Patriots hope to have found theirs with the No. 15 pick, former Alabama QB Mac Jones, the highest-drafted quarterback Bill Belichick has ever selected.

On "Speak For Yourself," Emmanuel Acho broke down why Jones could find himself in the starting lineup earlier than his fellow first-rounders, and it all has to do with Cam Newton

"In football, there’s a difference between a takeaway and a turnover, although they yield the same result," Acho said. "There’s a difference between Cam Newton giving his job away and Mac Jones taking his job, but they might yield the same result.

"Cam Newton gave his backup quarterbacks four opportunities to take his job … they just didn’t do it. Is Mac Jones gonna go take Cam Newton’s job? No ... but the question is: Is Cam Newton, like he did last year, going to give it to him?"

Even after all of that, perhaps one of the biggest questions to come from the draft was based on the Denver Broncos' not selecting a quarterback with their first-round pick.

In April, the Carolina Panthers announced that they had traded their starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, to the Broncos. The news came just weeks after the Panthers acquired Sam Darnold from the New York Jets in exchange for a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft.

Bridgewater is coming off a career-high, 3,733-yard, 15-touchdown season in which he completed 69.1% of his passes in 15 games. 

Broncos GM George Paton, who was the assistant general manager for the Minnesota Vikings when they drafted Bridgewater seven years ago, was quick to share his confidence about his team's move.

In his six-season career with the Vikings, Jets, New Orleans Saints and Panthers, the 28-year-old Bridgewater has thrown for 1,1385 yards, 53 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. He has a career completion percentage of 66.5. 

Now, only one year into a three-year deal, Bridgewater is headed to Colorado. What does that mean for Denver’s current starting QB, Drew Lock?

Lock was selected by the Broncos in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. In his first season as a starter in 2020, he finished with more interceptions (15) than games started (13). The Broncos finished last in the AFC West at 5-11, marking the fifth consecutive year that Denver missed the playoffs.

Reportedly, Paton and head coach Vic Fangio informed Lock of the Bridgewater trade ahead of time, saying, "This is what our mindset is. We want competition," per NFL Network’s Michael Silver. 

Additionally, there were some rumors during draft week that the Broncos were working on a deal for Packers star Aaron Rodgers, but instead, the Broncos selected Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II with the ninth pick in the draft. 

As far as what's next in Denver, it looks like the battle for the starting QB job will stay between the two veterans – for now.

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