Cluster Buster: Quarterbacks (Lawrence, Fields, Lance)
If you are a fan of the NFL Draft then you are probably familiar with the NFL.com podcast ‘Move The Sticks’. Analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks often use the term ‘cluster buster’ to describe how to split a group of players you have similarly graded.
In this series, we will take players at the same position, sometimes with similar play styles and try to split them. We will look at four seperate areas key to their position and see who comes out on top.
First up, is the top tier of Quarterbacks; Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Trey Lance.
Height / Weight: 6’6 / 220lbs
Completion % / TDs / INTs : 65.5 / 66 / 12
College: Ohio State
Height / Weight: 6’3 / 228lbs
Completion % / TDs / INTs : 67.4 / 45 / 3
College: North Dakota State
Height / Weight: 6’3 / 224lbs
Completion % / TDs / INTs : 66.9 / 28 / 0
Arm Talent (Accuracy, Deep Ball, Velocity, Touch)
As you would expect with three potential first rounders, there is no shortage of arm talent in this group. The graphic above shows that all three have a completion percentage above 65, well above the generally accepted threshold of 60. For me, I give Justin Fields a slight edge on the other two in this category. Fields’ velocity jumps off the screen and allows him to hit tight windows. Meanwhile his touch can be seen on multiple deep bombs to receiver Chris Olave.
Bisons’ QB Lance has arguably the biggest arm of the group (see below) and seems to impart a huge amount of power with relative ease. Despite not throwing an interception last year he did ride his luck against lesser competition compared to the other two.
Lawrence can more than hold his own, with the ability to make any throw you would need at the next level. Despite this he had a sluggish start to the 2019 season and there are times when he is bailed out by his receivers. Both Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross made several catches that other receivers wouldn’t have got to, boosting Lawrence’s completions. It’s not a significant concern but it will be interesting to see how he adjusts without the pair this year.
Pocket Presence (Feel For Pressure, Movement In Pocket, Ability To Reset)
This is where I have Lawrence well ahead of the other two. Being able to survive in the pocket is key to success at the next level. The Clemson QB shows excellent ability to scale the pocket, sense pressure, reset his feet and make the throw. In the clip below, he moves up in the pocket before bailing to the left but keeping his eyes downfield to make the completion. This is the kind of polish Lawrence has to his game that gives him the edge over the other two at this point in time.
Lance’s sturdy frame means he has no fear of contact, that gives him the makeup that allows him to hang around and shake off pressure in a similar vein to that of Cam Newton. Both Lance and Fields are dynamic runners who can be inclined to vacate the pocket more hastily.
Fields in particular would benefit from working in the pocket and looking to reset and throw rather than taking off. At times in his film you can see him get in a mess trying to make impossible escapes – ones he could readily pull off in high school football but not against more athletic college linemen.
Athletic Ability (Escapability, Play Action, Running Threat)
This one is almost too close to call. As I alluded to earlier Trey Lance’s physicality and size will likely draw comparisons to Cam Newton. Lance was in an offense that used plenty of QB designed runs so his athleticism is readily on display. Not only is he quick enough to break for big gains, he is more than happy to dip his shoulder into contact, something likely to have his NFL head coach cringing.
Lawrence is a throw first player but he did have plenty of opportunity to show his athletic talents off. Against a loaded Ohio State secondary, Head Coach Dabo Swinney used his QB more in the run game. It was a shock to the Buckeyes, with Lawrence leading the Tigers to victory and accounting for 16 carries, 107 yards and a TD on the ground.
Finally, Justin Fields is probably the most electric of the three in open space. He has great instincts in the running game and excellent change of direction. Of the three, Fields would be the most likely to break things open with a long TD run from his own half.
Winner: Three way tie.
X-Factor - (Decision Making, Leadership, Winning Mentality)
As far as X-factors go this group has plenty. Lawrence won a National Championship in his first year as a starter, having displaced an entrenched starter, Kelly Bryant, early in the year. Lance threw zero interceptions in his first year as a starter, allowing North Dakota State to continue their dominance in the FCS on their way to a National Championship.
Meanwhile, Justin Fields suffered more adversity. Having failed to beat out Jake Fromm at Georgia, he left his home state and headed to Ohio. He immediately settled in, becoming a leader on and off the field, culminating in one of the most impressive statistical seasons an OSU QB has had.
With two years of starting experience and reaching the country’s biggest college game two years in a row, Lawrence edges out the other two in this area.
There doesn’t appear to be much between these three on draft boards. And even though Lance will suffer the most due to the FCS season moving to spring and him losing Division 1 matchups, he remains pencilled in as a first rounder.
If I had to choose now, Trevor Lawrence would get the nod. His game is more polished and his extra year of leading arguably the best programme in CFB gives him the edge.
However, projecting forward I expect Justin Fields to make great strides. His accuracy paired with his game breaking ability mean I think he could be my top-rated QB come draft time.
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com.