Trevor Lawrence has led Clemson to another College Football Playoff championship game. The sophomore from Cartersville, Ga., coming out of high school was considered the best quarterback recruit since John Elway went to Stanford more than 40 years ago.
Lawrence, at 6-6, 220 pounds, has lived up to his sky-high expectations as a college player and has given NFL scouts plenty of reasons to drool over his arm, athleticism and toughness. He can make every throw and is extremely accurate and efficient when pushing the ball downfield. In his second year, he also has exploded as a rushing threat, including 107 yards and a TD against Ohio State in the national semifinal.
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While Lawrence continues to build his resume and status in relation to college football’s greatest QBs of all time, the NFL will need patiently wait for his potential franchise-carrying services for another year.
Here is a breakdown of when Lawrence can become draft-eligible, and where he might end up when his Tigers career is finished.
Is Trevor Lawrence going to the NFL Draft?
Lawrence can’t enter the NFL after this season. He won’t be three years removed from high school until the end of the 2020 calendar year.
LSU QB Joe Burrow, a senior, is projected to the No. 1 overall pick to the Bengals. Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, Utah State’s Jordan Love, Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Washington’s Jacob Eason also are QBs in the Class of 2020.
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Including Burrow, all of those QBs would have been No. 2 or lower behind Lawrence had the Clemson passer been eligible to enter the draft in 2020. Lawrence, despite all of his championship and individual laurels so far, has no plans to sit out his 2020 junior season to avoid an injury that could damage his NFL prospects.
For now, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, also a rising junior, and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger, a returning senior, are the notable QB names behind Lawrence in the Class of 2021.
Trevor Lawrence NFL Draft projection
The Bengals will be the one surefire team out of the mix for Lawrence after they take Burrow this year. We also can eliminate 11 more teams that used first-round picks on franchise QBs over the past four drafts: Rams, Eagles, Chiefs, Texans, Browns, Jets, Bills, Ravens, Cardinals, Giants and Redskins.
That leaves about 20 teams in play for Lawrence. It comes down to which of those teams might have the worst record in the NFL in 2020. For now, here are the six most likely landing places for Lawrence.
The Dolphins might take Tagovailoa with one of their three first-rounders in 2020, led by the No. 5 overall pick. But if they don’t, and they instead focus on stockpiling talent elsewhere while rolling with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their bridge QB, there’s a chance they will be near the bottom of the league again.
That would make Lawrence a no-brainer pick as their best young QB since Dan Marino.
New coach Matt Rhule will have a chance to stick with Cam Newton as his quarterback in 2020, but the 30-year-old is a pending free agent in 2021. If things go south again with Newton’s health, and if Carolina’s major defensive issues continue, the Panthers can easily regress from 5-11.
The team a little more than two hours up the road from Clemson has to be considered as a destination for the QB superstar.
The Jaguars may or may not be thinking about Gardner Minshew as a potential franchise quarterback, and their commitment to Nick Foles won’t last beyond 2020. They could draft a QB in April, but they have a couple options that would allow them to table a decision, especially with Doug Marrone remaining coach.
Lawrence can’t be ignored for a move from Cartersville to Jacksonville.
For now, Matthew Stafford is expected to recover from his season-ending back injury to help the Lions improve from their 3-12-1 record. But he also turns 32 in February, and we’re going on 11 years since Detroit drafted him out of Georgia. With Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn on notice to turn things around, there should be more big organizational changes coming with more regression.
Considering the NFL’s worst record likely would result in a new regime for the Lions, there’s a good chance that coaching-GM combination would attach itself to Lawrence.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders have seemed non-committal to Derek Carr in the first two seasons with Jon Gruden back as coach. But Carr did play better in 2019, and the Raiders were in playoff contention through Week 17, finishing 7-9.
They’re sitting on two first-rounders in 2020 and have ample space under the salary cap to further upgrade the team, so being bad enough might be Gruden’s biggest obstacle in landing his dream QB.
The Broncos saw some promise from rookie second-rounder Drew Lock down the stretch in 2019, but they just made a big change in firing offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and replacing him with former Giants coach Pat Shurmur. The Broncos also went 7-9, perhaps overachieving with more defensive depletion to come.
Lock could go through enough lumps in a new system for Elway to see his team spiral downward. That would create an opportunity for Elway to take the QB who matched the hype he once had around himself.