In the 2021 NFL Draft, there are the consensus top five quarterbacks, and then there’s a major drop-off.
That’s what many draft analysts believe, and it seems very clear that the only signal-callers likely to have their names called in Round 1 are Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones.
While the top quarterback prospects appear to be set in stone, that’s not to say the 2021 draft doesn’t have intriguing players at the position outside of those consensus top five. Multiple prospects have garnered Day 2 discussions leading up to the draft, and a handful of quarterbacks offer enough tools to warrant mid-round looks.
The Bears find themselves in a tough spot to land one of the top quarterbacks at No. 20, and barring a trade up, they will likely have to wait until one of the remaining rounds to select a quarterback, if they take one at all. Though drafting quarterbacks on Day 2 can be hit-or-miss, teams have found success in doing so, as the likes of Russell Wilson, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo have all been selected in Rounds 2 or 3. It’s tough to find a long-term starter there, but it’s not impossible.
Here are four prospects in that next quarterback tier the Bears could consider in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Kyle Trask, Florida
Before the final month of the 2020 season, Kyle Trask was viewed as a borderline first-round pick. Now, it’s possible he doesn’t come off the board until Day 3.
Three straight losses to close out his collegiate career stick out like a sore thumb, but Trask’s play prior to the closing of this past year should not be ignored. He had 38 passing touchdowns to just 3 interceptions in the first nine games of 2020. He possesses a prototypical frame at 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, packing good bulk and great height to see the field.
Trask throws the ball with a good sense of anticipation and is generally able to deliver accurate balls. He showcases great toughness in the pocket and is willing to take a hit without panicking. Over the course of his career, he has done a better job of identifying check-down options and looking past his first read to find the open man.
The hang-up on Trask isn’t just his underwhelming finish of 2020, but also a lack of top-notch upside. His arm isn’t bad by any means, but he doesn’t have a cannon that other top quarterbacks in this class have. He’s also a below-average athlete, and his 5.08 40-yard dash at his Pro Day matches a lack of premier athleticism on tape.
For his somewhat limited ceiling, Trask is far from a bad quarterback as his 2020 season indicates, and a general sense of reactionary scouting could see him fall into Rounds 4 or 5. If the Bears are willing to wait to take a quarterback, then Trask could provide a better return on investment than many expect of him.
Davis Mills, Stanford
Arguably the biggest post-season riser up draft boards at the quarterback position, Davis Mills has gone from virtual unknown to perhaps the 2021 draft’s most enigmatic prospect at the position.
Mills’ arm talent is among the more impressive in this year’s class. His throws offer nice velocity and a tight spiral, allowing him to fit the ball into tight windows and thread the needle efficiently against zone coverage. He is an accurate quarterback who delivers his throws with a natural sense of timing. He has a compact throwing motion and a pretty quick release, which should translate well to a quicker NFL style of defense.
A five-star recruit coming out of high school, Mills does a great job of anticipating his receivers open and leading them to a spot that’s just out of reach for opposing defenders. Plus, at 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, he offers good size for the quarterback position. He looked impressive in 2020, going 4-1 and setting Stanford’s single-game record with 504 passing yards against Washington State. He thrived in airing the ball out vertically and was able to make plenty of NFL-caliber throws on tape with his arm strength and natural sense of anticipation.
With just 11 starts to his name at Stanford, Mills has an extremely small sample size to go off of. He has 18 touchdowns to 8 interceptions in that span, and while collegiate production is far from the best indicator of NFL success, that stat line is concerning for a quarterback. On tape, he doesn’t showcase stellar athleticism and is fairly limited in terms of dual-threat upside. He doesn’t have much experience making full-field reads, and his footwork tends to fall apart at times: his inability to set his feet on occasion can see him needlessly throw across his body.
Though Mills is a massive mystery, the flashes he has displayed on tape have seen him skyrocket up boards over the last month. The Bears may end up considering him as early as Round 2 with how much momentum is behind him.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Kellen Mond proved to be a reliable constant for Texas A&M throughout his collegiate career, and though he was underrated in draft circles for most of that time, he appears to be getting plenty of recognition leading up to the draft.
Mond has natural arm strength and is able to unleash a pretty deep ball with impressive velocity and distance with the flick of his wrist. He has a throwing motion that’s quick, compact, and easy on the eyes. He has shown the ability to lead his receivers open and deliver passes with pro-ready timing, and when he gets his feet set, there are few in this class who can deliver as pretty of a ball as he can.
The 6-foot-3, 211-pounder is also a very good athlete for the quarterback position, as made evident by his 4.62 40-yard dash. Mond showcases very good agility in the pocket and can make defenders miss as a runner in the open field. With 9,661 yards and 71 passing touchdowns to his name — along with 1,609 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground — he has an impressive resume and has more experience than most collegiate quarterbacks who typically enter the NFL Draft.
Though Mond made some improvements in 2020, the question is whether those improvements are enough to warrant long-term optimism in the NFL. He still struggles with footwork and following through with his hips in his throwing motion at times. He has shown flashes of being able to scan the field, but there isn’t much tape of him executing full-field reads, which can lead to moments of indecisiveness and forced throws. As Lance Zierlein reported, Mond only completed 35 percent of intermediate throws outside of the hashmarks and 26 percent of deep routes to the outside, and part of the reason for that inconsistency is a lack of decisiveness and inconsistent footwork.
It’s unlikely Mond will see much playing time in his rookie year, but he has some tools that could warrant developmental starter looks in Rounds 3 or 4. If the Bears like what they saw in him on tape, at the Senior Bowl and at his Pro Day — the latter of which saw them send key personnel to watch him — he could be an option to succeed Andy Dalton down the line.
Jamie Newman, Wake Forest
Without a 2020 season to go off of and a profile with both intriguing tools and questionable traits, Jamie Newman appears to be a boom-or-bust prospect by mid-round standards.
Having entered the summer of 2020 as a potential first-round pick, it’s no surprise that Newman has a high ceiling. He has one of the strongest arms in the class and is able to consistently deliver a ball with zip behind it. His raw arm talent gives him upside as a deep-ball thrower, and the flashes of touch he has behind his passes look the part of a potential starting quarterback in the NFL.
Measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, Newman has a thick and well-built frame that he uses incredibly well as a runner: he keeps his center of gravity low and isn’t afraid to lower the shoulder. He’s also a very good athlete with impressive breakaway speed and fantastic lateral agility as a ball-carrier that should make him a dangerous threat on read options at the next level.
Though the decision itself to opt out is not one that affects Newman’s draft stock, it’s the general lack of tape around him that does. He has just one season as a full-time starter to his name, and the only tape within the last 12 months that he has is the Senior Bowl, in which he generally looked erratic in his accuracy and pocket presence. He has a tendency to stare down his target too often, and his one-read mentality can see him force throws and make questionable decisions with the ball. He’s athletic, but Newman doesn’t always have the pocket awareness needed to maneuver around defenders to avoid pressure. His sense of anticipation is inconsistent, as well. His turning 24 years old in his rookie year makes him an older quarterback prospect, too.
Newman is a massive question mark due to a lack of 2020 tape and little refinement in his game. These concerns could see him fall into Rounds 5 or 6, but his arm talent, athletic ability and thick frame give him tools for NFL coaching staffs to work with. If he lands in the right spot, he could be a steal down the line.
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