NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence

From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#16 Trevor Lawrence/QB/ Clemson6055, 213 lbs.

 The Good

– Has the height you love to see from a prototypical QB to look over the offensive line and scan the field
– Great hand size (10”) to be able to hold on to the football in adverse weather and when hit in the pocket
– Has great speed and explosiveness for the position
– Is a long strider as a runner that covers ground quickly, moving faster than he would appear
– Well-utilized on RPO options with the RB, and is a legitimate option to tuck and run the ball, forcing defenses to play honest
– Has some shake as a runner, able to evade tacklers in open space
– Mobile in the pocket and can scramble outside of the pocket to create outside of structure after the play breaks down
– Will go through his reads downfield as a passer, but has the awareness to know when to tuck and run the ball if the lane is there
– Runs hard for his thinner frame and isn’t afraid to take on contact, keeping his legs going on contact to pick up extra yardage
– Has the wherewithal to slide down when he sees contact coming as a runner
– Primarily operated in the shotgun of a spread offense during his time at Clemson
– Has good footwork in the pocket, whether it be his three or five-step drops or his mobility from side to side or to step up
– Quick, fluid throwing motion with a clean release to his hip pocket
– Has good delivery of the football when pushing it downfield, having the hip mobility and power to generate more velocity and force on his throws
– Has the arm strength to make any throw down the field, whether it be stretching the seam 50+ or hitting the deep out route
– Can make a lot of off-platform throws off his back foot or on the run, having the arm talent and placement to get it on his receiver
– Has fantastic ball placement on his throws downfield, normally hitting the receiver in stride and hardly ever throwing it short
– Has great accuracy on the short and intermediate passes, sticking it on the receiver over the middle and placing on the outside shoulder on sideline throws where the receiver has the best chance to make a play
– Willing to lead the way as a blocker on end-arounds, sweeps, and pitches, showing commitment to team-first mentality

The Bad

– Has a very slender frame, took a beating in his two losses to LSU and Ohio State
– Occasionally will lock on to a target or stay on his first read for too long when other options become open downfield
– Sometimes relies on his arm strength to hum it in there instead of finishing with good footwork on his release
– Throwing off of his back foot gets him in trouble when under pressure in the pocket, leading to inaccurate balls downfield
– Has little to no experience under center in a traditional pro-style offense
– Eyes stay downfield on passing plays, but can lack the sense of pressure coming on the blitz
– Operated in a quick, screen/RPO-heavy passing game primarily in his last couple seasons, not being required to take many downfield shots, with most of his passes traveling near the LOS

Bio

– Junior prospect from Cartersville, GA
– Seen as the top recruit for most recruiting platforms out of high school, winning several state titles and losing only two contests in four years as a starter
– Played in 15 games, including 11 starts in his true freshman season, completing 259-of-397 passes for 3,280 yards with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions, while also contributing 60 carries for 177 yards and a touchdown on the ground, winning a National Championship against Alabama
– Started all 15 games as a sophomore, completing 268-of-407 passes for 3,665 yards with 36 touchdowns and 8 interceptions; also posted 103 carries for 563 yards and nine rushing touchdowns, ended up losing in the National Championship Game to LSU
– Completed 231-of-334 passes for 3,153 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions in only ten games played due to the pandemic and missing two games due to COVID-19, also rushing 68 times for 203 yards with eight rushing touchdowns
– Three-time All-Academic Selection and permanent team captain
– Had minor shoulder surgery on left labrum early in February 2020

Tape Breakdown

Trevor Lawrence has been the golden boy with the golden arm since his days entering high school. The fact is, he has earned all of the achievements, accolades, and the hype surrounding him and his performance. If it wasn’t for his performance these past three seasons, Clemson would not have played in three straight CFB Playoffs with two National Championship appearances. The QB prospect is as advertised, having the long frame, athleticism, and arm talent that teams yearn to have from their signal caller. He has the speed, explosiveness, and lateral movement skills to threaten defenses as a runner on the ground. He is a great weapon in the RPO game and makes defenses think twice if they fail to commit resources to him as a runner. Here against Ohio State in the college football semifinals this past season, Lawrence gets the snap near the goal line and fakes the handoff to #9 Travis Etienne, keeping the ball as he sprints to the outside. He has #5 Baron Browning in pursuit, who is a good athlete in his own right, and has the angle on him. However, Lawrence outruns Browning to the corner, diving into the end zone for the score while avoiding #24 Shaun Wade.

 

He can make defenders miss in space, can pull away from front-seven defenders with his deceptive speed and long strides, and take on contact as a physical runner pushing to get the tough yardage. Here against Ohio State, Lawrence takes the designed QB draw up the middle and makes the safety miss in open space with a smooth cut, accelerating downfield as he angles to the sideline and pulls away from defenders in pursuit for the long touchdown run.

 

As a passer, Lawrence possesses phenomenal arm talent for the position. He can make any play in the playbook, from the quick screen to the deep out to the deep seam over half a football field away. Take, for example, this play against Georgia Tech, where Lawrence gets the snap out of the shotgun, fakes the handoff to the running back, and then pump fakes the defense, seeing if he can get any defensive backs to bite. He then throws the ball to the left sideline, firing it in like a laser to his target on the deep out route, having the ball arrive fast and on time for the receiver to make the catch in-bounds as he gets pushed out.

 

He has good footwork in the pocket and has the pocket mobility to step up and maneuver around to deliver an accurate ball. His release is clean, and his ball placement is on-target on the short passes as well as the deep balls, leading the receiver to run underneath. Here on this quick pass, we see Lawrence with the quick, compact release for an accurate strike over the middle to his man as he breaks out of his route. He has a good base as he releases the ball as he steps into his pass.

 

Lawrence does a great job baiting defensive backs with his eyes, and can maneuver defenders where he wants them to go, setting up a receiver to get a favorable matchup to get open. On this play, Lawrence poses the threat of pitching the ball to the back or running it himself, getting the defenders in the front seven to commit. This frees up the TE running the seam up the middle, where Lawrence gets the ball to after faking the pitch for the TD strike.

 

His arm strength is impressive, as well, as he can put it where it needs to go quickly. His arm strength is on full display on the out-of-pocket, off-platform throws he makes on the run and with defenders draped all over him. On this play vs the Aggies, Lawrence gets the snap and steps up in the pocket as he feels pressure coming on the edge, then rolls out to his left as he is being pursued by the defensive line. He then squares his shoulders on the run and delivers a dart on a line 35 yards to his receiver running into the end zone for the touchdown.

 

He has great poise in the pocket, being willing to take the earhole hit to stand in there and deliver the ball to his receiver. Here against the Crimson Tide, Lawrence gets the snap and gets immediate pressure coming up the middle. However, he keeps his base and delivers a strike while taking a big shot from the defender, placing it on his receiver #8 Justyn Ross along the sideline where Ross makes a ridiculous catch. Lawrence demonstrated poise under pressure and didn’t let the threat of getting hit change his delivery of a great pass.

 

With all of the fantastic attributes Lawrence has, there are several parts of his game that he can stand to clean up. Although he has great arm talent, sometimes he relies too much on his arm strength rather than having great footwork on his delivery of the pass. He also can tend to throw off of his back foot a little too often, having completed several of these ill-advertised throws, but many of his mistakes come from him trying to shield himself from contact or make something out of nothing. Here against the Yellow Jackets, Lawrence feels pressure coming up the middle, but instead of taking the sack, he trusts his arm a little too much and throws it falling back on his back foot, lofting it too high and sailing it over his intended receiver into the hands of the defensive back for the pick.

 

Here is another key example where Lawrence tries to make a play without his feet set, throwing off his back foot in his freshman season against Alabama to try and shield himself from the defender coming on the blitz, leading to him putting the ball behind his intended target.

 

However, for every overthrow or off-target pass he has throwing off his back foot, he also makes some crazy plays with his arm talent, like you see here in the same game.

 

Or this absurd thrown he makes against Ohio State falling off of his back foot.

 

He generally does well with progressions, but he played in a first-read offense where he would tend to lock on to one guy a little too long instead of progressing through his reads more consistently. Lawrence also has a pretty thin frame for his height, leading to concern in terms of durability when defenders can tee off on him on their pass rush. While his pocket mobility is good, he needs to better sense pressure coming on the pass rush in order to evade those big hits and live to play another down. Here against the Buckeyes, #20 Pete Werner comes on the blitz and Lawrence has no idea he is coming from behind, delivering a shot as Lawrence releases the football into the turf. This is nitpicking a little bit as no one picked up Werner, but Lawrence will have to be able to point out defenders that are coming at the next level, and be able to get the ball out to avoid taking these big shots often given his thin frame.

 

Overall, Lawrence is as advertised as a generational talent at the QB position. He has some minor flaws that need to be worked on and also needs to put on some size to hold up at the next level. However, he has the physical talent that you just cannot teach as a passer and runner, and he has exceptional football character as a leader of a team that has sustained high levels of success under him the past few seasons. As long as a team tries to place a good offensive system around Lawrence and protects him up front, he should be able to make his mark early on in the NFL as the next great signal caller.

When finding a pro comparison of a player with similar size, arm strength, and athleticism, Justin Herbert was the guy that came to mind. Both stand 6’5″-plus, have cannons for arms, and the athleticism to create outside-of-structure and challenge defenses as runners. Both played in quick passing games in college that ran a lot of screens and RPOs, not truly maximizing their arm talent and what they are capable of. Herbert made the adjustment to being a downfield thrower in the league, and I see Lawrence doing the same. Obviously, Herbert has more mass on his frame than Lawrence does, as this should be a priority for him at the next level. However, the comparisons between the two as college players and their potential based on their traits in the league are strikingly similar.

DISCLAIMER: I am not suggesting that Trevor Lawrence is in play for the Pittsburgh Steelers at #24. He should be off of the board by the time second overall pick rolls around, and imagining Lawrence in black and gold is a pipe dream. I merely want to point out his strengths and weaknesses as a football player, and acknowledge that he is set up to be a great player in this league should the team that drafts him (Jacksonville) take his development seriously and surround him with the pieces to capitalize on his immense talent.

Projection: #1 Overall Pick

Games Watched: at Georgia Tech (2020) vs Ohio St. (2020), vs Ohio State (2019), vs Texas A&M (2019), vs Alabama (2018)

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