Mel Kiper Jr Top 10 All Time QB Prospect List Is Amazing | Sports Takes & News | TooAthletic.com
When you are Mel Kiper, Jr., you have one job, the NFL Draft; a job that he has been doing since 1979. As the 2021 Draft approaches, and Kiper is probably already working on the 2022 Draft, he took some time to rank the top ten quarterback prospects coming out of college during his time covering the NFL’s most important offseason event. To his credit, he included some NFL busts on this list, an admission that even the best-known draft expert has made some mistakes. However, Kiper included someone from this year’s draft class among his top ten best prospects ever.
For the last three years the Clemson Tigers have had one of college football’s best players in quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Next month, Lawrence is projected and expected to join new head coach Urban Meyer as part of the Jacksonville Jaguars when the team takes him with the first overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft.
As Mel Kiper, Jr., sees it, taking Lawrence is a no-brainer for the Jags as he ranks the former Tigers’ QB as the fourth best prospect at his position since 1979. The three ahead of Lawrence are #3 Peyton Manning, #2 Andrew Luck, and #1 John Elway. In speaking of Lawrence, Kiper said, “(He) is the clear top prospect in this class. He has everything NFL teams want in a starting quarterback, from size to arm talent to the ability to process reads and make the right throw.”
Behind Lawrence on Kiper’s top ten list is an interesting mix of players, ranging from Hall of Famers to solid quarterbacks, and includes one current player and a pair of all-time Draft Busts. At #5 is Jim Kelly, the former Miami Hurricane who was part of the famed Class of 1983, and Kiper noted that year, “Kelly amassed impressive statistics during his career and like John Elway played against very strong competition (six bowl teams in 1981). Outside of Elway, Kelly is the most gifted of the QBs to come out of the college ranks this season. The transition to pro football should be a smooth one.”
In 1989 and 1990 the Detroit Lions drafted back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners, with the first one reaching the Hall of Fame (running back Barry Sanders) and the second becoming a bust, quarterback Andre Ware out of Houston, the sixth ranked quarterback on Kiper’s list.
It would seem that most NFL teams knew something Kiper didn’t about Ware, who went seventh overall to the Lions in 1990, with the draft expert saying, “Should be the first QB selected in any draft, he’s that good! In fact, if he goes to the right team, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him lead his club to the Super Bowl early in his pro career. Even if he doesn’t, you can feel reasonably certain that he will enjoy a successful career, earning high honors throughout his stay in the NFL.” Rodney Peete was able to beat out Ware, limiting the highly touted quarterback to six NFL starts.
Seventh on the list is Drew Bledsoe, the Washington State quarterback taken by the Patriots first overall in 1993. Bledsoe had a solid career but is more known for being hurt by the New York Jets in week two of the 2001 season, clearing the way for Tom Brady to being his dynasty.
Five year’s later another Washington State quarterback, Ryan Leaf, was the talk of the NFL Draft before going second overall to the Chargers. Leaf was taken one pick behind Peyton Manning that year, with Kiper saying at the time, “Leaf is the type who can single-handedly put a team in the win column, which at the pro level is the ultimate sign of greatness.” The debate of who would be the better quarterback raged on even after the draft until one ascended to greatness and the other crash and burned, falling to his demons and never being able to overcome them on the field. He ended up at number eight on Kiper’s list.
At number nine is a quarterback that overcame an 0-11 start to his career as a starter before turning an entire franchise around to become part of the Big Three in Dallas, Troy Aikman of the Cowboys. Leading up to the draft, Kiper said of the former UCLA starter, “Aikman possesses outstanding physical/athletic talent, running under 4.7 at almost 220 pounds. He throws everything from the ear, using his quick release to avoid possible sacks. His mobility is a real plus, allowing him to move the pocket, delivering the ball accurately while rolling to either side. He rates as a super blue chipper capable of transforming a cellar dweller into a contender early in his pro career.” Under the guidance of Hall of Fame head coach Jimmy Johnson, Aikman was a cornerstone of their dynasty, winning three Super Bowls in four years in the early 1990’s and making the Hall of Fame himself in 2006. Now Aikman is best known for his time in the Fox Sports broadcast booth.
Mel Kiper did a list similar to this ten years ago, and since then two new names have cracked the list, Andrew Luck, who has already seen his career cut short by injury, and the number ten player on this list, Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. The former Wyoming quarterback drew these words from Kiper three years ago, “Allen is super raw but can really sling it.” Allen is now the face of the Bills and led them to the AFC Title game last season as he hopes to follow in the footsteps of Jim Kelly by leading Buffalo back to the Super Bowl in years to come.
Mel Kiper, Jr. is nothing if not honest, even about his own mistakes, as displayed by this top ten list. For someone who does nothing else but watch football and evaluate players, having two quarterbacks in his top ten who were busts proves how much of a guessing game the NFL Draft is. There is so much more that goes into selecting players than barbells and stop watches, teams need to know what is inside a player’s mind, heart and soul. Even more complex is understanding who these players had around them in college and how good the competition was on game day. That’s why players like Jerry Rice and Walter Payton can come from small schools and thrive while the most hyped, more decorated players can be busts. It takes more than physical gifts to succeed in the NFL, and more than raw numbers to evaluation them as prospects.
How good will Trevor Lawrence be in the NFL? No one knows yet, but he has been breathing rarified air for three years at Clemson, but that is nothing compared to what he will face beginning this fall since the jump from college to pro football is the biggest any athlete in any sport can make. That leap, for quarterbacks, is even more complex, with just the slightest misstep getting a player labeled as a bust, a label that is often impossible to shed. That’s why we enjoy watching the NFL Draft so much, because just like the experts, we think we know what will happen, but never do.
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