The last thing on most football fans' minds is the 2021 NFL Draft, and for good reason. It's nearly one year away. But for a team like the Chicago Bears, it's critically important to keep an eye on the likely class of prospects in order to make informed roster decisions.
This is especially true at quarterback, where the decision to re-sign Mitch Trubisky or keep Nick Foles around for another season or two could depend on the strength and depth of the 2021 quarterback class. Fortunately for Chicago, the 2021 draft is already considered deep at the position, assuming underclassmen declare.
Here's a look at some of the names to keep tabs on during the college football season (assuming there is one):
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
6-6, 220 pounds
Lawrence is the big fish in the 2021 draft and is expected to go first overall, assuming he stays healthy and plays the way he has over his first two seasons at Clemson. The 6-6 gunslinger has thrown for 66 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions as a Tiger and proved in 2019 that he's a playmaker with his legs, too. He ran for 535 yards and nine scores.
Lawrence is the most talented quarterback prospect in many years, and that includes this year's darling, Joe Burrow.
Justin Fields, Ohio State
6-3, 223 pounds
The quarterback who may have the most upside in next year's class is Fields, who in his first season as the starter at Ohio State threw for 41 touchdowns and ran for 10 more. His arm talent isn't on par with Lawrence but it's not far off. With another year of starting experience, Fields will be viewed as bigger and stronger version of Russell Wilson. High praise indeed.
Trey Lance, North Dakota State
6-3, 221 pounds
Lance is a popular fan-favorite in draft circles right now after a redshirt freshman season that was near-flawless for the Bison. Literally. He threw for 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions and ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.
It's too soon to say Lance is a can't-miss prospect, but he's trending in the right direction. If he posts another big season in 2020, Lance will almost certainly be a top-15 pick next April.
Brock Purdy, Iowa State
6-1, 210 pounds
Purdy will be a true junior at the start of the 2020 season, so much like the other quarterbacks on this list, he should get better with another year of experience under his belt. He's a strong-armed passer who can make all the throws but he has to become more consistent from the pocket to challenge for top-32 consideration. At this point in his development, he's more of a Day 2 prospect.
Purdy threw for 3,982 yards with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season.
Jamie Newman, Georgia
6-4, 230 pounds
Newman is going to be one of the most fun players to watch in 2020. The Wake Forest transfer has a big-league arm on par with the more well-known names in the class and has the rushing ability that modern NFL offenses covet.
Newman will have a strong supporting cast this season, unlike last year when his stats suffered after wide receiver Sage Surratt was lost due to injury. Georgia's offense isn't as dependent on one pass-catcher and as a result, Newman should have the best season of his collegiate career.
Newman threw for 2,868 yards, 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2019.
Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
6-2, 215 pounds
Morgan will be a riser during the 2020 season. He's a gamer with a strong arm and high football IQ. He's an accurate passer, too, and profiles as the kind of prospect who can step in and start for an NFL offense early in his career.
Morgan doesn't offer much as a runner, but he has more than enough athleticism to extend plays in the pocket and scramble for a few yards from time to time. It's what he does above the shoulders, however, that will have NFL teams grading him as a potential top-50 pick.
2021 NFL Draft: Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields highlight quarterback class originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago