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EXCLUSIVE CONTENT

NFL execs on the 2021 QB draft class: Which teams are in line for Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance?

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Trevor Lawrence doesn't want to talk about his future anymore (1:07)

Trevor Lawrence brushes off questions about his future, saying he just wants to take everything in and make a decision when the time is right. (1:07)

NFL teams in 2020 are managing a weekly avalanche of COVID-19 scares, virtual meetings, contact tracing and mounting injuries, all while trying to push for the playoffs.

Ranking quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL draft isn't high on the priority list just yet. "It's too early for that," one NFL general manager said.

But the draft process will crystallize teams' needs and preferences at the game's most important position soon enough. And here's where that process stands right now: Scouting departments attend college games, interview their go-to sources at schools, watch hours of tape and start to formulate early opinions on players across the board, from first-rounders to undrafted free agents.

Teams such as Ohio State are doing Zoom calls with scouts to update teams on their prospects.

And if you think you might be drafting in the top half of the first round, partly due to shaky quarterback play, you're probably doing a few hours of extra homework.

To help project how some of the dominoes might fall, ESPN caught up with several execs and scouts to get initial impressions on the top QBs in the class and what teams might be thinking.


The Trevor Lawrence buzz is warranted

Lawrence is not only considered the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, he's better than the former Colts star, according to one GM.

The GM says Lawrence gets the edge with a "rare" and "special" skill set, with minimal hang-ups beyond typical issues that all rookies face.

Two other execs say they'd give Luck a slight edge due to thickness at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds to Lawrence's 6-foot-6, 220-pound listing, along with Luck's success in vaulting once-dormant Stanford into a winner. But they agree it's very close.

It might seem far-fetched for Lawrence to stay in school, but a few people around the league believe he's at least considering it. Peyton and Eli Manning stayed in school for their senior years, with Peyton in 1997 famously spurning the very team that could select No. 1 this year, the New York Jets. And Luck bypassed a chance to enter the 2011 draft to stay for his redshirt junior season at Stanford. So there is precedent.

Most execs largely expect Lawrence to declare for the draft in the end. But discussion of him staying in school is at least out there in NFL circles.

Some believe the gulf between Lawrence and the rest of the quarterback class is sizable. Others think Justin Fields has tightened it at bit.

Either way, there's a gap. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Lawrence as his No. 1 overall prospect in 2020.

"Looks about as natural as anyone in recent years throwing the ball," an NFC exec said. "Decision-making and overall accuracy could use some work."

In 2019, Lawrence completed 268 of 407 passes (65.8%) for 3,665 yards, 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions, ranking fifth in QBR (87.3). But he has improved his accuracy by nearly 5 percentage points in 2020 (135-of-191, 70.7) and is on pace for nearly 4,600 yards and 43 touchdowns over a 15-game slate, which he played the past two seasons.

"It looks like he's having more fun this year, which has resulted in better play," one NFL personnel man said. "Last year he might have been feeling the expectations, the weight, but now he looks looser."