By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and after weeks of speculation, the 2021 Draft is on the horizon. Tomorrow night, the festivities commence with the first round. There’s very little suspense at the very top of the draft as the Jacksonville Jaguars would likely face a full-scale franchise revolt by selecting anyone other than Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Even in a stacked quarterback class, Lawrence stands as the clear-cut top option. Though he has areas in need of improvement, including a tendency to force throws, Lawrence has NFL-ready pocket presence and blitz recognition, along with a superstar arm and skills as a runner.
Following Lawrence off the board will likely be BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, who appears set to become the next starting quarterback of the New York Jets. There’s reason to question Wilson’s NFL readiness due to a lack of top-level competition in college, but there is no doubting his arm talent and college production. There’s a solid chance Wilson evolves into being the franchise signal-caller the Jets have desperately lacked for years, though there will likely be some growing pains as he adjusts to life in the NFL behind a work-in-progress Jets offensive line.
Trey Lance (North Dakota State) and Mac Jones (Alabama) are each in the running to go third overall to the San Francisco 49ers. Lance represents tremendous upside, with dazzling, game-changing rushing ability. However, his mechanics will likely need a complete overhaul, and he is likely going to require a year or two to figure things out without a tremendous supporting cast. Jones is practically the polar opposite of Lance as a prospect. He has zero value as a rusher and lacks a big arm to attack downfield. That said, Jones is one of the more accurate quarterback prospects in years. He may never be an MVP-level contributor, but Jones is a safe bet to have a long NFL career.
Rounding out the five quarterbacks likely to have their names called among the top ten picks is Justin Fields of Ohio State. Fields is an accurate passer, an asset in the running game, and willing to test defenders downfield with his NFL-ready arm. There’s work to be done for Fields to reach his potential—adjusting to NFL-speed defense, for one—but there’s MVP upside here. Interestingly, Fields seems to have seen his stock decline during draft season. Depending on how things shake out on Thursday night, some team could land a potential franchise quarterback outside of the top five.
In the NBA, every time the Boston Celtics seem to be on the verge of figuring things out, the team manages to embarrass itself. The latest embarrassment: a loss to the unabashedly tanking Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night. The Thunder ended its 14-game losing streak in the win, a victory achieved despite a whopping 27 turnovers committed by the young, inexperienced OKC squad. Yes, it is fair to point out that Boston was without Jayson Tatum (ankle), Kemba Walker (oblique), and Robert Williams (knee), but no legitimate playoff team should lose to the Thunder at this point in the season.
On the heels of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings are the Charlotte Hornets. Despite a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks last night, the Hornets enter Wednesday elated with reports that rookie LaMelo Ball is slated to return to practice as soon as tomorrow. Initially assumed to be out for the season due to a wrist injury, Ball seems poised to rejoin the Hornets in the coming days, a much-needed return for Charlotte. The Hornets currently sit in the eight-seed in the East, but Charlotte is 1.5 games behind Boston heading into an exciting match-up against the Celtics tonight. Having Ball back on the court and orchestrating the offense for the final two-plus weeks of the regular season could thrust the Hornets out of the play-in tournament and into the six-seed.