Is Trevor Lawrence… Overrated?

I know this is going to sound like a hot-take or click-bait, but I’m being serious here. I will preface this section by saying I still consider him the #1 QB prospect for the 2021 draft. I’m not saying he deserves to be behind Justin Fields or anything like that–that would be a “hot take.”

But I’m saying he could be a bit overrated.

I just haven’t been as impressed with him as the hype around him led me to believe I would be.

Again, I’m not saying he’s bad or anything. Not even close. I think he’s really good. But I am starting to doubt whether he’s really the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning.

For one thing, he just got outplayed by Justin Fields. Yes, Lawrence did throw for 400 yards in the game, but a lot of that was in garbage time.

I kept waiting for Lawrence to put the team on his back and just go bananas throwing the ball, but it never happened. When Clemson went into halftime down 35-14, I was thinking, “Okay, Ohio State is probably going to win this game because it looks like Clemson simply can’t stop them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Trevor Lawrence comes out guns blazing and puts on a performance for the ages.”

But he didn’t.

That Ohio State secondary was the biggest question mark on the team coming into the game. I watched Indiana’s Michael Penix light them up for almost 500 yards and 5 TDs earlier this year. I figured if Michael Penix could throw for 500 against Ohio State, then Lawrence would throw for 700.

But he looked mortal in that game. He didn’t look all that special. Sure, he was good. But he’s supposed to be great, elite, unprecedented, once-in-a-generation.

Justin Fields was the one who looked like Superman in that game–playing hurt, launching 60-yard bombs, etc. Justin Fields looked like a very special player in that game. Lawrence really didn’t.

Last year, he got outplayed by Joe Burrow in the National Championship game:

His numbers in that national championship game were mediocre. Joe Burrow outplayed him significantly. And it’s not like that LSU defense was elite or anything. They let up 38 points to Texas’ Sam Ehlinger early in the season, and Texas was not a great team. Nobody thinks of Ehlinger as this unbelievable passer and QB prospect. But he did better against LSU than Lawrence did.

LSU also let up 38 to Vanderbilt, 41 to Bama, 37 to Ole Miss and 28 to Oklahoma in the semifinal playoff game. Clemson ended up losing 42-25. You’d think Lawrence would have been able to do more against them. After all, Tua lit that LSU defense up.

And honestly, Lawrence wasn’t really that great in last year’s Ohio State game, either:

And Clemson only won that game because its defense held Ohio State to field goals and prevented them from running away with that game early on.

Lawrence had a great QBR but that’s because he had a ton of rushing yards, and QBR takes rushing yards into account.

Just like with this year’s Ohio State game, I was waiting and waiting for Trevor Lawrence to start dominating and dissecting the Ohio State defense, but he beat them mainly with his legs, not his arm.

And that’s the thing: I’ve been way more impressed with Lawrence’s ability to run. I think he’s an extremely underrated runner. He’s much faster than people think. In last year’s Ohio State game, he had a 67 yard rushing TD. It wasn’t like he picked them apart with his arm–he mainly beat them with his legs in that game.

When I watch Lawrence play, the one thing that strikes me is just how much they ask him to run. And that’s the thing: why, if he’s this unbelievable QB prospect, are they asking him to run so much? You’d think they’d just unleash him and let him chuck bombs left and right.

So we now have two major games where Trevor Lawrence was outplayed by the other team’s QB, and arguably a third. I know Fields had the two picks in the 2019 game, but if you go back and watch that game, it’s hard not to come away with the feeling that Fields was the one making the tougher throws.

I’d be remiss not to mention the 2018 National Championship against Bama. Lawrence put up great numbers in that game, and it was the performance that kicked off the two-year hype train that has been leading up to the 2021 NFL draft:

If you go back and watch that game, though, two things were evident: Lawrence got a lot of help from the Clemson defense (2 picks including a pick six), and he was throwing to wide-open receivers. Yes, he had some impressive throws in that game, but come on: his team won 44-16. That’s a top-to-bottom domination.

DeShaun Watson’s performance in the 2016 National Championship Game was way more impressive because it was a neck-and-neck game. He had to orchestrate a game-winning drive and make throws into tight windows.

Trevor Lawrence is a great college football player. Phenomenal. One of the best of the past decade for sure. He led his team to the National Championship as a freshman. That’s an absolutely incredible feat. But that does not mean he’s a slam-dunk NFL prospect.

I get that Lawrence was the 6th-highest ranked high school prospect ever. But if you go and look at the other guys on that list, many of them didn’t amount to much as far as NFL players.

Robert Nkemdiche? Rashan Gary? Ronald Powell? I know those guys all play different positions, but they were ranked even higher than Lawrence. Gary is only in his second year in the NFL, but he’s not really made much noise so far despite being the 12th overall pick in 2019. Vince Young was awesome in college, but flamed out in the NFL. And he was rated slightly higher than Lawrence.

The point I’m trying to make here is that just because Lawrence was one of the most highly-rated high school prospects ever does not guarantee that he will be an elite NFL player.

Look, if I were the Jaguars GM, I would definitely draft Lawrence #1 overall this year. At worst, he’ll make a good NFL QB. I don’t think it’s possible for him to be a bust. He’s got a ton of talent, the size, the athleticism–at worst he’ll be a decent NFL QB.

But I think we need to pump the brakes on already sizing up his Gold Hall of Fame Jacket. It’s far from obvious he’s the next Andrew Luck or the next Peyton Manning.

I mean, Andrew Luck was hyped up as the next Peyton Manning and he didn’t even live up to the hype fully.

Would you say Lawrence will be better than Mahomes? I wouldn’t. Will he better than Justin Herbert? I don’t think so. He might be as good as Herbert, but Herbert was nowhere near as hyped as Lawrence.

I’ll admit, I do not watch a lot of Clemson regular season games. I’m not watching when they play Syracuse or Duke or some middling ACC program. I only watch Clemson when they play in big, nationally-televised games. So every time I have gotten the opportunity to watch Trevor Lawrence play, I’ve had sky-high expectations. I’m waiting for him to wow me. And basically every time I’ve watched him play, I’ve been underwhelmed.

Again, it’s not like he’s been bad or anything, but in my view he’s been underwhelming in these big games. I just don’t see this transcendent brilliance everyone in sports media keeps saying he has.

Maybe it’s because the hype has gotten so far out of control and my expectations are too high, I don’t know. But he often looks mortal out there. I’m always waiting for him to pop off the screen, and be one of those players you can’t take your eyes off of. DeShaun Watson was that kind of player. You could just see how great he was, plain as day. It was undeniable, even if you didn’t know much about football. He caught your eye almost immediately. Anyone who watched him in those National Championship games against Bama just knew he was really special. He did things that I’ve never seen college QBs do before. Even his routine plays somehow looked impressive. I really haven’t gotten that feeling watching Lawrence play.

Kyler Murray was another player who really grabbed your attention and made his greatness evident. He did things I’ve never seen college football players do. He was electrifying. Lamar Jackson popped on screen. His speed was unbelievable for a QB.

With Lawrence, I see a lot of by-design short passing routes to wide open receivers and designed runs. I feel like I don’t see him airing it out a lot. I don’t see a lot of big-time throws in big-time games.

Yes, I’ve seen the highlights of him dicing up Citadel and Wake Forest, but it’s a different situation in big games.

If this guy is potentially the greatest QB prospect ever, he should look like a man among boys out there. We should be in awe of him. His greatness should be self-evident, but it really hasn’t been in most of these primetime games I’ve watched him in. People were saying Lawrence would’ve been the #1 overall pick in the draft if he was allowed to declare as a freshman!

He just doesn’t have the “Wow-factor” in my eyes.

I hope he lives up to the hype. I really do. I’d love to see him turn Jacksonville into a winner. But I’m just not sold on the guy yet.

I’m not saying he sucks or anything. All I’m saying is I haven’t really seen what the hype is all about.

Octavian

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