QB-Turned-Broadcaster Brady Quinn Breaks Down the Quarterbacks in the 2021 Draft Class

We spoke with the former Notre Dame star about Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and the rest of the top prospects on draft boards

February 10, 2021 1:24 pm
Brady Quinn Breaks Down the Next Wave of NFL Quarterbacks
Brady Quinn of Fox Sports.
Fox Sports

Selected out of Notre Dame by the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd pick in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft, quarterback Brady Quinn left South Bend as the most accomplished passer in Fighting Irish history and still tops the school’s all-time list for passing yards, completions and touchdown passes.

A seven-year pro who spent time with six teams during his time in the league, Quinn seamlessly transitioned to broadcast following his retirement from pro football, joining FOX Sports prior to the 2014 season as a college football and NFL game analyst on television and the radio.

“I had no plans of doing this. I went to school for finance and had an internship at a law firm after my freshman year. I was looking at either private equity or becoming potentially an attorney if sports didn’t work out,” Quinn tells InsideHook. “I had not anticipated any of this, but then I ended up getting an offer from FOX. My passion for football and my love for the people I work with have really made it the second career that I never intended on doing.”

Though there are multiple reasons for his good fortune with FOX Sports, Quinn at least partially links the success he’s had in the broadcast booth with the position he played on the football field.

“Playing quarterback in the NFL prepares you for anything in life. You’re in a leadership position,” Quinn says. “You’ve got to communicate, understand what your objectives are, what you’re trying to accomplish and how you’re going to get there. When I prepare for a game, I’m breaking both teams down just like I would be if I was playing them. I’m looking at each defense and what they’re trying to accomplish in each situation. I’m looking at each offense and determining what their identity is. Who they go to in key scenarios? What are some of the storylines that go along with their players and coaches? What I’m doing is a lot like it was when I was practicing football. It all works hand in hand. I really don’t know that there is better preparation for any career in the world than playing quarterback in the NFL.”

Brady Quinn on set doing his thing for FOX Sports.

Having starred at one of the most prestigious and storied programs in college football before moving onto the NFL, Quinn is uniquely qualified to discuss what is it like to make the transition that top quarterback prospects like Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Zach Wilson will make after they are selected in the NFL draft in April, likely toward the top of the first round.

“This year’s draft class could be fascinating because, in some cases, guys didn’t play that many games this year, so it’s harder to evaluate them,” Quinn says. “You’ve got a number of teams in the top half of the draft that need a quarterback, but might have difficulty pulling that trigger because they don’t have as much film and haven’t had as much of an opportunity to evaluate what they’re getting.”

Though there won’t be any in-person workouts held at the 2021 Scouting Combine this year due to COVID-19, workouts will take place during individual pro days on college campuses and NFL teams will be able to communicate with potential picks virtually via Zoom. While that change may have somewhat of an impact, what happens at the Combine is just part of the bigger picture teams examine when evaluating a player they’re considering drafting.

“I’ll describe it as a job interview in which you’re constantly being monitored and evaluated throughout the entire process,” Quinn says. “These teams are doing their due diligence. They’re calling people back at your high school to see what kind of person you were. They will talk to janitors just to see how you treated them. They’ll look for those sorts of things to try to get a sense of what kind of person you are, what type of leader you are and what kind of risk they’re taking if they draft you.”

That process has only gotten more rigorous over the last decade, with social media now weighing heavily in the criteria on which NFL hopefuls are judged.

“Everything is on social media,” says Quinn. “You used to kind of be able to block out all that noise. Blocking out all the BS from someone who doesn’t really know you but is saying who you are as a person and also what you can’t do is the toughest part for these guys, I think. It’s not doing the Combine, the Senior Bowl or throwing at your pro day. It’s that mental stuff. Look, playing the position on the field is going to always be paramount. They’re not taking a guy they don’t feel like can get it done on the field. But I do think the other intangibles — the ability to lead, ability to be able to handle a complicated system, football IQ — become more important for a quarterback than anything else.”

So which members of the quarterback class of 2021 have what it takes both mentally and physically? Given Quinn’s area of expertise and what he now does for a living, we thought it’d be worth asking him. Here’s what he had to say about Lawrence, Fields and some of the other top college quarterbacks we might see on the field in the NFL next season.

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

“If you’re looking at a draft class like this one, Trevor Lawrence is by far and away the most talented quarterback. He should be the first overall pick. He’s a really complete prospect when you look at him. There’s no doubt in my mind he checks off all the boxes. It’s Lawrence and the rest of the group.”

Justin Fields, Ohio State

“Justin Fields has tremendous talent. He’s got a strong arm and can be really accurate. He’s big, he’s athletic and he can run. He conducts himself the right way. The problem with Justin is he’s basically just started for a year and a half because the Big 10 season got cut down this year. And when he played against the best opponents, he struggled. He struggled versus Clemson last year and versus Indiana and Northwestern this year. You saw his upside in this season’s Clemson game, but the problem is you don’t see enough of that high level of play and sometimes you see these really poor performances. His biggest issue is he’s got to figure out how to play at a higher level more consistently.”

Zach Wilson, BYU

“Zach Wilson had a great year this year. You could see some flashes of what he’s capable of. He makes some big-time throws. He’s accurate. He can throw in anticipation. He’s got arm strength and he’s athletic, but he played a lesser schedule this year, because BYU is independent. So you worry a little bit about his transition. Is he going to be able to sustain what we saw this past year at the next level and continue to improve?”

Mac Jones, Alabama

“Don’t get me wrong, Jones is a really good player, but he’s not as physically gifted as some other QBs. He does still check off all those other boxes. There are no concerns with him off the field. There are no concerns with him as far as what kind of leader he’s going to be. At the Senior Bowl coaches were raving about him being an alpha. He’s smart, throws with anticipation, works the pocket well and he’s accurate. He’s a better athlete than people give him credit, but he’s just not as athletic as a Justin Fields or Trevor Lawrence. He’s a pocket passer, and outside of the greatest of all time — Tom Brady — you don’t see many quarterbacks who can’t really move around and run and hurt you with their legs a little bit.”

Kyle Trask, Florida

“Not to take away anything that he did, but he arguably had two of the best players to throw it to in [wide receiver] Kadarius Toney and [tight end] Kyle Pitts this year. He’s a good player, but just doesn’t really have the sort of athleticism that you’re looking for. He ran a little bit this year, but he can’t run the same way guys like [Notre Dame’s] Ian Book and [Texas’s] Sam Ehlinger can. I love Book and Ehlinger for their scrappiness and ability to create with their legs while making enough throws. It’s going to be interesting to see where they go. Do you know who Trask’s body style reminds me of? I know this goes way back in the day, but when I watch him throw and move and I look at his build, he reminds me of Brad Johnson.”

Feleipe Franks, Arkansas

“He’s got a big arm and he played really well in some big moments. He doesn’t have that dynamic running ability a lot of teams need out of their quarterback now, but he definitely demonstrated the ability to throw the football pretty darn well. If you’re talking about guys who are flying a bit under the radar, he’s the one that comes to mind off the top of my head.”

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