It would be hard to imagine a more star-studded crop of quarterbacks than the four we have in the College Football Playoff.
There’s Joe Burrow, from No. 1 LSU, who has taken the country by storm this year, transforming the Tigers’ typically stodgy offense and winning a Heisman Trophy along the way. On the opposite sideline during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will be Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, the Heisman runner-up who is making his fourth College Football Playoff appearance, first at Alabama and now with the Sooners.
No. 2 Ohio State is led by Justin Fields, a former No. 1 overall recruit who found a home with the Buckeyes, finishing third in Heisman voting after struggling to get on the field last year as a true freshman at Georgia. Facing Fields will be Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, the only member of this quartet not to be in New York for this year’s Heisman ceremony. What has he done? Only demolish Alabama in last year’s national title game as a true freshman and become the early front-runner for No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Here’s a breakdown of what makes these signal-callers special — in their own words, by the numbers and more.
In their own words
Fields on Lawrence: “Everybody knows Trevor has a rocket arm and throws a great ball. That’s the stuff I see. I can’t really describe it, but when you see a quarterback throw, you can tell by the way the ball comes out of their hand.”
Burrow on Lawrence: “He’s super smooth, man. Watching him throw in person, it’s like watching a beautiful piece of art. He’s a big, strong guy but is super fluid. He’s going to be a really good QB for a long time.”
Lawrence on Fields: “One thing I really like about him is he has so much poise in the pocket. He’s super athletic but never really looks like he’s running hard. He’s just a great player.”
Burrow on Hurts: “His story is awesome. He’s persevered through a lot of things. I can relate to him a lot. It’s just been fun watching him this year with all the success he’s had.”
Hurts on Burrow: “He’s a really good player and has played really efficient this year.”
Burrow on Fields: “He’s a big, strong cat with a strong arm. I’m so happy for him, because I know the people in the Ohio State program and everything I’ve heard about him has been nothing but great things.”
By the numbers
Each quarterback in this group excels in his own way. Here, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, are the defining numbers for each signal-caller.
77.9% completion percentage, on pace to break the record currently held by Colt McCoy (76.7%)
73.5% completion percentage when pressured, next closest is Utah’s Tyler Huntley at 63.6%
96.1 QBR on third down, third in FBS
26 pass TDs against zone coverage, first in FBS
30 TD passes from pocket without an interception, first in FBS
Since throwing two interceptions in Week 8 against Louisville, he has…
17 TD passes on play action, second in FBS
9 TD passes from outside the pocket, best in FBS
Pro Football Focus ranked all 80 bowl quarterbacks by NFL draft potential. Here’s how these four were rate:
1. Trevor Lawrence
It’s difficult to go against the man who has yet to lose a college football game. Lawrence might not be playing at the level Burrow is now; but on the other hand, we’ve never seen anyone play at the level Lawrence has in his freshman and sophomore seasons. There’s really not a single thing about the position Lawrence can’t do at a high level, as indicated by his 90.7 grade last season and 91.5 this season. He’ll be in contention to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2021.
2. Joe Burrow
There’s no shame in finishing runner-up to the golden boy from Clemson. Burrow doesn’t have a big arm like Lawrence, but he has accuracy the likes of which we’ve never seen. Burrow has been accurate on 72.3% of his passes targeted beyond the line of scrimmage this season. Second place is 65.8%.
3. Justin Fields
Fields is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks we’ve graded since Cam Newton. Fields ranks third in the nation in accuracy on passes 10-plus yards downfield. In the run game, he is a battering ram who can run a sub-4.6 40-yard dash at 220 pounds. While he has thrown only one pick, fumbles have been a problem for Fields, as he has 11 on the season. He could compete with Lawrence to be the top QB in the 2021 class.
14. Jalen Hurts
Hurts offers value with his legs and the ability to protect the football. He has been far too inconsistent down the field, though, and struggles to throw with timing. There’s a path to success for him in the NFL in a run-heavy offense, but he is nowhere near the dynamic runner that Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson were coming out in recent years.