QB Confidence Index: Ranking teams that could draft a quarterback early in 2021

  • Joined ESPN in 2011
  • New Jersey native and author of two published novels

We have reached the point in the 2020 NFL season in which certain teams’ fan bases — you know who you are — already are thinking about the 2021 draft. Next year’s draft appears to have some interesting quarterback prospects at the top. If your favorite team is one that is out of contention by Week 10, there’s a decent chance you don’t feel great about its quarterback situation. That means you might be trying to figure out whether you can get Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields.

In light of this, we thought we’d bring back an old favorite, but with a twist.

We have periodically conducted a leaguewide exercise called the Quarterback Confidence Index — a ranking of NFL teams by their level of confidence, or lack thereof, in their current quarterback situations. It’s not a ranking of quarterbacks; it’s an assessment of each team’s confidence in where they stand at the position, short term and long term.

This time, we’re going to go in reverse, with a nod to the chance that QB-needy teams could be positioning to select a quarterback early in April’s draft. Using ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) to project the draft order, we hereby present a ranking of NFL teams in order of how likely they are to draft a quarterback early in 2021. Let’s start with the most likely teams and move on to, well, a bunch of teams that won’t even be considering it:


1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Current starter: Gardner Minshew (injured)
Projected first-round picks: Nos. 2 and 23

Rookie Day 3 pick Jake Luton is starting in place of Minshew right now, and if Luton keeps playing well it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he just takes Minshew’s job for the rest of the season. The Jaguars have two first-round picks as a result of their 2019 trade that sent Jalen Ramsey to the Rams, so they are in a position where they could potentially package some things together and move up to the top spot even if their record doesn’t land them there.

Jacksonville has essentially no resources committed to the position at this point. Minshew and Luton are both sixth-round picks with non-guaranteed contracts that pay them under $1 million a year. (Luton actually is scheduled to earn $1.01 million in 2023.) Backup Mike Glennon isn’t signed beyond this season. The dead money from Nick Foles’ contact is off the books after this year. The decks are clear for the Jaguars to do whatever they want at quarterback in the 2021 offseason, including draft a long-term solution.

2. Chicago Bears

Current starter: Nick Foles
Projected first-round pick: No. 15

If history has taught us anything, it’s that the Bears have no idea what they’re doing at the quarterback position. Ahead of the fourth year of the rookie contract of Mitchell Trubisky — a player they traded up from No. 3 to No. 2 to select in the 2017 draft with Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson still on the board — they decided to hedge and trade for the Nick Foles contract the Jaguars already regretted after one year. Then they gave Trubisky the job coming out of training camp only to bench him for Foles after their 3-0 start.

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