On a paw-fect, orange-hued evening in Santa Clara, Calif., the future NFL marching order — Tank for Tua — was stiff-armed out of the way for Tank for Trevor. Or, if you prefer, Lose for Lawrence. What a fascinating next two years it will be, watching Trevor Lawrence, having already reached the summit at age 19, further develop or regress or prosper or plateau.
Lawrence did not guide Clemson to the national championship with a stunning 44-16 beatdown of Alabama — is that phrase even allowed to be written — beatdown of Alabama? Guide is far too temperate a characterization for the way the statuesque pocket quarterback — now isn’t that a nifty, throwback concept? — ripped through a renowned defense, standing in, planting his back foot with a rush closing in on him and delivering such magnificent strikes down the field that the imagination instantly started to race. Is this kid the best prospect since Andrew Luck? Or Peyton Manning? Or Eli Manning?
Well, now that good ol’ Eli is injected into all this, you have to wonder what the Giants’ brain trust was thinking when Lawrence easily outdueled Alabama’s more heralded Tua Tagovailoa in a rare battle of undefeated, underclassmen quarterbacks. Those tired of all the losing and eager to jettison Manning right now can make a claim that is the best course of action for the Giants. Last time we checked, though, the Giants do actually need a real, live starting quarterback in 2019 and, sadly, we know it cannot be Tagovailoa (the presumptive No. 1 pick in 2020) or Lawrence (unless something crazy happens, the top pick in 2021).
When viewing such potential at the most important position in the game, it is difficult to lower expectations and go for whatever is being served. There is a difference between a $75 steak at Del Frisco’s and a $15 special (with potato and vegetable included!) from the local diner. They both will fill you up, but the experience is not the same.
Is there any doubt Lawrence would be the No. 1-overall pick on April 25 if he was eligible to enter this draft? As a true freshman, he has to wait not one, but two more years. A player must be three years out of high school before he can head to the NFL, a rule put in place by the NFL and the NFL Players Association and supported by the NCAA. Generally, it is a solid stance. Teenagers, no matter how talented they are, do not need to be funneled into the NFL, a grown-man’s league. Does Lawrence look as if he could handle it? Skill-wise, yes. Would his flowing blond locks replace Odell Beckham Jr.’s blond dye job as all the rage in NFL circles? Sure.
It is not as if Lawrence is a shooting star. He was the highest-rated high school quarterback in every corner of the scouting world for a reason. To do what he did to a Nick Saban team, well, that is something else. Perhaps his most impressive moment came after all of his 347 passing yards and three touchdowns. Not long after the clock expired, he was asked how many more championships he is gunning for at Clemson. He smiled, quickly did the math and said, “Probably three more, hopefully.”
This is wishful thinking for Tigers fans. If Lawrence is on campus three years from now, something has gone wrong in his ascension.
For every exception that might be able to handle life as a professional, there would be those swallowed up and spit out. So, let Trevor Lawrence go for more glory down in South Carolina. Last time we checked, the NFL is not going anywhere, and the market for top-tier quarterbacks will always be robust.
Gil Brandt, the former Cowboys vice president of player personnel, continues to have a keen sense of who the top talent is and where it is going. He took to Twitter to proclaim this:
“Trevor Lawrence is the best true freshman QB I’ve ever seen. If I was running an NFL team, I’d be making trades for as many 2021 picks I could get my hands on.”
Luck came into the league in 2012 and Dan Shonka, national scout and general manager at Ourlads’, told The Post Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect in the past seven years, since Luck. The top-rated quarterback this year is Dwayne Haskins, a prolific (50 touchdown passes this season) sophomore who started only 14 games at Ohio State and will be a polarizing player as every number and nuance is examined in the coming weeks and months.
The Giants own the No. 6 pick and, in a low-quality class for quarterbacks, might have to actually trade up if they want Haskins, who was assigned a low first-round or high second-round grade by several scouts and talent evaluators contacted by The Post. By contrast, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen, all on the board when the Giants, with the No. 2 pick in 2018, selected Saquon Barkley, were all valued as higher-end prospects.
“How bad do the Giants want a quarterback, when next year there will be more?” Shonka said. “They need a big-time pass-rusher and will get one at No. 6.”
It is easy, from a scouting perspective, to fall in love with Tagovailoa or Lawrence. The Giants cannot get them, at least not yet. As the song says, sometimes waiting is the hardest part.