First-Round Rookie QBs Report Card: How Are They Faring So Far?


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FRANCHISE FIELDS: Justin Fields has struggled out of the gate in his first year as the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears, worrying fans in Chicago.

Midway through the 2021 season, the Maroon-News reflects on the beginning of the rookie quarterbacks’ careers. 

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars (1st pick): C

Trevor Lawrence hasn’t had a terrible season by any means, but it’s not as great as we expected. Viewed as a generational talent amongst the football community, Lawrence was supposed to be an elite quarterback out of the gate, but that is not what we’ve seen so far. His pass completion percentage is a mediocre 59.6%, even though he was extremely accurate and well-timed in college. He has more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (eight), and his nine picks are tied for second-most in the league. However, he has very little time to get the ball out and is constantly under pressure due to the weak Jaguars offensive line. His sobering start could be attributed to a plethora of other issues as well (poor coaching, not enough help defensively, few offensive weapons, etc.), but, in the end, it has been disappointing so far. Despite his slow start, he has shown signs of improvement and, with more time to develop, there is a very good chance Lawrence will end up being a stellar QB.

Zach Wilson, New York Jets (2nd pick): D

As a Jets fan, this one is tough to admit. I have been a Zach Wilson fan for as long as anyone — what he did at BYU is incredible, making throws you would only see from Patrick Mahomes. But that could be the problem: BYU didn’t prepare him for the NFL. The speed of the game often looks like it’s too much for Wilson and, his decisions, although sometimes great, are often delayed. His completion percentage of 57.5% can be attributed to that, and he has more than double the number of picks (nine) than touchdowns (four). Like Trevor, he gets pressured and sacked a ton. As a result of this lack of time to throw, Wilson often tries to force the ball into a tight or nonexistent window. Other times, he will simply try to do too much.

Wilson’s disappointing performance also can’t fall only on coaching or other team issues, as evidenced by Mike White’s heroics in Week 8, where White simply took what the defense gave him. Nevertheless, nobody should give up on Wilson and the Jets. They have a brand new head coach (and new offensive and defensive coordinators) working with a rookie QB, and they are the youngest overall team in the league, with an average age of 25. Like Lawrence, give Wilson some time to develop and adjust to the speed of the game, and I think he has a real shot at being great. His arm talent is by far the best I have seen from any Jets quarterback in my lifetime.

Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers (3rd pick): Incomplete 

There isn’t much to say about Trey Lance, as he has only played in four games and has thrown the ball a total of 48 times. He has the lowest completion percentage of any other rookie first-rounder (52.1%) but has three touchdowns and only one interception. Lance has shown some flashes of potential in the few minutes he has played, but he needs more time to develop. Coming from North Dakota State, like Wilson from BYU, the teams he played against are nowhere near NFL speed, and he often looks beat down by that fact.

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears (11th pick): D

Before Monday Night Football on November 8th, Justin Fields has looked the worst out of all the rookie signal-callers. His decision-making appears to be not nearly as quick as it was in college, and he more often than not uses his feet rather than his arm to get the first down. Fields, and subsequently the whole football world, looks to have little confidence in his play. His 59.5% completion rate is okay for a rookie, but his three touchdowns compared to seven interceptions is ugly. Some of the scrambles Fields makes are unbelievable and remind Chicago faithful why they traded up to get him. However, Fields has made some throws that make me question how he ever made it to the NFL. With time and confidence, Fields can be one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but as of right now, he’s not the generational talent the Chicago Bears put all their faith in. 

Mac Jones, New England Patriots (15th pick): B+

Again, as a Jets fan, this one also hurts. Mac Jones has been far and away the best of the rookie QBs. His 68.1% completion percentage is incredible for a rookie, and he has nine touchdowns with only six interceptions, the best ratio of all rookies. Jones’ performance has been shocking thus far — his accuracy is impressive, and he makes good decisions. However, his arm strength is worrisome. Watching a Pats game, it feels like he more often than not will take the dump-off to the running back or the screenplay. It’s a rarity to see him throw the ball more than ten yards on a given play and, when he does throw it deep, his accuracy often disappears. But, at the same time, it’s hard to argue with the numbers. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels clearly know how to develop a young QB, and whatever they have been doing works for Jones.