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NFL Draft

NFL Rookie QB Status Report Heading Into Week 2

  • The Draft Network
  • September 17, 2021
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The 2020 quarterback draft class was one of the best we’ve seen in a while and could prove to be one of the deepest in recent history as time goes on.

We got a chance to see several rookie signal-callers who were a part of that draft class take the field at the NFL level for the first time in the preseason, but that only tells us so much. You don’t really find out who a player—or a team for that matter—is until they’ve shown themselves in the regular season.

We learned a decent bit about these first-year signal-callers in Week 1, though it’s still too early to make snap judgments. Here’s a look into what we want to see from this year’s rookie quarterbacks this week:

Zach Wilson

The success of any offense begins and ends with the offensive line. If you have no pass protection, you have nothing—it doesn’t matter how good the quarterback and his supporting cast are. Even though the Jets' offensive line didn’t do a good job protecting him (as the fact he was put in the dirt six times would imply), Wilson still made the best of his circumstances. 

According to NextGen Stats, Wilson was hit 10 times and pressured 14 times. Even with this, Wilson eventually settled in and showed the ability to elevate the team in his own right (we’re getting a lot of the same vibes as we did when Joe Burrow quickly became one of the best offensive players the Cincinnati Bengals had in a short amount of time last year), seeing the field well and also doing a good job working the pocket and going off-script sometimes.

Wilson finished the outing 20-of-37 for 258 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the 19-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers. There were also some drops in there, so if you go back and calculate the adjusted completion percentage, it reflects even better on Wilson than this stat line implies.

Trevor Lawrence

Lawrence had never lost a regular-season game in his career at any level until he joined the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s a tough scene over there in the sunshine state, and the odds are certainly stacked against Lawrence to do well as a rookie with all the issues around him.

There was a lot to like about what Lawrence showed on his own, doing a good job going through his progressions with some perfectly thrown scoring passes that couldn’t have looked much better than they did. He showed the poise, arm strength, and ball placement he was recognized for in the pre-draft process, but the day wasn’t without its issues, as Lawrence did have some badly advised and overthrown passes—some of which ended up being more costly than others.

Lawrence finished the game 28-of-51 passing for 332 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. One of the interceptions didn’t appear to be his fault, but the other two were 

Justin Fields

What we want to see from Justin Fields is quite frankly out of his control and can be put into one word: “more.” Fields may not have scored on the first play of his regular-season NFL career, but he did toss a completion in red-zone against a tough Los Angeles Rams defense and used his legs to score a touchdown in the second half.

Fields ended the day 2-of-2 passing for 10 yards with the lone three-yard touchdown rush. It’s a small sample size, of course, but Fields looks like the quarterback we thought might have been the best overall athlete who also brings an incredible amount of talent as a passer ahead of the draft. Based on what we’ve seen from the Bears, it seems to be in their best interest to put Fields, well, on the field more—and at some point perhaps think twice about not making him the starter.

Trey Lance

We didn’t see much of Lance in Week 1, but what we did see of him was nothing short of impressive. Lance’s first pass of the game went for a touchdown—talk about making an entrance. It makes a good statement for any player entering the first regular-season game of his NFL career but is also fun to see from a guy who has garnered a large amount of the attention he’s had from his athletic ability (they don’t call him a quarterback with a linebacker mentality for no reason).  

Outside of that, Lance’s outing was quiet, as he rushed two yards on three carries. Working him into rotation with Jimmy Garoppolo seemed to work well against defenses in the preseason, so perhaps we’ll see Lance worked more into the game as San Francisco goes through the remainder of the schedule. There’s still a lot of time left this season, and the 49ers are doing themselves a disservice if they don’t make use of the wide range of physical and athletic gifts Lance has.

Mac Jones

This is the player who many have named as having the best debut out of all of the quarterbacks on this list after his 102.6 quarterback rating was higher than any other rookie. Jones showed good presence in the first game of his career and it’s going to be exciting to see how he continues to make the most of his opportunity on a team that has done so well with pure pocket passers like Jones throughout history—the former Alabama quarterback couldn’t have found a more perfect landing spot.

We’d like to see some more explosiveness out of this Patriots offense as a whole, but Jones took care of business as he completed 29-of-39 passes for 281 yards with one touchdown. Jones’ high level of mental processing and ability to learn and put things into action on the field in a quick manner was something he was commended for ahead of the draft. Watching him put that into play and continue to make the transition to the NFL will be something that’s fun to watch after all the promise he showed ahead of going to the pros.

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