Welcome to the NFL, Rooks.
The NFL Draft quarterback class in 2021 will be one that will be talked about in the years to come: Just two other times in NFL history, five quarterbacks have been taken in the first round, and this next crop may be the best. “Could” is the operative term here.
In Week 1, Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, New York’s Zach Wilson and New England’s Mac Jones all made their first careers start with varying degrees of success, and San Francisco’s Trey Lance and Chicago’s Justin Fields also came into the mix with a bit of action.
Although the three starters could not yet earn their first win, there is enough to say that Ws can come in the coming weeks, months and years. When all five first-rounders got action after Sunday’s matches in week 1, they look like this in their debut:
MORE: Worst overreactions from NFL Week 1 games
Trey Lance: Incomplete
Statistics: 1/1 pass (100 percent), five yards, one touchdown, no interceptions
It’s quite fitting that Trey Lance’s debut in San Francisco was just a cup of coffee.
Designed as third behind Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, Lance has a slightly harder road to the NFL starting verdict that sits behind Jimmy Garoppolo as the 49ers look to bounce back from an injured 2020 season and become a force in the NFC again.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan is unlikely to give the keys to Lance unless something goes wrong with Garoppolo this year, but he is working creatively with the team as needed.
If Sunday’s game was an indicator, Lance would have different situational packages in 2021 using both his legs and arm to caffeine the offense and add the double-threat ability he is known for to San Fran’s attack: It was indicative of Lance’s red zone score today, a touchdown to receiver Trent Sherfield.
Expect to see more Lance as the season continues, but for now he gets an “incomplete” for a tiny, tiny bit of action on Sunday.
MORE: A story about rookie QBs starting in Week 1
Justin Fields: Incomplete
States: 2/2 (100 percent), 10 yards, a roaring touchdown
Like Lance, Fields made a cameo in his first game with the Bears. Expect more of the same as the progress of the weeks.
Like Lance, Fields also offers something that QB over him on the depth map does not: the ability to drive and drive well. His touchdown run, even though it was short, showed this ability, and as the weeks go on, it gets harder and harder to keep him glued to the bench.
Zach Wilson: C
Statistics: 20/37 (54.1 percent), 258 yards, two touchdowns, one interception
Zach Wilson went through two preseason games that played against backups and impressed. The problem with that analysis: Wilson played in two preseason games and he played against backups. It’s worth about as much as an arcade character in a vending machine.
Wilson’s first real NFL action was pretty much OK-to-good, and the tape will tell you that it was a tale of two halves: Wilson’s first half was all sorts of nightmares, bad throws and just rookie mistakes that made the week 1 overreactions look like reasonable claims.
The second half was much, much more representative of the kind of player he could be long-term: He finished 14/21 and passed in the second half to 174 yards and two touchdowns. He also showcased some of his signature-escape abilities and improvisation that made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft:
The tape will also tell you that the Jets, the youngest team in the NFL, have a long way to go. The offensive line was appalling, and his group of skill positions, no matter how much improved it was from the Sam Darnold era, will have to spend some time jelling as the season continues.
Still, it was Game 1 of Week 1 of Year 1 of the Robert Saleh-Zach Wilson era in New York. There is enough there to make you happy on the way into week 2 and above.
MORE: Why does Justin Fields not start for the Bears?
Trevor Lawrence: C +
Statistics: 28/51 passes (54.9 percent), 332 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions
Exercise wheels? Which training wheels?
It will be a real baptism of fire for Trevor Lawrence, but hopefully it will not be too hot for him in 2021. That did not seem to be the case in Week 1 when he lost his first football game of the regular season of his life. Really.
While the rookie was tricked into some typical rookie mistakes, Jaguar’s franchisee will have to wade in hard water while Jacksonville undergoes year 2 of a total rebuild.
Expect more of the same as you saw in Week 1 all season as Jags’ defense is blown up and Lawrence and the offense will have to play a lot from behind, putting Lawrence and the offense in important passing situations.
Peyton had 3 picks in his debut.
Andrew Luck had 3 choices in his debut.
And now Trevor Lawrence has 3 choices in his debut.
– Justin Barney (@JustinBarneyTV) September 12, 2021
Sunday’s match against the Texans showed much of the pro-readiness that scouts and analysts love about Lawrence’s game: He was crucial, he was accurate, he moved well in his pocket, and he was not afraid to pull the trigger. He will have to continue to build on that as Jaguars try to figure out the Urban Meyer things in Jacksonville.
Mac Jones: B +
Statistics: 29/39 (74.3 percent), 281 yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions
After a confusing first pass attempt …
… Jones settled down and showed the best start for any of the rookies who debuted on Sunday.
The Alabama product unleashed it in his debut against Miami, and it went better than his former Crimson Tide teammate in the Patriots loss Sunday. Jones showed fearlessness in his pocket and made a long series of throws. He was the Patriots’ first rookie QB starter since Drew Bledsoe in 1993.
An important trait that Jones displayed: Take what the defense gives you. Although there were times when Jones looked checkdown-heavy, Jones kept the teats in the game. It will be a learning year for him, but the early returns are quite positive.