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Evaluating Rookie QBs: How Far Can They Take Their Teams?

Rookie QBs
Bob Self/Florida Times-Union/USA TODAY Network (Lawrence); Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports (Lance); Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports (Jones)

How Far Will Rookie QBs Take Their Teams Beyond 2021?

5 QBs were taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, tied for second-most in the history of the NFL Draft. Rookie QBs can excel or flounder, so how will the 2021 rookie QBs fare over the course of their careers? These are some predictions.

#1 Pick: Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence is one of the best prospects in recent memory and will elevate the Jags with his arrival. Lawrence’s winning pedigree will instantly help the Jaguars be a better team, but they will need more pieces if they hope to contend. If the scouts are right about Lawrence, the Jaguars have the next Peyton Manning (with wheels!) on their hands. If Lawrence plays up to his potential and the Jags continue to build around him, they should be in contention for multiple super bowls in the future.

#2 Pick: Zach Wilson (BYU), New York Jets

Another talented QB with great playmaking ability, Zach Wilson amassed a 33-3 TD to INT ratio and climbed up draft boards to be taken with the second pick. The Jets are in the middle of a cultural shift in the organization so the decision to start fresh with Wilson seemed like an obvious one. The Jets also had a very impressive draft where they built around Wilson and gave him some support. Wilson has been compared to Mahomes, and the Jets will be in the conversation to make some deep playoff runs in the future if he lives up to that potential.

#3 Pick: Trey Lance (North Dakota State), San Francisco 49ers

With Kyle Shanahan’s coaching, there is no doubt that Trey Lance will be great. However, the 49ers gave up substantial capital to move up to select Lance, and the NFC West is a historically tough division. It will be tough for Lance to be successful early, but I expect him to nevertheless find success in his career provided the 49ers can build around him. I think it is a safe bet that we will see him in multiple Niner playoff runs down the line.

#11 Pick: Justin Fields (Ohio State), Chicago Bears

“He can’t anticipate on throws”. “He can’t read defenses.” “He” also threw for a Sugar Bowl record 429 passing yards against an elite Clemson defense and was the Big Ten POTY. It is clear that we can throw silly criticisms of Justin Fields in the garbage. The Bears have Andy Dalton and Nick Foles, so Fields has two great mentors to learn from in his rookie year, and I believe he will take the NFL by storm along the lines of a Watson or a Mahomes. If the Bears can continue to build around Fields (though that is a big if, given Ryan Pace’s track record), then I do not see anything preventing the Bears from putting together multiple Super Bowl runs in the future. Fields, without even playing a game, has already given Bears fans what they needed: A franchise QB.

#15 Pick: Mac Jones (Alabama), New England Patriots

This take is the trickiest among all Rookie QBs, as it is going to be tough to approximate when Mac Jones will play. I do think, though, that Cam Newton will struggle and Mac Jones will be handed the reigns this year. I, like others, just do not think he is ready yet. Mac Jones had a lot of playmakers at Alabama, including Devonta Smith and Trey Sermon, and he will not have those options on the Pats. That being said, if any coach can make a QB look good, it is Bill Belichick. I think that Jones and the Patriots will have some successful playoff runs, but I do not believe Jones can get the Patriots to the top of the mountain, no matter how good Belichick is as a coach.

Rookie QBs are not always great, but some can turn out to be sensational. It is a matter of supporting pieces, coaching staff, and work ethic. These 5 QBs are now “in the process”, hoping to make a mark on their respective teams.

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