NFL rookie QB grades: Evaluating each debut in Week 1

The 2021 NFL Draft was at all times going to be outlined by the quarterbacks. 5 QBs have been taken within the first spherical this previous 12 months, a quantity that has solely been surpassed as soon as (by the famed 1983 class) and matched twice (in 1999 and 2018) in NFL historical past. Quarterbacks went 1-2-3 within the draft for less than the third time ever (after 1999 once more and 1971).

Expectations have been impossibly excessive for this new quarterback class, and for essentially the most half they regarded how you’ll count on in Week 1: loads of struggles blended with some fleeting moments of brilliance.

On the plus aspect, all 5 rookie quarterbacks have been taken within the first spherical this 12 months scored a landing in Week 1. Sadly, all of them however San Francisco 49ers backup Trey Lance began their NFL careers with a loss.

Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones every began their first NFL sport, whereas Lance and Justin Fields got here off the bench and earned a number of reps. That is our overview of the rookie QBs by Week 1.

Trevor Lawrence

Lawrence appeared to have a perfect debut matchup because the Week 1 starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars in opposition to a Houston Texans workforce anticipated to be one of many worst within the league with out DeShaun Watson. It didn’t go precisely as deliberate: Houston pulled the upset, and Lawrence had extra lows than highs.

You’ll be able to watch each play of Lawrence’s debut right here. He ended the sport 28-of-51 for 332 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. Right here’s Lawrence’s first NFL landing move:

The excellent news for Lawrence: his 332 passing yards are the fourth most ever for a rookie QB making his first begin, per ESPN. The dangerous information: Lawrence stated it was his first time ever throwing three picks in a single sport. It was additionally the primary time he’s ever misplaced within the common season.

Grade: B. Lawrence confirmed his arm expertise, and made a number of throws deep down the sphere, however he has to take higher care of the ball. The groups he’s dealing with are solely going to get higher from right here. Let’s hope City Meyer has some new tips in retailer.

Zach Wilson

Wilson, the No. 2 general pick of BYU, at all times had his work minimize out for him taking on the brand new starter for a Jets workforce that went 2-14 final season. The Panthers didn’t take it straightforward on him. Carolina took a fast 16-0 lead within the first half and put fixed stress on Wilson all through the sport. Credit score the rookie for not folding behind a poor offseason line in opposition to an onslaught of move rushers.

Wilson’s ultimate line for the sport: 20-of-37, 258 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The Jets made it a sport within the second half, however in the end misplaced to the Panthers, 19-14.

Wilson’s first half numbers have been tough in opposition to Carolina’s stress. He began to seek out his footing within the second half when he fired his first of two touchdowns to Corey Davis.

Wilson threw some good balls that didn’t go for giant performs. That’s encouraging for Jets followers. He entered the league with a status as a gunslinger who wasn’t afraid to take possibilities deep down the sphere, and that appears spot on by Week 1.

Now the Jets must do a greater job of defending him. Wilson was sacked six instances and was working for his life just about all sport. You’ll be able to watch each play of Wilson’s debut right here.

Grade: B. Wilson’s resilience deserves reward in opposition to a tricky move rush. The Jets have some intriguing choices at huge receiver which ought to result in some enjoyable highlights all season, however it gained’t matter if the workforce can’t shield its rookie QB.

Trey Lance

Lance solely performed one sport for North Dakota State in 2020 through the pandemic earlier than turning into the No. 3 general decide to the San Francisco 49ers. Niners followers is perhaps anxious to see him on the sphere, however his common lack of expertise in opposition to excessive stage competitors meant head coach Kyle Shanahan gave the nod to Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 1.

It was a good move for San Francisco. Garoppolo was strong (314 yards passing, one TD, no interceptions) and the Niners earned a 41-33 win over the Lions.

Lance barely acquired on the sphere, however he was capable of make his time rely. The primary NFL move of his profession went for a landing.

Lance didn’t throw one other move all afternoon. He rushed 3 times for 2 yards however was in any other case glued to the bench as the sport acquired shut within the fourth quarter.

Hopefully we see extra of Lance subsequent week because the 49ers journey to tackle the Eagles.

Grade: Incomplete.

Justin Fields

The Chicago Bears are dedicated to starting the season with Andy Dalton after promising him the beginning job in free company. On the time, the Bears doubtless had no concept they’d be capable to commerce up for Fields. Whereas the fanbase clamors for the rookie, it might have been laborious to play Fields in Week 1 behind a suspect offensive line in opposition to Aaron Donald and the Rams fearsome move rush.

Fields did verify in a number of totally different instances. He fired a pink zone completion on his first NFL move, and acquired ultimately zone on a dashing play early within the second half.

Fields ended the sport 2-of-2 for 10 yards passing. His solely rush was the three-yard landing run. The Rams beat the Bears, 34-14, in a sport that uncovered most of the flaws within the roster GM Ryan Tempo created.

It positive feels just like the Bears don’t have a lot else going for them this season apart from Fields. Right here’s hoping we see the rookie on the sphere sooner somewhat than later.

Grade: Incomplete

Mac Jones

The Patriots have been pleased to scoop up Mac Jones with the No. 15 general decide within the draft, however it was nonetheless surprising to see Invoice Belichick minimize Cam Newton to go together with the rookie from the soar in Week 1. Expectations are at all times excessive for the Patriots even after a 7-9 season that noticed the franchise fail to win double-digit video games for the primary time since 2002, however Week 1 confirmed the offense nonetheless has an extended approach to go together with Jones below middle.

The Dolphins beat the Patriots, 17-16. New England solely managed to attain one landing. Whereas that’s not going to chop it, Jones did look poised all through his debut. Patriots followers ought to really feel inspired by his efficiency.

You’ll be able to watch each throw of Jones’ debut right here. He completed the sport 29-of-39 for 281 yards, one landing and nil interceptions. His 102.6 QB Ranking was the very best of any rookie in Week 1.

Jones acquired on the board with a brief TD throw within the second quarter.

He accomplished 74 % of his move makes an attempt in his debut, which is a brand new file for a QB with not less than 30 makes an attempt. Jones was positively correct on brief to intermediate passes, however New England will want extra deep strikes down the sphere.

Jones didn’t need to maintain the ball after throwing his first TD, saying his workforce wants to attain extra touchdowns. He’s proper about that, however it was nonetheless a optimistic debut.

Grade: B+. Jones regarded assured in his debut, however the Pats must put up extra factors. This feels just like the kind of efficiency that may lay the muse for higher issues to come back sooner or later.


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