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NFL Rookie Quarterbacks 2021: Studs or Duds

Five NFL teams drafted franchise quarterbacks in 2021 and the time is almost here to see how they do in the games that matter. Who will be a stud or dud?


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The NFL preseason has started and we’re just weeks away from the regular season. We’ve seen a little bit of what some of these rookies can do, and there’s still much more to come. But let’s take a look at some of the 2021 top draft picks at the quarterback position. Five teams picked franchise quarterbacks. Trey Lance went to the 49ers, Zach Wilson to the Jets, Mac Jones to the Patriots, Justin Fields to the Bears, and Trevor Lawrence to the Jaguars.

Were they worth the high pick? Will they be studs...or duds?

Trey Lance - San Fransisco 49ers: DUD

Based on: lack of both experience and ability to leave the pocket

2021 number three overall pick

The 49ers invested a lot in Trey Lance, trading three first-round picks. Lance played only one full season at North Dakota State and only one game last season. He’s by no means the most experienced QB in the league. But he has potential, and Shanahan saw that. Lance has impressed all throughout training camp. But college ball and training camp are far from the same as playing a real, meaningful NFL game. His first preseason start was up and down. In his first drive as a niner, Lance produced a three-and-out with an incomplete and a sack. He also missed a few throws, took four sacks and threw some passes that were nearly intercepted. He recovered nicely later in the game with an 80-yard TD pass to Trent Sherfield on his second pass attempt. With more experience under his belt, Lance has the potential to be a leading franchise QB. But for now, for me at least, it remains just potential that we won’t see fully realized just yet.

Zach Wilson - New York Jets: STUD

Based on: mechanics and completions

2021 second overall pick

At BYU, Zach Wilson proved his ability to throw complete passes. He has a strong arm and is efficient in throwing deep passes and not overstepping. What’s impressive about Wilson is his ability to replicate what he sees other players do - imitating the likes of Mahomes and Rodgers with accuracy. In his preseason debut with the Jets, Wilson led the team to a field goal on their opening drive and went 6-9 for 63 yards in two drives. He performed well under pressure and was able to make tight window third down passes. Qualities of a stud QB.

Mac Jones - Patriots: DUD

Based on: inexperience and low pass rating

2021 15th overall pick

I know, I know. I’m not saying the young QB doesn’t have potential. I’m just saying I don’t think he’ll fully reach it this year. The Patriots still have Cam Newton and I’m not convinced they’re willing to trade out Newton for Jones full-time. Jones was only the starter at Alabama for one year, but it was an impressive one. He led the team to a National Championship and his teammate DeVonta Smith won the Heisman. In his preseason debut, Jones was nothing spectacular, but he also looked comfortable playing with Belichick’s offense. I think we need more time and experience before we see Mac Jones really become something.

Justin Fields - Bears: STUD

Based on: versatility and confidence

2021 11th overall pick

The Bears traded with the New York Giants to get this pick, sending the 20th overall and their fifth-round pick in 2021, as well as the first and fourth round picks in 2022. Unlike Jones, I do think that Justin Fields will start for the Bears. At Ohio State, Fields proved his ability not only to make passes, but also to rush the ball. In his preseason debut, Fields threw for a TD and rushed for a TD in his two quarters playing. Ha had three carries for 31 yards in the second half and was 7 of 8 for 96 yards. The stats are already looking better than his competition’s, Andy Dalton. He has both potential and opportunity to improve.

Trevor Lawrence - Jaguars: STUD

Based on: completion percentage and ability to recover and stay calm

2021 number one overall pick

Trevor Lawrence was the number one overall pick for a reason. He was undefeated as a freshman at Clemson and brought the team to a win in the 2019 National Championship Game. His preseason debut started out shaky, with the first snap resulting in a sack and near fumble. But Lawrence didn’t let that shake him. He bounced back and in the end, threw for 71 yards, including a 35-yard third down conversion. He may not have led the offense to any points, but his pass completion was impressive - he went 6 for 9 and 3 out of 4 of those were passes into tight windows. If he can improve under pressure in the pocket, he will be a stud QB in no time.


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