Where Lance sits in rookie QB rankings after first NFL start

Mac Jones, Trey Lance

And then there were none.

Trey Lance's first career NFL start Sunday meant that for the first time this season all five quarterbacks who were selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft would be leading their teams. Mac Jones, Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson have been the Day 1 starters for their respective franchises, while the Chicago Bears gave Justin Fields the keys -- starting in Week 3.

Lance played just seven snaps through the first three weeks, but the rookie QB was called upon in the second half of the 49ers' Week 4 loss to the Seattle Seahawks after Jimmy Garoppolo exited with a calf injury. With Garoppolo unable to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, Lance got the call for the 49ers, showcasing both his incredibly high ceiling and his inexperience in the 49ers' 17-10 loss.

With all five first-round rookie QBs getting the start in Week 5 (apologies to Davis Mills who was damn good against the New England Patriots), here are our updated rookie QB rankings through five weeks.

5. Zach Wilson

Season stats: 57.3 percent completion rate, 1,117 yards, four touchdown passes and nine interceptions

Week 5 stats: 19-for-32 for 192 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception

A week after the Jets let Wilson cut it loose in a win over the Tennessee Titans that saw him be named as the NFL's Rookie of the Week, Wilson looked to regress in the Jets' 27-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.


The BYU product had only 65 passing yards with 9:30 left in the game and the Jets' offense as a whole produced just 80 yards and five first downs in the first half.

Wilson continues to struggle on the shorter throws. On these simple throws, Wilson is often overthrowing receivers or throwing behind or short of them.

In London on Sunday, Wilson had a few low points, one coming when he telegraphed a pass to Keelan Cole that was intercepted and the other when he hit right tackle Morgan Moses in the back of the helmet on an attempted screen pass.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh compared Wilson's shaky start to that of Buffalo Bills star Josh Allen, who struggled early on in his career. The Jets can only hope Wilson's career mirrors the trajectory of Allen's.

4. Trevor Lawrence

Season stats: 59.4 percent completion rate, 1,146 yards, six touchdown passes and eight interceptions; 24 rushes for 110 yards and two touchdowns

Week 5 stats: 23-for-33 for 273 yards, one touchdown pass and one interception with seven rushes for 28 yards and one touchdown

You can't blame Lawrence for the overall state of the franchise. Urban Meyer continues to point the finger everywhere but at himself. Meyer claimed Lawrence wasn't comfortable running the QB sneak Sunday. Lawrence later refuted that. Like everything in Jacksonville, it's complicated.

While things are generally messy in Duval and the Jaguars aren't giving the No. 1 overall pick a lot of support, Lawrence has played better over the last two games, keeping the turnovers down while showcasing the instinct and talent that had him labeled as the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck.

Lawrence needs to find ways to get Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault the ball more often. On Sunday, Jones and Shenault combined for two catches (eight targets) for 83 yards. The Jags' receivers have to do a better job of creating space in scramble drills to help out the young QB.

Lawrence's season is very reminiscent of Peyton Manning's rookie season, if Manning was being coached by a serial narcissist who was in way over his head. Lawrence will get there, but it's going to take time.

3. Trey Lance

Season stats: 52.1 completion percentage, 354 yards, three touchdown passes and one interception; 27 rushes for 133 yards and one touchdown

Week 5 stats: 15-for-29 for 192 yards, no touchdowns and one interception with 16 rushes for 89 yards

Kyle Shanahan has been reluctant to go to Lance more and we saw why Sunday. Lance is incredibly talented and extremely raw. The North Dakota State product pulled off a number of escapes from the pocket that Garoppolo could only dream of. Lance made several plays with his legs, competed like hell and clearly was the 49ers' offensive player the Cardinals feared the most.

He also looked like a rookie at times. That's to be expected from a 21-year-old quarterback who started just 17 games in college and didn't have George Kittle to help as a pass-catcher or blocker.


Lance sailed his second throw of the game and it was picked off by Budda Baker. The 49ers went 1-for-5 on fourth downs, including Lance getting stopped on the goal line by Cardinals safety Isaiah Simmons.

He missed some throws and looked shaky at the start, but he settled in and ripped off some nice critical down-and-distance throws.

There was good and bad. Inexperience and excitement. Lance looked like he belonged. He was hurt by drops, penalties and some suspect play-calling, but at no point Sunday did it look like he shouldn't be on the field.

Lance is raw. He's a lot like Nuke LaLoosh. He's got a cannon strapped to his right side and isn't afraid to let it rip at any point. The touch and accuracy will come with experience. The only question is: When will Lance's next start come?

2. Justin Fields

Season stats: 51.4 percent completion rate, 458 yards, one touchdown pass and two interceptions; 20 rushes for 59 yards and one touchdown

Week 5 stats: 12-for-20 for 111 yards and one touchdown with three rushes for four yards

Even with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor taking over the play-calling after the debacle in Cleveland, the Bears are still leaning heavily on the running game as they try to ease Fields into NFL action.

The Ohio State product needs to clean up his accuracy and get a little quicker in his reads -- that comes with experience -- but he has shown incredible toughness and an ability to make big-time throws over the last two weeks.

Fields needs to make some strides as a passer, but he also needs to learn to protect himself. He took too many big hits Sunday in the Bears' win over the Las Vegas Raiders. The Bears also need to do a better job of calling plays that allow Fields to take advantage of his athleticism. Move the pocket, bootleg, something to get Fields and the defense moving. 

RELATED: Where 49ers sit in power rankings after Week 5

It has been far from perfect and defenses will start to make Fields do more to beat them. That's something he's capable of, but the Bears have to keep putting him in a position to succeed.

1. Mac Jones

Season stats: 71.1 percent completion rate, 1,243 yards, five touchdown passes and five interceptions

Week 5 stats: 23-for-30 for 231 yards, one touchdown pass and one interception

Jones outplayed Tom Brady in Week 4 but Nick Folk's missed 56-yard field goal in the rain made it all for naught. The Alabama product went right back to work in Week 5 against the Houston Texans, though, and put together the first-game winning drive of his career, completing three of four passes on a drive that culminated in a game-winning chip shot from Folk.

Jones has been very solid in his first five NFL starts. On Sunday, Jones joined Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to complete 70 percent or more of their passes on 30 or more attempts in four of his first five starts. Jones is also the sixth highest-graded rookie QB through his first five starts in the Pro Football Focus era, trailing Wentz, Baker Mayfield, Prescott, Justin Herbert and Gardner Minshew.


Jones has been very accurate on short and intermediate passes and has been lethal in the middle of the field. Jones' deep ball has been shaky so far and the Patriots receiver's inability to create separation deep hasn't helped.

After cutting Jones loose in Week 3, the Patriots have reeled the rookie back in and had him live on short and intermediate throws over the past two weeks. Against the Texans, Jones was 9-for-11 with 127 yards when using play-action. Jones also only threw two passes that traveled more than 20 yards downfield and was 15-for-16 for 92 yards on passes that traveled less than 10 yards, per PFF.

Jones' 135 completions are tied with Joe Burrow for the most by a rookie through his first five starts.

Jones showed toughness and poise in leading an undermanned Patriots team to a must-win against a bad Texans team, but the Alabama product also admitted he gave the Texans too many chances at interceptions, something he must clean up going forward.

This was a pretty, pretty good throw.

Through five weeks, Jones leads all rookies in completions, yards, completion percentage, adjusted completion percentage, big-time throws, passer rating and first downs. Of course, he has two more starts than Fields and four more than Lance.

Jones has been good. He has a lot of room for improvement, as do the rest of the rookie quarterbacks, but five games in, Jones remains at the head of the class.

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