After debating and watching film and studying mechanics and seeing where everyone was drafted and debating some more, we finally got to see all of the NFL’s first-round rookie quarterbacks play in meaningful football games. They didn’t all start, but they all played significant snaps, and most important, they all scored. But not all the debuts were equal. In fact there was a wide disparity between the best and the worst performances. So without further ado, here’s the full report on all the first-round rookie QBs in Week 1.
No. 5: Zach Wilson
COMP-ATT, COMP%: 20-37, 54.1% YDS: 258, 7.0 TD: 2 INT: 1
Wilson had to contend with the Panthers’ pass rush all day, which made things difficult for him, but it also gave him an opportunity to show off good escapability. That ability to evade the rush to extend the play was on full display during his first touchdown thrown, where Wilson rolled out and made a throw on the run for a 22-yard score. Another highlight was a 3rd-and-2 throw on a rollout that Wilson made across his body and across the field to convert a first down. But Wilson didn’t really turn it on until the third quarter. In the first half he made several bad decisions and a few more bad throws. One of those led to an interception, but he easily could have turned the ball over two more times. One was a dropped pick, and another was a fumble that could’ve been prevented if Wilson tucked the ball instead of trying to extend the play while he was wrapped up by a defender.
No. 4: Trevor Lawrence
COMP-ATT, COMP%: 28-51, 54.9% YDS, Y/A: 332, 6.5 TD: 3 INT: 3
Statistically, Lawrence had the worst outing among all the rookie quarterbacks, however his wide receivers didn’t help him. The Jaguars dropped balls all day, including one drive to end the first end when receivers dropped three straight passes for a pathetic three-and-out. That being said, Lawrence made some poor throws and poor decisions as well. He overthrew several receivers, one of which led to an interception. He also fed too many balls into double or triple coverage. On his second interception, Lawrence telegraphed his throw all the way and never saw the defensive back lying in wait to undercut the pass. The third pick was arguably the worst of them all. The pass came after Lawrence’s wideout made his break, but it was nowhere near the receiver and landed directly in the hands of a linebacker. It wasn’t all bad though. Lawrence did show off his arm talent and playmaking ability on a few difficult throws, two of which went for touchdowns.
No. 3: Trey Lance
COMP-ATT, COMP%: 1-1, 100% YDS: 5 TD: 1 INT: 0
Trey Lance was the other first-round rookie quarterback who didn’t draw the start, along with Justin Fields. Just like Fields, Lance also saw limited time in Week 1. He threw one pass, an easy five-yard out that went for a touchdown, and didn’t seem jittery or nervous at all on the throw. In addition to the throw, Lance rushed three times for only two yards. The Lions seemed ready for any rush plays every time Lance was under center, however, so all three of those attempts were well defended and didn’t go anywhere.
No. 2: Justin Fields
COMP-ATT, COMP%: 2-2, 100% YDS: 10 TD: 1 (rushing) INT: 0
Fields also saw limited playing time for the Bears, but he made the most of it. His very first pass was an impressive attempt, even though it came on a simple nine-yard out route. It looked like Fields only had one read on the play, but he didn’t stare his target down which prevented defenders from jumping the route. Then, he delivered a quick and accurate throw with Aaron Donald closing in on him. Later, he scored on an even more impressive run, where he dipped inside a defender to make it to the end zone. Fields’ one-yard shovel pass coming on an option play was well defended whether he decided to hand the ball off or not.
No. 1: Mac Jones
COMP-ATT, COMP%: 29-39, 74.4% YDS: 281, 7.2 TD: 1 INT: 0
Jones had the most help from his run game and his offensive line among all the rookie QBs, and he made the most of it. He got off to a disastrous start however. On his first pass attempt, Jones tried to avoid taking a sack by throwing the ball at Jonnu Smith’s feet. Only problem was, Smith was a yard behind him, making that play a backwards lateral and a fumble. After that miscue, Jones completely turned it around with an efficient, and also highlight-filled performance. Jones worked through his reads well and seemed to always find the open man. He showed good elusiveness and a knack for feeling pressure and navigating the pocket too. Jones made several impressive throws, including a couple strikes across the middle of the field and a dime to James White on a wheel route. In all, he only made one or two bad throws and extended drives by going 9-12 on third down. A stellar debut for the Patriots rookie (at least after that first mishap).