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NFL Draft

What Are Realistic Expectations For Rookie QBs in 2021?

  • The Draft Network
  • May 17, 2021
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The NFL has boasted a slew of successful rookie campaigns over the years, but the 2021 class as a whole could prove to be one of the deepest, most impressive in recent memory. With a handful of franchise-changing gun-slingers now in their respective homes—each with their own exclusive amenities— we can only ponder how quickly each first-round quarterback will make their mark on Sunday. 

With team structure, expectation, scheme, and offensive weaponry among all things considered, here is a glimpse into what you can expect from each of the five rookie quarterbacks in their debut season. 

Trevor Lawrence

The long wait to hear Lawrence’s name inevitably go No. 1 overall was music to the ears of football fanatics high and low. 

Lawrence enters Jacksonville as one of the most polished quarterbacks in recent memory, and it really isn’t close. Now, how Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell use him will be crucial to his success from the onset of his career in an overall top-heavy division with the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts expected to battle it out for the division crown. The weapons are there with D.J. Chark, a thousand-yard receiver in 2019, Marvin Jones Jr., who joins Jacksonville after totaling nine receiving touchdowns in three of the last four seasons as a Detroit Lion, and second-year receiver Laviska Shenault. Add in the tandem at running back in James Robinson and Travis Etienne, and Lawrence couldn’t have much of a better group around him to begin his attempt at returning the Jaguars back to relevancy. 

What can we expect from Lawrence?

He’ll have his bumps and fair share of turnovers, but Lawrence thrives pre-snap to the point where I don’t envision him falling into the narrative of “rookie quarterback struggles.” Behind a rather average offensive line, staying on his feet will help him progress, but the underlying questions of Meyer’s overall ability to masthead an NFL organization still remain in the air. If everything meshes, Lawrence has a very good chance to be named Offensive Rookie of the Year and progress into everything the Jaguars faithful so desperately wish for. 

Zach Wilson

The former BYU product is as talented as they come, but will he have enough around him to ease the onboarding process? That will remain the question as defensive-minded head coach Robert Saleh attempts to rejuvenate a franchise in dire need of wins. 

What can we expect from Wilson?

Wilson can make every throw in the book, we’ve seen that. But, his transition from the scarcely occupied BYU pocket to the crowded confines of an NFL backfield will ultimately serve as the key to his development if the Jets have any hope of accelerating their rebuild. Without much of a threat in the run game, general manager Joe Douglas opened his wallet for Corey Davis, who they hope can create a dynamic relationship with Wilson to last over the duration of his three-year (or longer) tenure in the Big Apple. 

Within an uber-competitive AFC East, the target hog, and sure-handed talent Jamison Crowder will prove to be his best friend over the intermediate portions of Mike LaFleur’s offense. The Jets by no means are expected to compete for a playoff spot, but their rebuild under Saleh is off to a heck of a start with Wilson behind the wheel. 

Trey Lance

If any of the first-round quarterbacks have a load of expectations heading into the fall, it’s Lance, who jolts onto the NFL scene as a de facto mystery man after just 17 starts of collegiate experience at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. With seemingly the entire roster at some point falling victim to the injury bug in 2020, the 49ers are primed, healthy, and ready for a major bounceback in 2021 with Lance taking over the reins for Kyle Shanahan’s unit.

What can we expect from Lance?

A whole lot of fireworks. It’ll take some time, sure, but I don’t expect the 49ers’ explosive playbook to be under wraps for too long. Lance has a bazooka on his shoulder and can run with the best of them, creating a nightmare scenario for opposing defensive coordinators to plan for on a weekly basis. Behind one of the league’s top offensive lines anchored by Trent Williams, and Alex Mack, Lance will have all the time in the world to process, read, and develop into the 49ers’ future under center. Add in a healthy defense to keep scores low and optimism high, and Lance’s 49ers could find themselves in the postseason near the top of the conference if all goes well. 

Justin Fields

The fall of Fields was a dream scenario come to life for the under-fire tandem of general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy. Following the failed experiment of Mitch Trubisky, Fields enters as the clear “QB1” in Chicago. Even if we head into camp with Andy Dalton atop the depth chart, this is Fields’ team.

What can we expect from Fields?

Don’t get me wrong, Fields’ selection could turn the tide on the overall outlook of the Bears’ future moving forward, but there are still many, many holes to fill to denote the Bears as a contender in mid-May. Allen Robinson’s return (albeit on the franchise tag) will help immensely, as will second-year talent Darnell Mooney, who is one of the more undervalued wideouts in football that will be relied upon to garner an even larger role in his second season. With Fields’ ability to create both on schedule and outside the pocket as a pass-first distributor with his eyes constantly remaining upfield, he will keep the Bears in games. 

Mac Jones

Somehow, someway, Bill Belichick got his way, again. Jones, the most accurate passer in all of college football last season, presents an entirely different skill set than Cam Newton… one that Belichick desires under center. 

What can we expect from Jones?

Jones presents a mold of similar Patriots quarterbacks with similar tools and an acute eye for the intricacies involved with running an offense at the NFL level. He’s beyond his years from a pre-snap standpoint, so much so Jones was described as aborderline genius when it comes to football,” from one league executive, per Sports Illustrated.

With a re-tooled roster highlighted by the signings of Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Matt Judon (among others), Jones enters a veteran locker room with desires to compete right away. How long he sits behind Cam Newton remains to be seen, but if it were my guess, don’t blink.

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