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NFL Draft

When Will Round 1 QBs Get Their NFL Start?

  • The Draft Network
  • May 14, 2021
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No matter what part of the calendar you’re currently in, there is a reason to be hyped up about NFL football. Early in the year, there are the playoffs. In March, there’s the free-agency frenzy. At the end of April, we have the draft, and shortly after we get the excitement of the schedule release.

With the timing of the newly drafted rookies and the schedule release, naturally, we start to predict when we’ll first see these prospects turned pros in action. Taking as much context into the equation as we can, here’s our best guess at when we could see the five first-round quarterbacks take control of a starting role.

Trevor Lawrence

Week 1: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

This one is pretty easy to predict. Trevor Lawrence, the first-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, is the assumed starter right off the bat. Now, new head coach Urban Meyer won’t just come out and say it’s Lawrence’s job before he even shows up to mini-camp; but we all know what’s most likely the case once Week 1 rolls around.

As if being the No. 1 selection isn’t a good enough reason to predict Lawrence as a Week 1 starter, the Jacksonville Jaguars open the season against the team that will likely finish with the least amount of wins throughout the regular season, barring Deshaun Watson starting for the Houston Texans, of course. The pedigree and timing of the opponent make this an easy one.

Zach Wilson

Week 1: New York Jets at Carolina Panthers

Zach Wilson, the second-overall pick, is in a similar situation to that of Lawrence, where it’s hard to predict a different quarterback on the roster taking the first snap of the season for them. Wilson has a personality in his play that is easy to get behind and believe in. With James Morgan and Mike White the only other available passers, there isn’t much of a challenge here.

It’s a road game, and in a perfect world a team wouldn’t want a rookie to make their first start on the road, but that’s such a small detail in the grand scheme of who the Jets’ options are at quarterback. I’d be shocked if Wilson isn’t the guy starting Day 1. 

Justin Fields

Week 4: Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions

Lawrence's and Wilson's predictions were easy, not only because they were drafted the highest, but also because the depth chart around them doesn’t offer much of a challenge. It’s not as easy for the other three quarterbacks selected in Round 1, and that’s why you might see them sit for a few weeks, barring an incredible training camp and preseason. 

For the Chicago Bears, they have both Andy Dalton and Nick Foles. They’ll certainly like to get to Justin Fields as quickly as possible, but those veterans there might be able to execute the offense a little better right off the bat. This is in no way a shot at Fields’ ability to pick up the playbook. It is simply pointing out the fact that coaches tend to gravitate towards veteran talent because there are rookie learning curves they don’t have to adjust to. It is worth noting that Dalton is also joining the team for the first year and doesn’t have previously established chemistry with the offense or the coaching staff. So who knows: Fields could certainly start earlier, but in Week 4 the Bears face a less imposing opponent in the Detroit Lions—and it’s at home.

Mac Jones

Week 5: New England Patriots at Houston Texans

The New England Patriots drafting Mac Jones puts them in an interesting spot for the 2021 season. They have Cam Newton, who still has plenty of talent left in the tank. But Newton is on just a one-year deal—a heavily incentivized deal, at that. The biggest determining factor in Jones’ potential start date is the offense; it will be drastically different from what Newton facilitated. Newton brings much more of a running element to the position, something the Patriots leaned heavily on last year. Jones does not bring that same skill set.

The Patriots play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in Week 4, and I know coaches will never say this, but I am not so sure Bill Belichick will want to play a rookie quarterback to try to best Tom Brady in his return. I think Newton will get the start up to Week 4. If Newton plays well, which is certainly possible, he will continue to start. But if he struggles, Week 5 could be the time the Patriots make the switch, especially since they’ll be playing a bad Texans that week. 

Trey Lance

Week 7, San Francisco 49ers vs. Indianapolis Colts

The No. 3 pick as the last to gain a starting spot? It could be the case given the quarterback situation. 

The San Francisco 49ers currently have Jimmy Garoppolo, and if that continues to be the case going into the season, Garoppolo could easily be the starter short term. Now, it might be more likely that Garoppolo is traded before the season begins. If so, Trey Lance will be the starter in Week 1. But if Garoppolo is still on the roster, Week 7 after the 49ers’ bye will likely be the sweet spot for them to go to Lance. Even with Garoppolo, it’s only a matter of time. 

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