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NFL Draft

Who Starts First: Trey Lance, Justin Fields or Mac Jones?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 17, 2021
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The NFL preseason has many phases. Right now, we’re in one of my favorite ones, the: “one game in and player X played well, so let’s predict the monster season they will undoubtedly have” phase. It’s a great time filled with hopeful content around the Internet.

Anytime such a subject is a quarterback, there’s a multiplier of excitement. And anytime it’s a rookie quarterback, well, we take it to the moon.

With that said, there were five quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones. The first two names were the first two drafted, and in their drafted situations, they didn’t encounter much competition for the starting spot—sorry, Gardner Minshew, we still love you. But the other three were all in situations where, though they were the shiny new franchise signal-caller, there were players around them who could hold them back from taking the reins, at least for a bit.

But all three of those quarterbacks played well in their first games, which brings around the question: who will start first?

Let’s start with the highest drafted of the three.

When Will Trey Lance Start?

START HIM, START HIM NOW. Wait, sorry, that wasn’t supposed to be there.

Lance showed flashes of why he was drafted No. 3 overall in his first preseason game. He played 41% of the team’s offensive snaps, which was second most of any quarterback. His final stat line showed 5-for-14 for 128 passing yards and one touchdown, which was an 80-yard bomb that showed off the arm talent San Francisco has been searching for.

Lance obviously wasn’t perfect. His completion percentage was just 35% and he also took four sacks for -31 yards. It’s the efficiency in between the big plays that will likely be the biggest catalyst for why Lance wouldn’t be the Week 1 starter. Fellow 49er Jimmy Garoppolo is a vet, consistent, and maybe most importantly, he’s just not a rookie with a rookie learning curve.

The 49ers’ bye week is Week 6. That was a natural spot where people predicted Lance would take over as the starter. But, man, if we get more of those Lance flashes through the next few preseason games, it will get more and more difficult to not let the future be now in the Trey Bay Area.

When Will Justin Fields Start?

The Bears really got lucky this past draft, at least it certainly seems so right now. Even if it’s early, they originally were slated to pick 20th in the draft with quarterback as their biggest need. To be able to capitalize on a Fields slide in the draft to move up to No. 11, it feels like they won the draft after just a handful of picks.

According to practice reports, Fields has looked the part of a young—growing—franchise quarterback. Fields played 63% of the team’s offensive snaps in his first preseason game and finished 14-for-20 with 142 passing yards and one touchdown. Fields looked comfortable and confident. Was it perfect? Of course not, but for game one, it was good—it was real good. If you want my opinion, Fields should be the starter from Day 1.

When Will Mac Jones Start?

Jones, fresh off changing his number from No. 50 to No. 10, played 53% of the offensive snaps this past week, which was the most for any of the quarterbacks. At the end of the game, his stat line read 13-for-19 with 87 passing yards.

As of right now, veteran Cam Newton is the starting quarterback, but if you ask long-time NFL columnist Peter King, “[It] seems like a matter of time before Jones wins this job.” But the interesting part of this quarterback competition is that it involves two very different quarterbacks. Newton brings that running element to the position, even if he doesn't want to be taking as many hits as he did in his younger years. Jones, well, isn’t the best athlete on the field when he’s out there. Making a decision on who will start the most games at quarterback isn't just about who will be better, but also which game plan might be better. That’s why we might see this quarterback conundrum go well into the regular season.

So who will be the first full-time starter between Lance, Fields, and Jones? It’s Fields. And it should have happened, well, yesterday—regardless of when you’re reading this article.

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