The 2021 rookie class of quarterbacks was lauded as potentially having five future superstars. Some expected these rookies to step in and look the part right away. Yet, so far, the young prospects have failed to live up to the hype. It seems like every year people forget that rookie quarterbacks just aren’t that good. And that’s not quite an issue — at least not yet.
Quarterback is the most important position on the field, mainly because it’s also the hardest position to play. All rookies have growing pains, but rookie quarterbacks? Theirs are amplified and put on the biggest stage. All five of these quarterbacks will have moments this season when they look completely lost. A few of them will probably never put it all together. But I can assure you: some of them will find success, even if it’s not this year. Let’s go through the flaws and promising signs each quarterback has shown thus far.
No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence has all the tools you want in a quarterback. He’s huge, at 6’6” and 220 lbs., has a cannon for an arm, and is mobile. Like other rookies, though, he’s still figuring out how to read NFL defenses and make the right decisions. He’s already thrown five picks this season. But a lot of that also has to do with his situation.
This season, Lawrence’s Jacksonville Jaguars finished 1-15 last year and is coached by NFL newcomer Urban Meyer. Lawrence has thrown for four touchdowns against five interceptions and has shown off his arm strength as well, so he will be fine.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is coming off a horrific outing against the New England Patriots where he threw four interceptions in his first 10 pass attempts. Each one was worse than the next. Like Lawrence, though, Wilson is not in the best situation. The Jets are better constructed around him than they ever were around previous first-round pick Sam Darnold, but they have a rookie head coach and offensive coordinator.
Even while his last game was brutal, his Week 1 performance was very encouraging. He led the Jets on two touchdown drives in the second half and almost pulled off a comeback against the Carolina Panthers. Wilson showcased why he was the second pick in the draft, moving around the pocket like a veteran and hitting off-platform throws that make up highlight reels. Even after his horrible Week 2 performance, I still have faith Wilson can flourish in the league.
While Trey Lance and Justin Fields were picked in between Wilson and Mac Jones, neither of the two have started a game yet. Fields was forced into emergency duty this past week when Andy Dalton went down with an injury and did not look great — but like Lawrence and Wilson, he’ll likely be fine eventually. Lance has played just four snaps, although he converted one into his first career touchdown, a promising sign.
The Patriots took Jones 15th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, and so far, he’s looked like the most professional quarterback of the bunch. This was expected. Unlike the Jets and Jaguars, the Patriots have a top-tier head coach and a solid offensive line and supporting cast. All Jones has had to do is find the open receiver in a timely fashion and he’s been doing that well. He only has one touchdown through two games, but he also hasn’t made big mistakes, with zero interceptions.
Unlike the other four quarterbacks in this class, though, Jones’s ceiling is not much higher than how he’s playing right now. He’s great at making reads and being accurate, but he does not have the skills you can’t teach, like size, speed or arm strength. Even so, Jones is the most likely to be successful because of his brain and his situation. While some of the others will become stars and surpass him because of their physical gifts, Jones really is a sure thing. And despite his low ceiling, that’s high praise for a rookie.
The verdict here is simple — most of these guys will be fine. They don’t look bad because they shouldn’t be in the NFL; they look bad because they’re rookies, and most of them don’t have a great supporting cast around them. Like any good coach would say, just give them time. Rookie quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be good.
Tim Brennan is a sophomore in the McDonough School of Business. Any Given Sunday appears online and in print every other week.