Not one, not two, or three or four. Five quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. And if that seems like a lot, well that’s because it is. It’s the first time since 2018 and 1999 where five QB’s have been taken in the first round.
Trevor Lawrence was taken first overall, followed by Zach Wilson at two and Trey Lance at three. Justin Fields followed shortly after at eleven and Mac Jones at fifteen. All five were highly touted coming out of college, with Trevor Lawrence being dubbed as the best prospect since Andrew Luck. Since Fields will forever be tied/compared to the success/failures of the other four quarterbacks, let’s see where each has come so far in their brief careers. We’ll go in draft order, but swap Fields and Jones to end on our QB1.
Lawrence as mentioned was compared to Andrew Luck coming out of Clemson, and deservedly so. The long haired QB had an amazing arm, deft accuracy, and great height and mobility. But more importantly, he won many games and showed great leadership during his years at Clemson. The Jaguars had the right to pick him first and honestly put him in one of the worst situations you could put a rookie QB in. Urban Meyer was hired to be the head coach of the Jaguars and from the beginning things were not looking good. The Jaguars lost their first five games and finished the season 3-14 and ended up with the first overall pick again in the 2022 NFL Draft. Trevor Lawrence finished the season with 3,641 yards to go along with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. It was a season full of ups and downs for Trevor, who ultimately played pretty well considering the situation he was in. 2022 has been a different story for Lawrence. New head coach Doug Pederson has Lawrence playing in a much better offense and they sit at 5-8. Lawrence has also improved his QBR from 40 during his rookie season to 56 this year.
Next up is Zach Wilson. Coming out of BYU, he was being compared to Patrick Mahomes for his ability to make off-platform throws and incredible arm strength. Wilson only played in 13 games last year for the Jets and compiled 2,334 yards with 9 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Wilson had a much more competent coaching staff, but they still struggled that year and finished 4-13. Coming into this season, Wilson was expected to take a huge leap with an improved offense with notable draftee Garret Wilson. However, Wilson got hurt during a pre-season game and was forced to miss the first four games of the regular season. Since he has returned to the starting lineup, Wilson has made some poor decisions that ultimately has got him benched for backup Mike White. White has played well, and although head coach Robert Saleh has continued to voice his support for Wilson, it is hard to see him making a change with the Jets so close to playoff contention.
Trey Lance is next at number three. Of all four quarterbacks, Lance had the least tape to show for between the 5 quarterbacks. Lance attended North Dakota State University, a FCS School, and only played in 19 career games across his three years. This had many scouts worried, as the competition was not as strong either. Still, the San Francisco 49ers saw something in Lance and risked a lot of future draft capital to select Lance. He didn’t play much his rookie season, because of incumbent starter Jimmy Garrapalo. And to be honest, he hasn’t played much this year either because of an unfortunate ACL injury suffered against the Seahawks. Lance just doesn’t have much experience, and with the recent play of Brock Purdy, it may be intriguing to see which way the 49ers front office goes after the conclusion of this season.
Mac Jones was selected with the 15 overall pick by the New England Patriots. What set Jones apart from the others was his lack of mobility. He was more known as a pocket passer at Alabama, and didn’t have the athleticism to make plays in the running game. Still, this didn’t dissuade Belichick from taking Jones, and the rookie was impressive in his first season. He finished all 17 games and passed for 3,801 yards with 22 touchdowns to only 13 interceptions. He led the Patriots to a 10-7 record and was considered the best QB in the class after the season was over. This year has been a struggle for Mac Jones. He’s dealt with injuries this season and even has been feeling the pressure from rookie QB Bailey Zappe. Mac Jones seems to be the best pocket passer of his class, and will need to continue to rely on quick decision making and accuracy to be a great quarterback in the league.
And lastly, Justin Fields. Fields had a spectacular career at Ohio State, and many believed the Georgia native would be a top three pick in the draft. However, Fields dropped all the way to the Bears and after a trade with the Giants and was selected with the 11th overall pick. Field’s rookie season was strange. Before the season began, head coach at the time Matt Nagy expressed that Andy Dalton would be the starter. But after an injury to Dalton, it was Fields’ show from there on out. He finished his rookie season passing for 1,870 yards with 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. After much front office turnover in the following off-season, Fields would be united with new play caller Luke Getsy for his sophomore season. The offense has looked much different under Getsy, and Fields has set numerous NFL records with his legs.
The jury is still out on all five quarterbacks. In terms of my rankings, I would put them at Lawrence followed by Fields, Jones, Lance, and Wilson. Lawrence just looks like a complete passer, but Fields has that play making ability unlike any other QB in the league. Obviously, it would be nice to see Fields rise above the pack, but it will be fun to watch him compete with his other four draft mates.