NFL QB Rookie Rankings: Mac Jones’ play not sustainable, Lawrence and Wilson struggle

    This hasn't been a good start for rookies playing QB in the NFL, so which one sits atop the rankings? How long before the others catch him?

    Evaluating and ranking the QB performances of NFL rookies is supposed to be a fun exercise in seeing which teams have gotten the best early returns on their high-end investments. We’ve had great luck the past few seasons finding early success in these young passers. We’re only two games in, and a lot can change, but things aren’t going smoothly for what we thought would be a legendary QB class.

    NFL QB Rookie Rankings | Week 3

    The rookie quarterbacks have been underwhelming through two weeks. Can they turn it around? We aren’t including Justin Fields yet, but after Week 3, he’ll be added to the list of rookie QBs to rank.

    1) Mac Jones, New England Patriots

    Mac Jones has been the best NFL QB in the class of rookies through two weeks — that is inarguable. However, it has far less to do with how good Jones has been and far more to do with how unappetizing the play of the rest of the class has been.

    By traditional measures, Jones has had a fine start to his NFL career. He’s completed 73.9% of his passes at 6.8 yards per clip. He also hasn’t yet thrown an interception, which only three QBs with more attempts than he can say.

    When we look at more comprehensive measures such as QBR, he still reigns supreme. Actually, he doubles the effectiveness of either Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson. His 53.6 QBR ranks 18th among qualifying quarterbacks.

    Jones’ current play isn’t sustainable

    He needs to make plays. I know he completes the pass here, but he gave up on what was one of the easiest touchdown passes you’ll find at the NFL level. But that isn’t even the most significant issue he must overcome moving forward.

    He can’t make plays. At least, not in the way young quarterbacks need to as their minds develop at the NFL level. Now, don’t be confused — this doesn’t mean he can’t make throws. I’m going to show one pass here soon that was outstanding. This means that when the pocket breaks down and he’s forced anywhere outside of a 2-yard bubble, the play is effectively over.

    His offensive line helps the QB be the one adequate performer among the rookies at the NFL level. But the minute a team can create pressure, things will become extremely difficult for Jones without having a go-to receiver.

    Only Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, and Jimmy Garoppolo are averaging fewer air yards than Jones. Even in the current NFL landscape, it’s difficult to score points in bunches when the offense can’t push the ball vertically. Currently, New England’s passing attack averages nearly a yard per play less than the rest of the league. That wouldn’t be a problem, except they haven’t played any well-performing defenses yet.

    We need to see more of this, but it’s not the kind of concept I refer to when I talk about creating explosive pass plays. This is a slot fade in a manufactured 1v1. It’s an easy snap and deliver — it needs to be accurate. Jones drops one right in the bucket on this play.

    Nonetheless, Jones and this Patriots offense must be able to attack the intermediate and deep areas of the field more than what they’ve shown through two weeks.

    2) Trevor Lawrence

    Trevor Lawrence played alright early on in the contest, but things went downhill from there. Unfortunately, once things started rolling, they didn’t stop until they reached the bottom of the hill.

    Things went very downhill once the rain showed up. His performance wasn’t unwatchable as the final QB on the list, but things are moving quickly for Lawrence. Add in lackluster passing concepts and a Denver Broncos secondary that can hang with anyone, and you’re going to have a long day.

    Rookies playing QB in the NFL have a tendency to try and do too much. Lawrence made some nice throws — most were into tight windows. But the Broncos also allowed for underneath completions a few times, and Lawrence decided not to take them. Lawrence was pressing later in the game, trying to take chunks of yards at a time by pushing the ball downfield, even when it wasn’t there.

    Things won’t always be as difficult as they were against Denver. However, I’ve seen this story before. This offense looks like the late-stage Scott Linehan offenses in Dallas. Through Week 2, the Jaguars have run the sixth-fewest plays utilizing motion. They rarely condense formations or try to generate separation the way modern offenses must.

    Either way, Lawrence lands second in the rookie QB rankings because it’s challenging to have a worse day at the office than what Zach Wilson had.

    3) Zach Wilson

    This one is the hardest of the rookies playing QB in the NFL to talk about. Wilson’s ability as a playmaker is evident. When the play breaks down, and he has a sliver to escape and make a play, he will. That ability can help propel a quarterback’s play from good to great and from great to elite.

    But right now, Wilson’s off-script ability is taking him from the quarterback struggling most in the NFL to … the quarterback struggling the most in the NFL. Wilson thrives off chaos but struggled at BYU when things spread out and was forced to work within the normal structure of things.

    That’s continuing at the NFL level. Now, facing Bill Belichick in your second-ever game without your franchise left tackle is no small task. But there were times Wilson made things more difficult for himself, throwing 4 INTs in the contest.

    This interception is not totally on Wilson, but his decision led to the throw that went through the hands of Corey Davis.

    This is first down, and Wilson’s struggled to this point. He must learn that sometimes taking the checkdown immediately is okay. Sometimes, you just need to throw a “gimmie” to get some confidence going. He makes the right read, and the throw is fine, but this is one of a few examples from Sunday where he could have made the easy throw and didn’t.

    Then he does this, and he makes us remember what he could be if he figures out how to do the traditional quarterback things.

    Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

    Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

    Related Articles