NFL Rookie QB Rankings: Davis Mills lone survivor, Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson struggle

The NFL Rookie QB Rankings are becoming more painstaking by the week. Fortunately, one young quarterback was not a complete train wreck.

These NFL Rookie QB Rankings are becoming harder and harder to write as the first-year signal-callers have continued to struggle. There hasn’t been a single performance out of 11 total starts that resembles anything close to impressive. As such, this won’t read optimistically, even when we look forward to the future of this NFL season. It’ll be hard for these quarterbacks to look worse, but there’s a good chance they never get much better in 2021.

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NFL QB Rookie Rankings | Week 4

It’s important to note that, just like our NFL Power Rankings or overall rookie rankings, this is a cumulative effort.

1) Davis Mills, Houston Texans

Mills had an unfortunate welcome to the NFL. In his first starting action as a pro, he went 19-of-28 for 168 yards and a touchdown. While everything seemed to be moving incredibly fast for the rest of the rookies, Mills generally looked good seeing the field. He earned the top spot in the NFL Rookie QB rankings. Next week, the Texans will ask him for more.

When he had time to deliver the ball, Mills showed how natural he is as a passer, placing the ball where his receivers could at least attempt to make a play. The above play shows the confidence Mills has in his arm and in his receiver. Cooks couldn’t finish the play, but Mills placed this ball in the only possible place it could go.

And I know what you’re thinking: “Why wouldn’t Mills throw this to the vertical up the seam when the safety drives to the line of scrimmage?”

Well, I once had that same question. This is not a top-down read. The seam isn’t even an option on this play because it’s never supposed to work out this way. And even if it does, the backside cornerback is likely going to look for work, as the Panthers show here.

I was impressed by Mills’ poise and trigger as a passer, and he showed the ability to make throws on the hoof. There were definitely some ugly moments, but the overarching picture should be positive for the young QB.

2) Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Among rookie QBs, Lawrence has easily shown the most flashes of high-end play so far this year. However, the boneheaded plays he’s delivered as a pro are a bit confounding. There is very much a “doin’ too much” vibe with Lawrence at the moment.

He’s also made throws like this. Lawrence is pressured but keeps his eyes squarely downfield and makes a throw to his safety blanket, Marvin Jones. His touchdown pass was even more impressive, as he went from his main read on the right side all the way back to the left before throwing a dart to the back of the end zone.

Still, I wish Lawrence would use his legs more. I wish the Jaguars’ offense would utilize his legs more. Jacksonville’s offense needs another weapon, and Lawrence has the athleticism and vision to be a force on the ground, both on designed runs and QB scrambles.

He’s still acquiring a feel for the speed of the NFL game. Defenses are getting hands on some of his slightly off-target throws, and there have been times he’s missed throws completely.

Once the game starts to slow down, Lawrence should become a more consistent passer.

3) Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Jones has really only had one bad game. He did what he was asked to do against both the Dolphins and the Jets. But Jones falls to third in the NFL Rookie QB Rankings because of the plays he refuses to make or simply cannot make physically.

Do yourself a favor and pause this video when the intended receiver is between the hashes. Intermediate throws don’t get much more wide open than that. With Jones, this isn’t a one-off thing. He consistently leaves splash plays on the field.

And when things break down in the pocket, you can go ahead and just chalk the play. It would help if Jones played in an offense with receivers who can consistently separate, but that isn’t the case in New England.

He needs to live off his accuracy and decision-making. But when the Patriots get down, Jones doesn’t have the firepower to shoot his way back into the game. Without more help, his ceiling is capped.

4) Zach Wilson, New York Jets

I felt Wilson would struggle early in his NFL tenure, but even I didn’t think things would be this bad. In college, Wilson struggled to play within the confines of the BYU offense. Nearly his entire game was predicated on creating plays outside of structure and throwing 50/50 balls with outstanding placement to big receivers.

I expected the mental side of the game to take a while for Wilson. But I didn’t expect his slow processing speed to negatively affect his ability to deliver catchable passes on a consistent basis.

Everything has been a struggle. Losing left tackle Mekhi Becton was practically a death sentence for the rookie QB. Facing Denver’s fearsome pass rush and secondary, Wilson never stood a chance. Lawrence and Wilson are performing similarly, but Lawrence has been far more consistent within Jacksonville’s offense, despite having a less advantageous scheme overall.

Hopefully, Wilson can splash a bit against a bad Titans secondary in Week 4.

5) Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

I’m not quite sure where to even start. Fields was atrocious on Sunday. As one of his biggest supporters coming out of Ohio State, I had a hard time watching his performance. I pulled the power washer and tried to blast the stink off me, but my wife decided the potential hospital visit wasn’t worth the effort.

I’m not sure I agree. Watching these quarterbacks for the NFL Rookie QB Rankings might be more painful.

Chicago’s offensive line may as well not even be there because they’re not doing much in terms of blocking. There’s a chance that’s crept into Fields’ subconscious because he’s either moving too quickly or freezing depending on the play.

He’s not ready to play. At least, he’s not ready to play behind this offensive line and with this coaching staff calling the shots. It doesn’t help that even Allen Robinson struggled to separate against the Browns.`

These teams might break these QBs

I’m usually a “trial by fire” proponent for rookie NFL QBs. Yet, I think a few of these franchises might do irreversible harm to their young quarterbacks if they continue to put them in these situations.

Urban Meyer was always a bad hire. Now, it’s apparent his offense isn’t going to cut it at the NFL level. Matt Nagy is as good as gone, and things in New York aren’t great either.

The Bears and Jaguars absolutely must start searching for their next head coaches, and it must be someone with a track record of developing quarterbacks at the NFL level. If they don’t, and the physical talent of this QB class is wasted on bad franchises, the world may never forgive them.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch.

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