NFL Rookie QB Rankings: Jones, Fields, and Lawrence all showing signs of improvement

The NFL Rookie QB rankings are changing a bit to streamline the process. Now, we'll look at them on a week-to-week basis. Who won Week 6?

The NFL Rookie QB Rankings are changing a bit in format, but the process remains the same. Every week, I sit down and evaluate the All-22 tape of the first-round rookie quarterbacks who played and rank them based on their performance. This week, only three of the five first-round QBs played, and each had some of the best performances of their young careers.

NFL QB Rookie Rankings Week 7

We’re transitioning the QB Rookie Rankings to weekly rather than cumulative because the bye weeks create some choppiness. At the end of the season, we’ll reevaluate each rookie’s season as a whole.

1) Mac Jones

While Mac Jones’ Week 6 numbers were inflated by the 75-yard gift from Damonte Kazee and Trevon Diggs, who decided not to contest the football, Jones played a very clean game against the Cowboys.

It’s a boring brand of football — Jones goes through his progressions against zone coverage before taking the 6-yard stop route in the soft spot. But if the Patriots play clean football, they can move the ball that way. When their OL is dominating at the point of attack (as it did against Dallas), New England can put together long drives that tire out a defense and keep a good offense like the Dallas’ off the field.

But against the Cowboys, Jones made some excellent reads that led to downfield targets, and he put the ball where it needed to be. He was 4-for-4 on passes traveling past 20 yards. But at some point, teams must start squeezing him to throw outside of the numbers.

Until then, the rookie QB will continue to carve up defenses underneath, and the New England’s run game and defense will keep games tight.

2) Justin Fields

Justin Fields had his best game as a pro in his fourth career start. It appears Matt Nagy finally read the Ohio State product’s scouting report because the Bears head coach decided to put his rookie quarterback in a better position to succeed against the Packers.

Fields is at his best when he can play to the intermediate areas of the field in rhythm. He’s an outstanding passer from the pocket, particularly if he’s kept clean. Some of his intermediate throws outside the numbers in Week 6 were sublime.

The first drive of the game showed what Fields can do in a clean setting.

His numbers don’t reflect a phenomenal performance, but his tape showed a quarterback far less worried about the pressure bearing down on him than in previous weeks. His interception was controversial, too.

Fields’ process against pressure still has a ways to go, but there were a few instances against the Packers where he avoided the rush and either kept his eyes downfield to deliver a pass or picked up yards with his legs.

The more Fields plays with defenders in his face — something he didn’t often see at Ohio State — the better he’ll become at finding escape routes and manipulating the pocket to create throwing hallways. We’ve already seen it a few times.

3) Trevor Lawrence

Now is as good a time as any to admit that Trevor Lawrence has struggled with accuracy so far this season. His ball placement has consistently been off by a hair, and it’s hurting Jacksonville’s passing attack.

And it’s not as if there’s a whole lot to like about the passing concepts the Jaguars insist on running. There are minimal instances where I look and think, “they did a good job of scheming that guy open there.”

So the problems are two-fold. Receivers aren’t getting much separation, and Lawrence has been consistently inconsistent with his ball placement. That is not a recipe for success.

The above throw, however, is. The rookie QB has all the arm talent in the world with reserves of athleticism when he needs to make plays on the hoof. Late in the game, Lawrence started freestyling a bit more, and while he got some positive results, his ball placement remained somewhat erratic.

Lawrence is seeing dissonant results in nearly every aspect of his play. Yet, that might say more about his environment than it does about his actual physical and mental abilities. After all, he has a first-time NFL head coach with … issues … and a combination of Darrell Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer as his coordinators.

The above play is a prime example of Lawrence’s consistent inconsistencies. On most occasions, he would get this pass off on time and on target when his feet are set. But on this play, he doesn’t like the defender’s leverage on the hash and decides not to throw it until the receiver starts floating toward the numbers. By then, it was too late.

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