NFL Rookie QB Rankings: Lawrence, Wilson, and Fields trending up while Jones remains stagnant

The NFL Rookie QB Rankings are fluid week to week, but I try to emphasize where these quarterbacks are trending. Three are trending up.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I hope you’re all ready because we FINALLY had a week where the rookie QB play in the NFL wasn’t a complete disaster. As a result, making the rookie rankings was fun for the first time! We’re just going to go ahead and leave the third-round rookie out of this one. I just need one week of not having to see my therapist because of rookie QB play — just one.

NFL QB Rookie Rankings Week 5 | 1-2

Remember, this is a cumulative award. Furthermore, this has very little to do with the statistical output of each quarterback. It’s much more to do with how they’ve looked on film, how comfortable I am with them playing for the rest of this season, and how I view them moving forward.

The truth can anger you, but if it sets just one of you free, your anger is worth it.

1) Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

This one feels pretty cut and dry from watching him play. However, nearly every advanced metric we look at tells us Trevor Lawrence has been bad. The disconnect lies with the offense and the continuous sideshow that head coach Urban Meyer is conducting.

Nevertheless, there is great solace in knowing that from a completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) standpoint, Lawrence is still above Zach Wilson and Justin Fields.

Lawrence is becoming more comfortable with the speed of the NFL game in general, but he’s really beginning to settle down a bit in the pocket.

The above throws are the ones that make Lawrence special. We’ll see a similar throw from another rookie QB later.

Standing in there knowing you’re about to take a shot from an unblocked defender isn’t easy. Still, Lawrence places this ball to the sideline where only his receiver can catch it, and Trey Hendrickson decides not to decapitate Lawrence.

He’s still trying to do too much too often, but he’s also started using his legs more to create, which is something young athletic quarterbacks must do to try and consistently pick up third downs as they progress mentally.

Things should only continue to look smoother for Lawrence as the year goes on.

2) Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Mac Jones is second in the NFL Rookie QB Rankings, but this is basically a default placement at this point. I just continue to wait for the floor to disappear underneath him. I understand that teams don’t want to be beat downfield. However, Jones is currently 4-for-18 with 2 interceptions on passes traveling over 20 air yards.

I said it after Week 2, and I’ll continue to echo this. His playstyle is not sustainable at the NFL level. It can’t be. There’s no way defenses will continue to allow these short throws between the numbers down in and down out.

But even though I think Jones’ long-term outlook is incredibly mediocre unless he can find some more velocity, he’s operating New England’s offense well enough to move the chains until the team gets to the red zone. The Patriots are slightly above average on third down and have also had success on fourth down. But their red-zone and goal-to-go finish rate are both well below average. That can’t continue if they want to get back on track.

To be regarded among the best in the league, a quarterback must be able to make plays on 3rd-and-long situations. On 3rd-and-10+, he’s 8-for-12, but the team has only picked up 1 first down on those 12 attempts.

In a playmaking league, Jones simply hasn’t shown the physical ability to do so yet. I hope he proves me wrong, but I’m not sure how he’ll go about accomplishing that.

NFL QB Rookie Rankings Week 5 | 3-4

Are Zach Wilson and Justin Fields headed in the right direction?

3) Zach Wilson, New York Jets

Wilson had himself the best performance of any rookie QB in Week 4, but his overall body of work, and even his performance on Sunday, still leaves a lot to be desired.

He’ll continue to reel us in with absolutely nutty throws, just as he did against the floundering Tennessee Titans.

These throws are silly. And Wilson was the No. 2 overall pick because he can do this at the drop of a hat. His flaws still read like a CVS receipt, but it also looks like offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur might be starting to understand how to help Wilson.

These are the kinds of looks that Wilson excelled at while playing at BYU. This is a heavy-personnel, condensed-split formation that really simplifies what the play is asking of Wilson.

In this tight, 12-personnel formation, there is only so much the defense will look to do in coverage. Most likely, with only one high safety, they’ll probably run a country Cover 3.

Here, Wilson sees the cornerback is bailing with over-the-top and outside leverage. Despite the outside leverage, Wilson knows he’ll never be able to flip his hips and drive on this football, even though it’s a far-hash deep out.

Then, on third down in overtime, he made this throw that helped the Jets secure their first win of the season. If he keeps this up, they’ll get a few more in 2021, and Wilson will continue to rise in the NFL Rookie QB Rankings.

4) Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Man, what a difference a week and a different play-caller can make. Of course, in Matt Nagy’s press conference, his ego wouldn’t allow him to let the delegation receive the credit. He oozes insecurity. His quarterback did not, at least not in Week 4.

I, for one, am absolutely flabbergasted that the rookie QB that slung the ball downfield in college and did not survive off of RPOs and quick-game concepts had success slinging the ball downfield as a pro.

It still wasn’t always pretty. Fields is still genuinely uncomfortable with pressure, which happens a lot behind a Swiss cheese offensive line. But he looked far more comfortable in his second start.

Like Lawrence, Fields (and the offense) must use his athleticism more often. He’s not a running QB, but his legs add a layer to the offense. Additionally, he’s a better athlete than most professional defenders, as he showed spinning away from this sack.

He even went out and made his own ridiculous throw, just like we saw from Wilson and Lawrence. His wasn’t a bucket throw to the corner. Instead, Fields threw an absolute laser to the honey hole against Cover 2.

Nagy said Andy Dalton will be the starter when healthy. When that happens, I hope they deactivate his card to get into the building, just so he has to drive to work to know his services are no longer necessary.

Start Justin Fields. This team isn’t winning the division, and it would take a small miracle for them to make a Wild Card run. Let him grow on the field and start to build an offense around him.

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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