When Should the Rookie QBs Start?
In the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, there were five quarterbacks taken with the first 15 picks. Now
In the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, there were five quarterbacks taken with the first 15 picks. Now the question is when should we expect these quarterbacks to make their first start in the NFL. For some, the answer is easy for others, not so much.
Let’s start with Trevor Lawrence since he was the first overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Most people would probably say that since Lawrence was picked first overall, he will be starting day one. It wouldn’t be surprising, as seven of the last ten quarterbacks taken first overall were the week one starter.
The biggest thing that could keep Lawrence from playing right away is Gardner Minshew. Last year Minshew had good stats, starting eight games, passing for 2259 yards, completing 66% of his passes, with 16 TDs, and 5 INTs, according to Pro Football Reference. If the Jaguars wanna play it safe with Lawrence early on and Minshew plays good football, they could wait to start him. However, expect Lawrence to be the starter by week five.
Second overall pick Zach Wilson, meanwhile, should be starting for the New York Jets by week one. The Jets traded last year’s starter, Sam Darnold, to the Panthers before the draft. The only other quarterbacks on the Jets roster are Mike White and James Morgan, both of whom, haven’t played in an NFL game. If Wilson doesn’t start right away, that would be a surprise.
Third overall pick Trey Lance is an interesting case. The San Francisco 49ers still have Jimmy Garoppolo, who helped get them to the Super Bowl in 2019. However, he also missed a lot of the 2018 and 2020 seasons with injuries. The 49ers gave up first-round picks in 2021, 2022, and 2023, as well as, a third-round pick in 2022 to trade up to number three to get Lance, so they might want to be careful with him.
Lance only started 17 games in college, so he was considered a raw prospect. We could see a Patrick Mahomes-type rookie year where he only starts the final game of the season. However, in this day and age of the NFL, nothing should be considered a surprise.
Justin Fields was taken 11th overall by the Chicago Bears, who traded a first-round pick in next year’s draft to get him. Some draft experts had Fields as the second-best quarterback in the entire draft. When he starts could all depend on how Andy Dalton does.
Dalton was the starter for many years with the Cincinnati Bengals and took over as the Cowboys starter after Dak Prescott’s injury. He started nine games for the Cowboys, passing for 2170 yards, completing almost 65% of his passes, and had 14 TDs and eight INTs, according to Pro Football Reference. If Dalton has a great training camp and is playing good football, Fields could be on the sideline to start the season. However, don’t be surprised if he, like Lawrence, is starting by week five.
The final quarterback taken in the first round was Mac Jones by the New England Patriots. Draft experts had Jones as the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft. That being the case it wouldn’t be crazy to assume that he starts week one for the Patriots.
However, Cam Newton might have something to say about that. Last year, Newton did not have a good season, passing for 2657 yards, completing 65% of his passes along with eight TDs and ten INTs in 15 starts, according to Pro Football Reference. The Patriots brought him back on a one-year deal, and he will be motivated to show he can still play. However, if Newton struggles early, Jones should be the starter by mid-season.
As of right now, the only quarterback that should be considered a guaranteed week one starter is Zach Wilson. However, it shouldn’t be long before we see these quarterbacks in action for the teams that drafted them.