Five quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft and many believed it could be the best class ever. Loaded with talent and upside, much was expected of the league's rookie signal-callers. Through three weeks, the group hasn't come close to living up to expectations. A deep dive shows the reasons why aren't exactly complex.
Below is an examination of each of the league's rookie starters -- Trey Lance wasn't considered because of his limited playing time. All of them are struggling and all of them are in terrible situations.
Lawrence was expected to set the NFL on fire after being the top quarterback prospect to enter the league in a generation. It's been a struggle through his first few professional starts. Not only are the Jaguars 0-3, Lawrence's numbers aren't encouraging.
The Clemson product has only completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 669 yards, with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. His passer rating of 60.3 ranks 32nd out of the 33 quarterbacks who have qualified. His Total QBR of 23.3 ranks 30th. He also ranks 31st in yards per attempt (5.7).
Lawrence is immensely talented. Why has he struggled? Well, rookie head coach Urban Meyer has been a disaster, half of Lawrence's interceptions have been the fault of his receivers and he's been under constant pressure. It's hard to succeed when the guys around you aren't up to the task.
Like Lawrence, much was expected out of Wilson when the Jets made him the second pick in the 2021 draft. It's been nothing but a struggle early on. The Jets are 0-3 and Wilson has been straight awful.
In his three games, Wilson has completed 55.2 percent of his passes for 628 yards, with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. His quarterback rating of 51.6 is next to last in the NFL, and his Total QBR ranks 31st. He's been off his back foot on roughly half his professional throws and relies on his arm more than his reads at this point.
As with Lawrence, Wilson's teammates are a huge part of the problem. The Jets have an awful roster, the playcalling has been uninspiring and he's been sacked an incredible 15 times in three weeks. While the passing attack has been inept, the rushing game has been even worse for the offense. The Jets rank 29th in rushing offense (240 yards) so far this season, which puts even more on Wilson's shoulders.
Fields got his first NFL start on Sunday and things did not go well. In a loss to the Browns, the young Bears quarterback completed six of 20 passes for 68 yards and was sacked an insane nine times. I'll write that again just to give you a chance to digest it: in a single game, Justin Fields was sacked NINE times. Yeah.
Fields has made appearances in three games this season and it's been rough. The Ohio State product is 14-for-35 for 138 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He's been sacked 11 times and is dead last in the NFL in passer rating (39.9) and Total QBR (7.1). It has been brutal to watch.
I don't think anyone is blaming Justin Fields for what on Sunday. We can't put it on him when Bears head coach Matt Nagy is an absolute disaster and should be fired. Nagy has hung his prized rookie out to dry consistently. He hasn't put the kid into positions where he can succeed and it's a big problem for Chicago moving forward.
Jones entered the draft as potentially the most NFL-ready or at least the steadiest of the quarterbacks in his draft class. When the Patriots selected him with the 15th pick, it felt like a perfect marriage. Through three weeks things are still getting worked out.
Jones has been up and down. He looked really good in a season-opening loss to the Dolphins, completing 29 of 39 passes for 281 with a touchdown. But he was shaky in a Week 2 win over the Jets and really struggled on Sunday against the Saints.
On the season, Jones is completing 67.5 percent of his passes, but he's only averaging 6.1 yards per attempt. He has two touchdown passes and three interceptions -- all of which came against the Saints. He currently ranks 29th in passer rating (79.1) and 22nd in QBR (52.3).
The biggest problem for Jones right now is New England's offensive line. He's been running for his life a lot this season, and in obvious passing situations opposing defenses have been pinning their ears back. Unless the Patriots can find him some protection, expect his struggles to continue.
The Bottom Line
What these four young signal-callers have proven is that a rookie quarterback will only go as far as his teammates take him. The talent surrounding a rookie quarterback is almost as important as his underlying ability. A perfect example can be found last year with Justin Herbert.
Herbert entered the league as an enigmatic talent with a big arm who had never put it all together at Oregon. He joined a team loaded with weapons like Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, Austin Ekeler and more. Herbert flourished immediately. Meanwhile, Joe Burrow -- who many agreed was the better quarterback -- struggled on an awful Bengals team and was constantly under pressure behind a terrible offensive line. That line eventually cost him the final six games of the season after a devastating knee injury.
Rookie quarterbacks need to be protected, have talent around them and solid coaches to be successful. None of the four guys currently starting can boast having that combination.