Going into the 2021 NFL Draft, there were people who said this QB draft class was rather weak, where some considered this QB draft class pretty strong. With BYU's Zach Wilson and North Dakota State University's Trey Lance, there was a level of riskiness to taking one of these quarterbacks over guys who were more established: Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields.
Trevor Lawrence was seen as the undisputed No. 1 pick, Zach Wilson was likely to go No. 2 and there were rumors of Trey Lance, Mac Jones, and Justin Fields all potentially drafted at No. 3. As history unfolded, the first three picks were: Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Zach Wilson (Jets) and Trey Lance (49ers).
Then, however, the QBs took a break from being drafted. That is, until the Chicago Bears drafted Justin Fields at pick No. 11. Lastly, Mac Jones wrapped it up for first-round quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, as he was selected No. 15 by the New England Patriots.
And after about a season and a half, the Chicago Bears seem to have drafted the top quarterback of the class.
Fields of Gold in Chicago
Now, when looking at his rookie season, there was a lot to be worried about. Fields was careless with the football, didn't make great reads and was oftentimes sacked before anything could happen. After being rid of just about every coach he had his rookie season, Justin Fields is flourishing into the top QB of the draft. And this is all being done with questionable talent around him.
In Week 9, Justin Fields really showed the world what he could do and why he was such an intriguing prospect coming out of Ohio State. On 15 rushes, Fields made NFL history, as he rushed for 178 yards — five more yards than the previous record-holder, Michael Vick. When just focusing on what Vick did on the football field, this is a really impressive — and record-breaking — performance.
Now, back to what this is really about. How have the quarterback's stacked up against each other since their lives were changed on Draft Day?
To do that, let's look at the career of each quarterback to see what they've done in the league so far.
Trevor Lawrence (No. 1 pick)
- 27 games (6-21-0 record)
- 586/950 (61.7% comp.)
- 5,975 passing yards
- 25 passing TDs
- 23 INTs
- 78.4 rating
- 49 sacks
- 110 rushes
- 512 yards
- 5 rushing TDs
- 13 fumbles
Trevor Lawrence's rookie season was tainted by Urban Meyer, so his first season isn't too indicative of what Lawrence brings to the table. Let's not forget how bad of a coach Urban Meyer was in the NFL either.
Now, however, with Doug Pederson as the head coach of Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars, Lawrence has looked much better than he did in his rookie season.
Of this group of second-year quarterbacks, he's probably still No. 1 for some people. His size and skill make him really intriguing, and if he can continue to build on what he's learned so far as an NFL quarterback, he could have a really nice career. That said, when you're drafted No. 1 overall, it's unlikely you're going to a team with much skill around you. That's absolutely been the case for Lawrence, however, the skill is starting to build in Duval County.
In terms of true passing quarterbacks, Trevor Lawrence might be the best of this bunch. However, in terms of overall skill brought to the table, he's first or second. All-in-all, Jaguars fans should be pretty happy with who they have throwing the ball for their team.
Zach Wilson (No. 2 pick)
- 19 games (8-11-0 record)
- 309/550 (56.2% comp.)
- 3,536 passing yards
- 13 passing TDs
- 16 INTs
- 71.4 rating
- 56 sacks
- 50 rushes
- 253 rushing yards
- 5 rushing TDs
- Two fumbles
This is where it gets dicey.
So far in Zach Wilson's career, it's not the same story as it was for Trevor Lawrence. In fact, most of Zach Wilson's eight wins aren't really due to him playing exceptionally well. The New York Jets' defense has been unreal this season. The addition of Sauce Gardner has been far more impactful to the Jets than Zach Wilson, and it's not even a close comparison. Gardner is playing at a Defensive Rookie of the Year level, whereas Zach Wilson is sort of just managing the game and doing his best not to make game-losing decisions.
Now, if Zach Wilson had no one to throw to, that'd be a different story. However, he has Garrett Wilson (top 10 pick in 2022), Elijah Moore (if he sees the field), Denzel Mims, Corey Davis and C.J. Uzomah. Sure, it's not the Cincinnati Bengals receiving corps, but it's not a group that's bad enough to blame for Zach Wilson's lack of star power.
Maybe there's too much negative energy directed at Zach Wilson, but when you're drafted No. 2 overall, there's a level of expectation that comes with that. He's neither blown the expectation out of the water, nor has he been exceptionally below the expectations.
One thing that can be said is he's improving. His ceiling might not be as high as some of the other QBs in this class, but if the Jets commit to building around him, he could be a good quarterback. Probably not a great quarterback, but he has potential. It's just whether he reaches that potential or not.
Trey Lance (No. 3 pick)
- Four games (2-2-0 record)
- 56/102 (54.9% comp.)
- 797 passing yards
- Five passing TDs
- Three INTs
- 84.5 rating
- Six sacks
- 54 rushes
- 235 rushing yards
- One rushing TDs
- No fumbles
Man, oh man.
This one is tough because Trey Lance probably should've never been drafted No. 3 overall. Sure, he has a high ceiling, he is a good runner, he has a strong arm. However, it was never a question that Trey Lance was a project of a quarterback to some degree. To be drafted at No. 3 overall just seemed like a reach for someone who would take a couple of years to develop into who Kyle Shanahan wanted. And while he checked the boxes of a quarterback that can run Shanahan's offense, there was a quarterback available at No. 11 who ticks the boxes better and was considered much less of a project.
The reason this Trey Lance pick is so scrutinized is because of how much the 49ers traded up to get him. To move up from No. 12 to No. 3, the 49ers sent the Dolphins the No. 12 overall pick, a 2022 third-round pick and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023.
Sending that much for a project that might not work seems like quite the risk, especially considering the 49ers have a roster that's good enough to win now. It's just one of those moves that seems overly risky for the likelihood of a reward. Lance was basically a two-year starter for North Dakota State, and while he did really well at NDSU, the competition level is just so different in the MVC versus the NFL.
Lance's 2019 season is probably what attracted the 49ers, as Lance threw for 2,786 yards, 28 TDs and no INTs. On top of his passing stats, he rushed for 1,100 yards and an additional 14 TDs. I can understand the intrigue of a QB who had a TD:INT ratio of 42:0. However, it's a big risk to assume that one incredible season will amount to years and years of NFL success.
The main thing for the 49ers and Trey Lance is that he comes into next season fully healthy. It's unfortunate he now has two seasons under his belt without much to show for it, but if he hits the ground running next season, there's a chance I look really silly writing all of this.
As for now, however, Lance might've been a bit of a reach at No. 3, especially when looking at how much was traded for him.
Justin Fields (No. 11 pick)
- 20 games (5-15-0 record)
- 281/477 (58.9% comp.)
- 3,359 passing yards
- 19 passing TDs
- 17 INTs
- 78.9 rating
- 72 sacks
- 176 rushes
- 1,169 rushing yards
- 8 rushing TDs
- 14 fumbles
Maybe recency bias is strong here, but Justin Fields is looking like he might be the best quarterback of this draft class. He's on a team that stinks at most positions, but quarterback isn't one of those positions.
After a shaky rookie season, Justin Fields has seemingly turned the corner, and other NFL teams should be really worried about what Fields might do to them.
In his second NFL season — the first without Matt Nagy controlling his offense — Justin Fields has looked like a completely different quarterback. Instead of trying to be used like a pocket passer, the Chicago Bears are using Fields to his advantage. More moving pockets, designed runs and option plays are what Justin Fields needed to take the next step in the NFL. And he's done just that.
Now, is he a perfect quarterback? No, at least, not yet. The surrounding talent is worrisome, however, with how the Bears are preparing for the future, Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears could be a serious threat in a year or two. He's shown why he was such a threat at Ohio State, and he's showing why the Chicago Bears were so happy to get him at No. 11.
Justin Fields has been the best player on the Chicago Bears roster for the past month and a half, and it's reassuring for a fan base and team who haven't had much quarterback success in their existence. If the Bears can get him some help at offensive line and wide receiver, Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears are a team that opposing teams should be nervous to face-up against.
And when it's all said and done, Justin Fields might prove he should've been drafted No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3 in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Mac Jones (No. 15 pick)
- 23 games (13-10-0 record)
- 463/689 (67.2% comp.)
- 4,941 passing yards
- 26 passing TDs
- 20 INTs
- 88.4 rating
- 43 sacks
- 69 rushes
- 207 rushing yards
- One rushing TDs
- Eight fumbles
After his rookie season, people were saying Mac Jones might've been the best quarterback of the '21 draft class. That was a bit of an exaggeration by those who said that, but it's hard to argue that Jones had an impressive rookie season. There was a belief that his rookie-season success was due to Bill Belichick being his coach. Belichick is arguably one of the best coaches in NFL history, so being able to get success from a quarterback seemed like a task Belichick could handle. And he did, for his rookie season at least.
Mac Jones has had two of the best coaches in college and the NFL, so there's belief that he might've been carried by the coaching of his two legendary coaches, or his legendary supporting cast in college. For quarterbacks at Bama, it's unlikely they'll have nobodies around them. Alabama has been a college football powerhouse for many, many years now, and the team Mac Jones was playing with his senior year had quite the talent.
To further that point, Mac Jones was throwing to a Heisman-winning wide receiver in Devonta Smith. Now, however, the surrounding talent in Foxborough isn't as fruitful as it was in Tuscaloosa. And that's exposed some of Mac's negative traits.
The fact that a healthy Mac Jones was splitting reps with a fourth-round rookie quarterback might be showing how Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots feel about their former first-round pick. Whether it's Mac Jones, the coaching staff, the offensive line or some combination of all that, Mac Jones has had a season to forget in year two.
It's too early to write him off, but there's evidence showing clear regression for the former Alabama quarterback.
Justin Fields Was Picked Ten Spots Too Low
At the end of the day, the argument of who the best quarterback of this draft is should be between Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. And that's a comparison they're used to. These two quarterbacks have been competing against each other since being born, so to see them still competing in the NFL years later is cool to see. Trevor Lawrence might have the upper hand, but Justin Fields is not far behind, if he's behind at all.
One thing is for sure, and that's that the NFL is in good hands moving forward if quarterbacks can come into the league like these two and perform at the level they have.
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