Bill Belichick has done a lot of things in his storied career as a coach, but it took him until his 22nd offseason with the New England Patriots to finally select a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft. That quarterback was Alabama’s Mac Jones, who was picked 15th overall and went on to beat out incumbent Cam Newton over the course of training camp.
Now 11 games into his professional career and tenure as the Patriots’ starter, let’s take a look at how he compares to the four men he will forever be linked to: the other quarterbacks selected in the first round this year.
First, a look at how Jones performed in Week 11 relative to Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars), Zach Wilson (New York Jets), Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers) and Justin Fields (Chicago Bears). Then, a season-long look at the five youngsters.
First-round rookie quarterbacks in Week 11
In Week 11, the five passers selected in the first round this year performed as follows:
With the exception of Zach Wilson, who was out yet again because of injury, all first-round rookie quarterbacks saw the field in Week 11. Out of the four, Mac Jones and Trey Lance were the only ones celebrating victories — even though their contributions differed quite a bit.
Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (Pick No. 1): With Trey Lance on the other sideline, Lawrence was not the only first-round rookie quarterback to participate in the Jaguars’ game versus the 49ers. All in all, the top selection this year had a solid albeit once again unspectacular outing. That said, the game might have been his best since Jacksonville’s Week 7 bye: for the first time since the week off, Lawrence completed more than 60 percent of his passes and threw for over 5 yards per attempt (6.32).
Trey Lance, 49ers (Pick No. 3): For the first time since Week 5, the 49ers allowed Lance to take the field again: he entered the 30-10 blowout win over the Jaguars late in the fourth quarter, playing a total of five snaps — including a 7-yard scramble on 3rd-and-5 that helped San Francisco seal the deal. It was a step in the right direction, even if a small one.
Justin Fields, Bears (Pick No. 11): Fields had a rough day against the Baltimore Ravens, not just due to a lost fumble and 36.4 percent completion rate. The Bears’ starting quarterback also had to leave the contest in the third quarter after taking a hard hit on a scramble attempt. Fields eventually was ruled out due to a rib injury, and the issue will also keep him out of his team’s game against the Detroit Lions on Thursday.
Mac Jones, Patriots (Pick No. 15): Posting the highest completion percentage of his career at 84.6 percent, Jones had another quality game during the Patriots’ 25-0 shutout win over the Atlanta Falcons. The rookie did throw an interception and was sacked three times, but he also completed several impressive passes again and helped New England stay in control throughout the day. He also did not seem bothered by playing on a short week.
Once again it is hard not to give Jones the edge as the top performer out of the group of first-round rookie quarterbacks. The others were simply too inconsistent again, while he continued to play some very solid football.
First-round rookie quarterbacks all season long
Ten weeks into the season, here is how the five QBs drafted on Day 1 this year have performed:
All five first-round quarterback have seen significant action so far this season; each one of them has started at least one game for his respective team over the first ten weeks. Lawrence, Wilson and Jones all served as Day 1 starters, with Fields officially taking the Bears’ job in Week 5. Only Lance is still playing second fiddle at the moment.
Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (Pick No. 1): Ranking second behind only Mac Jones in most volume statistics, Lawrence has received plenty of action through his first seven games as Jacksonville’s QB1. He has not always been up to the challenge but appears to have settled down a bit after a rather disappointing start to his professional career.
Zach Wilson, Jets (Pick No. 2): The Jets’ franchise quarterback is off to a rough start, not just because he currently remains sidelined due to a PCL injury suffered in Week 7 against the Patriots. Throwing at least one interception in all but one of his games this season, Wilson has actively contributed to the team starting the season 1-5 with him at the helm. He has had his moments, but they were few and far between.
Trey Lance, 49ers (Pick No. 3): The number two behind ex-Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo, Lance did start the 49ers’ Week 5 game, but it was a struggle. That said, the sample size — 65 snaps that day, 116 overall — is far too small to make any definitive statements about his outlook for the rest of the season yet. That said, with Garoppolo having played some solid football for the 5-5 team recently, it appears unlikely that Lance will take the starting job anytime soon.
Justin Fields, Bears (Pick No. 11): Originally the number two quarterback in Chicago, Fields has seized the opportunity that presented itself when starter Andy Dalton went down with a knee injury. Since then, he has started seven games that can be described as a mixed bag: the Ohio State product looked overmatched at times, but did showcase his high ceiling as a dual-threat QB on occasion. It remains to be seen how his injury will impact his future trajectory.
Mac Jones, Patriots (Pick No. 15): Jones has started all 11 of the Patriots’ games since beating out Cam Newton and has played the majority of his team’s offensive snaps so far. He showed the ups and downs that had to be expected from a rookie in New England’s notoriously challenging system early on, but has played some impressive football as of late and certainly appears to be heading in the right direction. He also is the current leader among the first-round rookie QBs in most statistical categories.
Our analysis continues to read the same it has the last few weeks: Mac Jones has hands down been the best of the five first-round rookie quarterbacks this year. New England is now at 7-4 and in the division lead, with its young QB playing some encouraging football as of late and continuing to show the growth that one would like to see from a rookie. Jones continues to look like a potential franchise quarterback.