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Which Rookie QB Can Turn Their Franchise Around?

Last Thursday, the annual NFL Draft happened in Cleveland, but you know this already, reader. And you also know that the Jaguars drafted Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick.

You also know that five quarterbacks were taken in the first round. But, will any of those players be able to turn around the fates of their new franchises?

Maybe! Let's run through all five first-round QBs and figure out which ones are going to get their new teams to the next level.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best NFL Series, MLB Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Trevor Lawrence - Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence has been the next big thing at quarterback for years now. I remember seeing a video of him when he was still in high school and thinking "oh wow, this guy."

In 10 games last year, Lawrence completed 69.2 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also added 203 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. There's also that whole thing where he is very, very good at winning games, as he went 34-2 as a starter for the Tigers. If you look at PlayerProfiler's Trevor Lawrence page, you'll see this:

Obviously, Lawrence becoming Manning is, like, the best-case scenario and there's an incredibly small chance that happens. He has that pocket poise that Manning has but with the added benefit of being able to run:

Lawrence can play in any scheme. He can make any throw. And yes, he had the benefit at Clemson of having some really, really good weapons around him, but there's talent in Jacksonville. Marvin Jones Jr. was brought in this offseason. D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault Jr. are on this team. And they drafted one of Lawrence's Clemson weapons in Travis Etienne.

I honestly don't have much to say about Lawrence that hasn't already been said. He's the best quarterback prospect in years. The few holes in his game seem fixable. Lawrence is going to be a star, and while the Jaguars have historically been a poorly managed team, they seem like they're possibly heading in the right direction on the offensive side with the additions they've made and with new head coach Urban Meyer.

Verdict: Look, if someone can turn the Jaguars around, it's Trevor Lawrence.

 

Zach Wilson - New York Jets

With the No. 2 pick, the New York Jets selected quarterback Zach Wilson.

The BYU passer completed 73.5 percent of his passes last season, with 33 touchdowns and three picks. He also added 10 rushing scores. Those were incredible numbers, but I have concerns. And I'm not even talking about the level of competition stuff, though I know some people will bring that up.

My concerns are that I really, really don't trust one-year leaps. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields were consistently good in college; Wilson had an 11:9 TD: INT ratio in 2019 and saw his completion percentage go up 11 percent this year.

He looks great on tape and I think Wilson projects to be a solid NFL starter, but with his quickness being something that makes him an incredibly useful player. He has some nice arm strength. But, I worry about consistency at the next level, as well as his pocket presence.

The Jets are a long way away from contending, and it's going to take an elite quarterback to make use of some promising but possibly underwhelming young weapons. Wilson might be good enough to get this team back to the postseason at some point, but I just don't see him completely turning the Jets around.

Verdict: I'm sorry, but I just can't get to the point where I'd predict Wilson saves this team. It's the Jets, y'all!

 

Trey Lance - San Francisco 49ers

Speaking of one-year sample sizes!

Lance, the No. 3 pick for San Fran, has one season as a starter in college. In 16 games in 2019, he threw for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He also had 1,100 yards on the ground with 14 touchdowns.

I'm not super worried about the whole "one year of strong play" thing though because his 2020 season didn't happen. North Dakota State played just one game last year because of COVID, and while Lance wasn't great in it and threw the first interception of his college career, he still accounted for four touchdowns in that game. I'm confident that Lance would have had another strong season had his season happened. I don't want to hold that against him.

What I might hold against him is that he played FCS competition. Since 2008, eight other FCS quarterbacks have been drafted. If we discount the ones taken on Day 3 of the draft, we find three guys taken in the first two rounds: Carson Wentz, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Joe Flacco.

Those are solid quarterbacks, but none of them took the league by storm, even if Flacco did have that one really good stretch where he won a Super Bowl.

Still, I think Lance can be better than all of those guys. Why? Because unlike them, Lance is a dual-threat quarterback. He's a smart QB who can stand in the pocket and make accurate throws, but if things break down, he can make positive plays.

He'll also be working with Kyle Shanahan, who has a reputation for being a great offensive mind. That reputation could be a little exaggerated, but he's still arguably the best coach Lance could have ended up with. His transition into the league could take a year or two, but the 49ers are a well-run team that could win a Super Bowl with the right person under center.

Verdict: San Francisco doesn't really need to be turned around -- they just need consistent quarterback play from someone who isn't missing games. I think Lance can be that guy.

 

Justin Fields - Chicago Bears

My No. 2 QB from this draft, Fields landed in the ideal spot for a rookie quarterback.

And yes, I know Chicago has a terrible history with quarterbacks. Doesn't matter. This is a great landing spot.

The Bears were a playoff team last year despite starting Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles at quarterback. They have one of the NFL's best receivers in Allen Robinson II. They have a decent pass-blocking line. They have some nice ancillary pieces like Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller, plus a promising young tight end in Cole Kmet. There's also Tarik Cohen, who can be a dynamic weapon when healthy.

Plus, this team ranked eighth in defensive DVOA last year, per Football Outsiders. Fields won't be asked to do too much for this team.

Last year for Ohio State, Fields completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 2,100 yards, 22 touchdowns, and six picks. He added 383 rushing yards and five touchdowns on his way to being named Big Ten quarterback of the year.

There are knocks on his decision-making because he looks to his first read too much, but I really, really think that's overblown. Fields is an incredibly accurate player in the pocket and should be able to deal with pressure well. He's not a Trey Lance-type of athlete, but I trust him much more as a passer than I trust Lance.

Verdict: Justin Fields will at least be the best Bears quarterback since Jay Cutler. His ceiling is far higher than that.

 

Mac Jones - New England Patriots

These pictures might make you think that Mac Jones is going to be the next GOAT. I am...not sure about that:

Mac Jones completed 77.4 percent of his passes last year and 68.8 of them in 2019. He also had arguably the best weapons in football those two years. That 2019 Alabama team featured four receivers who were first-round picks in the NFL. He was throwing to a Heisman winner in DeVonta Smith. He had Jaylen Waddle to stretch the field.

Jones just doesn't have the arm strength that these other guys have. He can't create when the offensive line breaks down, which seems bad when playing behind a line that had the fifth-worst adjusted sack rate last season.

He's going to make smart plays and he's going to throw with a lot of accuracy but there just doesn't seem to be that elite upside. The other four first-round quarterbacks can make something out of nothing. I don't know if Jones is capable of doing that. He'll succeed if the weapons around him are good, but New England might have the worst receiver situation in the league right now. I just...yeah, I don't think this is the answer.

Verdict: I trust Bill Belichick, but I don't think I trust him enough to say that Mac Jones is going to turn this franchise back in the right direction.



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