The Next Generation

Justin Schaumberger, Sports Co-Editor

The 2021 NFL Draft consisted of one of the most highly touted QB classes in recent memory. On Sunday, the five first-round quarterbacks made their professional debuts and started their path to becoming leaders of their respective teams.

Trevor Lawrence, arguably the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012, was selected first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars and dubbed by many to be the future savior of the team. Lawrence played collegiately at Clemson, where he won the 2018 national championship. Going into Sunday, Lawrence had an 86-4 record as a high school and college starter. Many believed that he would provide an instant spark to a Jaguars team that only won one game last season. Unfortunately for Jacksonville fans, that was not the case as Lawrence and the Jags lost 37-21 against a Texans team that many thought would be the worst in the NFL. Lawrence had perhaps his worst game since high school as he was 28-51 for 332 yards, 3 TDs, and 3 INTs. Throughout the game, Lawrence missed throws that he made throughout his college career that left many surprised. This was the first time hes ever thrown 3 INTs in a single game, according to Lawrence. “Losing is always hard, especially when you feel like you are prepared and had a great week,” Lawrence said. “I really think we were ready and obviously didn’t play well. It starts with me. I didn’t play well, for sure.” Lawrence and the Jags will have to improve drastically as they take on an excellent Denver defense next week.

The number two overall pick Zach Wilson came out of almost nowhere last year on his way to being selected by the New York Jets. Wilson was a somewhat unknown prospect but excelled in his final year at BYU, and the Jets seemed enamored by his strong arm. Joining a team that has not made the playoffs since 2010 and not won a Super Bowl since 1968, Wilson has his work cut out for him in his rookie season. In his debut, Wilson played against the Panthers. Wilson threw for 258 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT in a losing effort in the game. The offense struggled mightily for most of the game, but it mostly down to a weak offensive line. Wilson was sacked six times and had a Panthers defender in his face for most of the day. Wilson will have another tough test next week as he takes on the Patriots at home.

Mac Jones was the last rookie quarterback to start this weekend. Jones was drafted 15th overall by the Patriots and beat out veteran Cam Newton for the starting job during camp. Many talked down Jones’ talent and potential as an NFL quarterback dubbing him a “game manager” . Jones did not do a lot to prove his doubters wrong as he posted a modest 29-39 for 281 yards and a TD. Jones did not wow anyone at any point in the game but also did not make any mistakes and put the Patriots in a position to win the game. The Patriots narrowly lost 17-16 to the Dolphins and were in a position to kick a game-winning FG before Damien Harris fumbled the ball. Jones will have a great chance to show his talent as he will be going against a very mediocre Jets defense next week.

The final two rookie quarterbacks, Trey Lance and Justin Fields did not start for their respective teams. Trey Lance, the number three pick, served as the backup for Jimmy Garoppolo, despite many thinking he would be the potential Week 1 starter. Lance did play several snaps during the course of the game, throwing a five yard TD and rushing three times for two yards. Fields, meanwhile crept closer to the starter job in Chicago with his performance and the poor performance by starter Andy Dalton. Fields had a fantastic preseason, and many were outraged that Fields was not the Week 1 starter. “This is easy Chicago. He’s your starter,” Dan Orlovsky, a football analyst for ESPN, said. The feeling was shared by nearly everyone except Bears head coach Matt Nagy who opted to have the veteran Dalton start. Fields played a similar role to Lance as he completed two passes for 10 yards and rushed once for three yards. Fields primarily came in to run read-option plays to keep the defense honest with his impressive speed.

Despite a shaky first week, it is clear that the 2021 QB draft class is immensely talented. All five have the chance to be All-Pro caliber players and potentially even MVPs or Super Bowl champions. For now, people will have to temper their expectations a bit as the young men find their way in the NFL, but it won’t be long until they’ve cemented themselves as franchise cornerstones for their respective teams.

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