clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Comparing Mac Jones to the other first-round rookie quarterbacks after Week 16

Related: Mac Attack: What went wrong for Mac Jones against the Bills?

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

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 14 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 16 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 16

The five passers selected in the first round this year performed as follows in Week 16:

First-round rookie QBs: Week 18

Player Snaps Attempts Completions Completion rate Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Drops Throwaways Pressure rate Carries Rushing yards Rushing touchdowns Rating EPA/Play
Player Snaps Attempts Completions Completion rate Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Drops Throwaways Pressure rate Carries Rushing yards Rushing touchdowns Rating EPA/Play
Trevor Lawrence 68 32 23 71.9% 223 2 0 4 0 27.8% 7 21 0 111.8 0.199
Mac Jones 62 30 20 66.7% 261 1 1 0 0 24.2% 3 4 0 91.1 -0.036
Zach Wilson 46 20 7 35.0% 87 1 0 4 2 50.0% 2 24 0 66.0 -0.542
Trey Lance -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
Justin Fields -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Only three of the five first-round rookie quarterbacks saw the field in Week 16: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones. Justin Fields was out due to an ankle injury, while Trey Lance once again served as an emergency option for the 49ers.

Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (Pick No. 1): The battle between first and second overall draft picks did not go well for Jacksonville, with the team losing 26-21. Its quarterback, meanwhile, played a solid game. Lawrence had his best statistical outing since October and came within one yard of leading the Jaguars to victory. His final throw on 4th-and-goal fell incomplete, however. It was not the only negative moment for Lawrence: he also had two fumbles, with one getting recovered for a touchdown by his own team and the other ending up with the Jets. All in all, though, Lawrence played well.

Zach Wilson, Jets (Pick No. 2): Yes, it was against the lowly Jaguars, but an argument can be made that Wilson had the best game of his career in Week 16. The second overall selection of this year’s draft did not just post the best completion percentage of his season so far, he also gained 91 yards on four rushing attempts — including a 52-yard touchdown. Most importantly, though, Wilson was able to go through the game without turning the football over. Certainly a positive for a player who had 12 giveaways in his first 10 games.

Mac Jones, Patriots (Pick No. 15): Jones has consistently been the best rookie quarterback in the NFL this season, but he had a disappointing game against one of the best pass defenses in football. The Buffalo Bills made life hard on him all day long en route to a 33-21 victory, forcing him into some difficult throws and decisions throughout the game. Jones did have some encouraging moments but they were not enough to help lift New England over its division rivals.

With Mac Jones having an off-day, both Lawrence and Wilson have a strong case as the best-performing first-round rookie QB of Week 16. The edge, however, has to go to Wilson: he did lead his team to victory and did not turn the ball over.

First-round rookie quarterbacks all season long

16 weeks into the season, here is how the five QBs drafted on Day 1 this year have performed:

First-round rookie QBs: Weeks 1-18

Player Snaps Attempts Completions Completion rate Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Drops Throwaways Pressure rate Carries Rushing yards Rushing touchdowns Rating EPA/Play
Player Snaps Attempts Completions Completion rate Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Drops Throwaways Pressure rate Carries Rushing yards Rushing touchdowns Rating EPA/Play
Trevor Lawrence 1,078 602 359 59.6% 3,641 12 17 37 30 32.9% 66 343 2 71.9 -0.047
Mac Jones 1,065 521 352 67.6% 3,801 22 13 14 18 27.6% 36 147 0 92.5 0.123
Zach Wilson 741 383 213 55.6% 2,334 9 11 31 21 38.5% 25 189 4 69.7 -0.148
Justin Fields 635 270 159 58.9% 1,870 7 10 13 7 42.8% 67 426 2 73.2 -0.126
Trey Lance 178 71 41 57.7% 603 5 2 5 2 31.4% 36 171 1 97.3 0.048

The five first-round quarterback have seen different levels of action so far this season. While each one of them has started at least one game for his respective team over the first 16 weeks, only two have appeared in every game so far.

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, and it seems unlikely his status will change anytime soon.

Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (Pick No. 1): Ranking either first or second in most volume statistics, Lawrence has received plenty of action through his first 16 games as Jacksonville’s QB1. However, it is obvious that he is in a difficult situation given the team’s lack of talent and off-field issues. This has impacted his performance as well: despite having some impressive moments such as his Week 16 performance, the Clemson product continues to struggle with consistency and playing in the Jaguars offense.

Zach Wilson, Jets (Pick No. 2): His outing in Week 16 was encouraging, but overall the Jets’ new franchise quarterback has had a rough rookie season so far. Not only did he miss four games due to a PCL injury suffered in Week 7, he also looked out of his element repeatedly; missing even basic throws and failing to showcase the out-of-structure abilities that made him a star at BYU. Wilson is playing alongside an inconsistent supporting cast, but that excuse can only go so far. The bottom line is this: he still has a long way to go.

Trey Lance, 49ers (Pick No. 3): The number two behind ex-Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo, Lance did start the 49ers’ Week 5 loss in Arizona, 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. With Garoppolo playing some solid football and leading the team to an 8-6 record, however, it appears unlikely that Lance will take over the starting job anytime soon. The youngster appears to be on the redshirt plan.

Justin Fields, Bears (Pick No. 11): Originally the number two quarterback in Chicago, Fields seized the opportunity that presented itself when starter Andy Dalton went down with a knee injury. He has started 10 games since then but has also missed some time due to rib and ankle injuries. When on the field, his performance can best be described as a mixed bag: the Ohio State product looked overmatched at times and continues to struggle with turnovers, but he also showcases his high ceiling as a dual-threat QB on a regular basis.

Mac Jones, Patriots (Pick No. 15): Jones has started all 15 of the Patriots’ games this season and he is undisputed as New England’s QB1. The Alabama product showed the ups and downs that had to be expected from a rookie in New England’s notoriously challenging system early on, but overall has played some strong football. While the last two games have been a struggle, he appears to be headed in the right direction and well on his way to be the team’s long-term solution at the most important position on the field.

Despite arguably his worst game in the NFL in Week 16, Mac Jones continues to be hands down the most impressive of the five first-round rookie quarterbacks this year. New England owns a 9-6 record and a spot in the playoff picture in large part due to its young QB. He has been playing some encouraging football for much of the year and continues to show the growth that one would like to see from a rookie, especially at the quarterback position.

Through some occasional hiccups Jones continues to look like a potential franchise quarterback. He also has a realistic chance to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, at least compared to his fellow QBs.