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Comparing Mac Jones to the other first-round rookie quarterbacks after the regular season

Related: Mac Jones on his performance against Dolphins: ‘It’s super embarrassing’

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/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.

With his first regular season as the Patriots’ starter in the books, 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 18 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 18

The five passers selected in the first round this year performed as follows in Week 18:

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 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

Three of the five first-round rookie quarterbacks saw the field in Week 17: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones. Justin Fields missed his third straight game due to an ankle injury, while Trey Lance was relegated to backup duty again.

Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (Pick No. 1): Leading his team to an upset win over the Indianapolis Colts, Lawrence played arguably the best game of his career. Throwing multiple touchdowns for the first time since Week 1, he posted the highest completion percentage of his career and generally looked to be in full control of the Jacksonville offense. Winning the game 26-11, he ended his first regular season on a high note.

Zach Wilson, Jets (Pick No. 2): Coming off two encouraging games, Wilson was overwhelmed by the Buffalo Bills’ defense. He was sacked eight times on the day and fumbled the ball once, and was never able to get into any sort of rhythm. While his receivers did not help him — the group dropped a combined four passes — the BYU product appeared to be out of his element against a team playing for a division title.

Mac Jones, Patriots (Pick No. 15): Mac Jones played a strong game against the Jaguars the previous week, but had a tough time versus the Miami Dolphins to close out the regular season. His first pass of the day was intercepted and returned for a touchdown — his third pick-six of the season — and he had a hard time finding his groove against a talented defense. The Patriots nearly mounted a late comeback, thanks in part due to Jones’ play down the line, but they came up short.

It is not hard to find the best rookie quarterback performance in Week 18: Trevor Lawrence was outstanding against a Colts team fighting to make the playoffs. The first overall selection of the 2021 draft showcased his talents throughout the day, helping eliminate Indianapolis.

First-round rookie quarterbacks all season long

With the regular season over, here is how the five QBs drafted on Day 1 last spring have fared:

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 during the regular season. While each one of them has started at least two games for his respective team, only two — Lawrence and Jones — have appeared in every contest.

Lawrence, Wilson and Jones all served as Day 1 starters, with Fields officially taking the Bears’ job in Week 5. Only Lance was playing second fiddle throughout the regular season, even though he was given the occasional chance to start.

Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (Pick No. 1): Ranking either first or second in most volume statistics, Lawrence has received plenty of action through his first season as Jacksonville’s QB1. However, it was obvious that he joined 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, the Clemson product continued to struggle with consistency and playing in the Jaguars offense.

Zach Wilson, Jets (Pick No. 2): While he looked ab it better down the stretch, the Jets’ new franchise quarterback had a rough first season overall. 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 consistently showcase the out-of-structure abilities that made him a star at BYU. If he can string together performances like the ones he had in Weeks 16 and 17 his future can still be bright, but all in all he played more bad than good football in 2021.

Trey Lance, 49ers (Pick No. 3): Lance remains the number two behind ex-Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo heading into the playoffs, but he did start two of the 49ers’ games so far this season. While the Week 5 loss in Arizona was a struggle, he looked solid against Houston in Week 17. The sample size — 178 snaps on the season — is still far too small to make any definitive statements about his longer-term outlook, though. With Garoppolo furthermore having played some solid football, it appears as if Lance will have to wait until next season to take over the starting job.

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 started 10 games 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 continued to struggle with turnovers, but he also showcased his high ceiling as a dual-threat QB on a regular basis. It will be interesting to see how he develops under a new head coach next year.

Mac Jones, Patriots (Pick No. 15): Jones started all 17 of the Patriots’ games this season and has generally played on a high level. The Alabama product showed some ups and downs — inconsistency that had to be expected from a rookie in New England’s notoriously challenging system — and appears to have plateaued a bit coming out of the team’s Week 14 bye. However, he is headed in the right direction and well on his way to become the team’s long-term solution at the most important position on the field.

All in all, Jones was clearly the most impressive of the five first-round rookie quarterbacks in the NFL during the regular season. New England earned a 10-7 record and the sixth spot in the AFC 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.

While he appears to have hit the so-called rookie wall late during the year, Jones still continues to look like a franchise quarterback. While his ceiling might be lower than that of the other first-round QBs, his performance during his first regular season was nothing short of impressive.