NFL rookie QB rankings: Trey Lance rises as others struggle

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Where Lance sits in rookie QB rankings after others struggle originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

This just in: playing quarterback in the NFL is hard.

It was a brutal Sunday for the 2021 QB class as Mac Jones, Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence threw seven interceptions combined and were sacked 10 times. Justin Fields, meanwhile, was sacked nine times and threw for just 68 yards.

Down in Santa Clara, Trey Lance got three more snaps and found the end zone again as he works to earn more playing time for the 49ers.

After a horrific Sunday, here is where the five first-round rookies stand, and yes, someone has to be No. 1.

RELATED: Schrock's observations: Did Jimmy G's blunder open door for Lance?

 

5. Zach Wilson

Stats: 55.2 percent completion rate, 628 yards, two touchdown passes, seven interceptions

Wilson's early-season struggles are 100 percent on the Jets organization. When the Jets drafted Wilson at No. 2 overall and deemed him ready to be the Day 1 starter, they did so believing they had the infrastructure around the BYU product to guide him through the rigors of a 17-game rookie season.

So far, that has not been the case.

Through three games, Wilson has been hit 25 times, sacked 15 times, hurried 14 times and pressured a total of 33 times. His 27 percent pressure rate is the second-most for any quarterback who has started all three games. Six of Wilson's seven interceptions and 11 of the QB hits have come against just a four-man rush.

The Jets are pitiful. They are averaging just 6.7 points per game and allowing five sacks per contest.

Wilson already is starting to develop bad habits. He's holding onto the ball too long, throwing off his back foot and panicking early on in the play. All of that is a product of the Jets' horrid offensive line and a skill group that has a case of the drops and can't gain yards on the ground.

It's been all bad for Zach Wilson, but it's not all his fault.

4. Trey Lance

Stats: 1-for-1, 5 yards, one touchdown; four rushes, 3 yards, one touchdown

This is as high as I can put Lance with just seven snaps under his belt.

On Sunday, Lance entered on fourth-and-goal right before the half and took a designed QB run behind Trent Williams for a 1-yard score. He also was used as a decoy as the 49ers had the rookie in the shotgun but motioned fullback Kyle Juszczyk under center for a sneak. Lance also threw an incomplete pass to Brandon Aiyuk in the end zone, but the Green Bay Packers were flagged for defensive holding.

I expect Lance to start getting more snaps, but for now, he can't be any higher than four.

3. Justin Fields

Stats: 40.0 percent completion rate, 138 yards, one interception; 14 rushes, 46 yards, one touchdown

Justin Fields was given absolutely no chance to succeed in his first career NFL start on Sunday in Cleveland. When the dust settled, Fields threw for just 68 yards, 1 net passing yard and was sacked nine times.

There were a few reads Fields missed and he has to get quicker, especially behind that putrid offensive line.

But one would have expected Matt Nagy to know the Bears would struggle to block Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney coming in, and therefore have a game plan to help his rookie quarterback out. We thought we'd see Fields on the move with bootlegs, play-action and moving pockets.

But there was virtually none of that.

Fields showed his inexperience, but the Bears have to put him in a position to succeed.

Not even that was in the game plan Sunday.

2. Trevor Lawrence

Stats: 54.2 percent completion rate, 669 yards, five touchdown passes and seven interceptions

Like Wilson and Fields, Lawrence also has turn styles blocking for him, especially at the tackle position. The No. 1 overall pick now has thrown at least two interceptions in each of his first three games, joining Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman, Jim Zorn and Blake Bortles as the only quarterbacks to do since the 1970 merger.

Despite the seven interceptions, Lawrence continues to take chances down the field. He entered Sunday's game with the fourth-best average depth of target in the NFL.

Urban Meyer has failed Lawrence early on, so the struggles shouldn't come as a surprise. But Lawrence makes a few throws every game that remind you of the elite talent he has. The Jags just have to help him out.

1. Mac Jones

Stats: 67.5 percent completion rate, two touchdowns and three interceptions

It was a rough Week 3 for Jones, who had been steady in his first two NFL starts. The Saints made life miserable for Jones on Sunday, as the rookie threw three interceptions, was sacked twice and hit 11 times.

On throws past 20 yards, Jones was 1-for-12 with an interception. On throws that were at least 15 yards down the field, Jones was 3-for-19 with a touchdown and two interceptions.

The numbers are awful. But the Patriots' scheme did Jones no favors as their inability to run the ball constantly put the rookie behind the sticks and Jones was under fire all game without Trent Brown on the offensive line.

Jones' interceptions weren't all on him, though. One bounced off the hands of tight end Jonnu Smith, one occurred when Jones was hit as he was throwing and the third was a product of a miscommunication between Jones and Nelson Agholor.

Jones has to read defenses quicker, especially without Brown protecting him. But the Patriots also have to find ways to scheme their receivers open and get yards after the catch.

Jones is still on top through three weeks, but he is just a point guard right now. One that needs some help.

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