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Grading all 32 first-round picks after Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season

It was not a great week for the first-round rookies, with very few dominant performances amongst the 32 players. The Green Bay PackersEric Stokes propelled himself up the cornerback rankings with an excellent game, and the Tampa Bay BuccaneersJoe Tryon-Shoyinka did so likewise among edge rushers with a great game against the New Orleans Saints, albeit in a losing effort. 

Trevor Lawrence didn’t immediately look like a different player freed from the shackles of Urban Meyer, and Mac Jones had one of his weakest games for the New England Patriots, putting the team in a hole from which he couldn’t dig out of.

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PICK NO. 1: QB Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

Overall Rookie Grade: 57.9 (Rank: 5/7)
Week 15 Grade: 64.4

If you expected Lawrence to immediately look like a young Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning as soon as Urban Meyer left the building, this week was a reality check. Lawrence's Week 15 performance was similar to the rest of his season, earning a 61.3 PFF passing grade and failing to generate any big-time throws from 45 dropbacks. Six drops by Jaguars receivers illustrated that the team's issues extend beyond Lawrence, and the franchise has its work cut out for it to not only right the ship, but also to get its young quarterback on track.

PICK NO. 2: QB Zach Wilson, New York Jets

Overall Rookie Grade: 58.0 (Rank: 4/7)
Week 15 Grade: 65.2

It was another week of off-rhythm, out-of-structure plays for Wilson and the Jets — and with the same troublesome results. Wilson held on to the ball for 3.2 seconds on average, and even on plays that didn’t involve any rollouts or scrambling, he was around half a second longer on average than Tua Tagovailoa on the other side despite a lower average depth of target. Wilson simply can’t find his groove. He's made just one big-time throw in his past four games.

PICK NO. 3: QB Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers

Overall Rookie Grade: 60.0 (Rank: 3/7)
Week 15 Grade: DNP

Lance again did not see the field this week for the 49ers. He has played just five snaps since Week 5, all while Jimmy Garoppolo has been playing his best football since the real possibility that he would lose his job to Lance loomed on the horizon.

PICK NO. 4: TE Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

Overall Rookie Grade: 77.9 (Rank: 1/14)
Week 15 Grade: 68.9

Despite a turnover on the opening kickoff, the Falcons offense was pretty firmly shut down by the 49ers defense this week. Matt Ryan threw for 236 yards, and a not-insignificant portion of them relied on Russell Gage “Mossing” defenders at the catch point. Pitts was targeted seven times, catching four passes for 77 yards. As has become the norm, Pitts spent significant time lined up in line, in the slot and out wide as a matchup weapon who threatens the defense in all areas, but the Falcons need to do a better job of getting him the ball more consistently.

PICK NO. 5: WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

Overall Rookie Grade: 76.1 (Rank: 3/27)
Week 15 Grade: 58.6

The potentially mouth-watering matchup between Ja’Marr Chase and Patrick Surtain II never quite materialized in this game. What little time they did spend against each other — 10 snaps with Surtain in primary coverage — was a win for the Denver rookie. Chase wasn’t targeted on any of those plays, and he saw just three passes come his way all game. In total, he caught one pass for three yards in a contest that featured little in the way of offense from either side. Chase has still been an elite force this season, but it's now been eight games since he cleared 100 receiving yards or 2.0 yards per route run.

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PICK NO. 6: WR Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins

Overall Rookie Grade: 78.7 (Rank: 2/27)
Week 15 Grade: DNP

Waddle landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier in the week and couldn’t play against the Jets. He has been a critical component of the Dolphins offense all year, and they didn’t look quite the same without him. He leads all rookies in targets and receptions by a significant margin, even after sitting out this week.

PICK NO. 7: OT Penei Sewell, Detroit Lions

Overall Rookie Grade: 78.0 (Rank: 2/18)
Week 15 Grade: 60.0

Sewell had his first average game in a while for the Lions this week in their upset win over the Arizona Cardinals. His 60.0 overall PFF grade was his lowest mark since Week 4, even if it was still far from a bad game. Sewell allowed just one pressure, though it was a quick and decisive loss to Chandler Jones. He also dropped a couple of reps to Markus Golden, but the ball came out before they had a chance to become pressure. Sewell has had some dominant games as a run-blocker in recent weeks, but this game was a lot less consistent in that area.

PICK NO. 8: CB Jaycee Horn, Carolina Panthers

Overall Rookie Grade: 67.8 (Rank: 7/38)
Week 15 Grade: DNP

Horn broke his foot on Thursday night in Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season after an encouraging start to the campaign. He is expected to miss the rest of his rookie year.


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