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Is it time to panic about the 2021 NFL rookie QB class?

Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) reacts on the sidelines during the second half against the Denver Broncos at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 quarterback class was billed as nothing short of historical. It became only the second class ever to have quarterbacks go 1-2-3 overall (1999 was the other) and had a grand total of five go in the first round.

Those, however, were the expectations.

The reality has been quite the opposite. Through three weeks, the three lowest-graded starting quarterbacks in the league are rookies. The class as a whole is 1-10 as starters and 1-10 against the spread, with the only win and only cover coming in games where two rookies faced off.

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We are only three weeks in, however. None of the last three MVP winners — Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes had even made a start three games into their careers. We live in a day and age that demands immediate results, but historically that’s just not realistic. With that in mind, let’s examine what we’ve seen from each rookie quarterback and whether there are real causes for concern going forward. 

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

There’s no better word to describe Lawerence’s play at the moment — and maybe the entire Jaguars franchise — than simply disjointed. He’ll have a string of four or five plays where he looks every bit the guy we saw at Clemson before throwing a complete dud. He’s made at least one throw each game as bad as any we ever saw from him in college. Three of his 12 incompletions Sunday were because he and his intended receivers weren’t even on the same page. Here’s an RPO where his receiver doesn’t even run a route:

Here’s his own running back knocking the ball out of his hands on a blitz pickup:

That kind of clunkiness is damn near unavoidable with a rookie quarterback and a first-year head coach. Growing pains were always going to be in the forecast, one just hoped they wouldn’t be this severe. 

While the list of errors continues to grow, so do the jaw-dropping plays from Lawrence. This touchdown throw from Sunday is a top-five throw made all season. He has a split second to decide if the corner has squatted enough on the flat route to fit the corner route in and let it go without hesitation.

His pocket presence has been superb. He’s converted pressure to sacks at the fifth-lowest rate of any quarterback in the NFL, with only five sacks taken on 41 pressured dropbacks. While others in the class have struggled at times with the speed of the game, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Lawrence. In fact, his biggest issue so far is something we have a big enough sample size on to argue it will correct itself: accuracy. He has the highest rate of uncatchable targets of any starter this year at 33.3%. Last year at Clemson, that figure was less than half that at 14.0%. Lawrence is decidedly close, he could just use some more help.

Panic Level: Barely Even Registering

More content you will like: Grading all 32 first-round picks after Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season via Sam Monson

Zach Wilson, New York Jets

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