NFL rookie QB rankings: Fields rises after first win originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Almost completely across the board, the NFL’s first-round rookie quarterbacks performed better in Week 4 than they had in Week 3, including Justin Fields. In some cases, they put forth their best games of the season. The one exception was Trey Lance, who received extended playing time for the first time of his career. Scroll on to see how it all played out in our rankings:
No. 5: Zach Wilson (Last week: 5)
COMP-ATT, COMP%: 21-34, 61.8%
Wilson was one of the QBs who easily had the best game of his young career, despite a slow start. On his first pass, there was either a miscommunication with his wide receiver, or he threw an extremely inaccurate ball. Then, he threw a couple more inaccurate balls on bootlegs. But Wilson’s second quarter interception was not one of them. His receiver fell down on a timing route, allowing the defense to generate an easy takeaway. After that, Wilson settled in with some great pocket passing for an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. By the third quarter, Wilson was humming and made two of his best plays of the year. On one 3rd-and-6 he escaped the Titans’ pass rush, then hit Keelan Cole on the run for a massive 54-yard gain. Later he took a bad snap off the ground, scrambled, then found Jamison Crowder for a 29-yard strike. He still made a few mistakes however. On one touchdown throw to Crowder he hesitated for a moment, and it allowed the defender to catch up and nearly break up the pass. Then, with 2:20 left in the game, he threw an inaccurate ball on 3rd-and-10 that could’ve been a first down, and would’ve sealed the win in regulation. Instead the Jets had to punt, the Titans scored and sent the game to overtime. Then, in the extra period Wilson had a wide open man on 1st-and-GL, but he missed him again. That play was New York’s best chance to score a touchdown for the win. They ultimately settled for a field goal, and had to rely on their defense to make a stop. In the end, the defense did make that stop and Wilson got his first win.
No. 4: Trevor Lawrence (Last week: 4)
COMP-ATT, COMP%: 17-24, 70.8
Lawrence is the only rookie without a win under his belt, but on Sunday he did his best to put the Jaguars in a position to win. For the most part, Lawrence stopped trying to play hero ball by throwing tough passes into tight coverage. That had gotten him into trouble in the past, but on Sunday he only threw one well-contested ball and he escaped with a pass breakup, not an interception. Lawrence was at his best throwing on the run, whether it be on broken plays or designed bootlegs. It was in those cases where he showcased the talent that made him the consensus No. 1 overall pick. He also made plays with his legs, but it was more of a mixed bag on the ground for Lawrence. The highlight reels will show the great juke he laid on a defender to score his rushing touchdown. But in other instances, he couldn’t make it past the defense. The most glaring was a 4th-and-GL keeper from the one-yard line that Lawrence couldn’t punch into the endzone. Overall, it was another good step forward for Lawrence, and if not for the circus developing in Jacksonville, he’d look primed for his first win soon.
No. 3: Trey Lance (Last week: 2)
COMP-ATT, COMP%: 9-18, 50%
With Jimmy Garoppolo going down with a calf contusion, we finally got our first extended look at Lance leading the 49ers offense, and it wasn’t great despite the two touchdowns. On his first play, he kept the ball on an option play and went nowhere. His first pass was worse. Lance had an easy rollout throw to a target in the flat, but threw the ball at his feet for an incompletion. Then he threw his second pass well over his wide receiver’s head. Lance’s third pass could go down as the easiest touchdown he’ll throw in his career. The Seahawks completely botched a wheel route coverage pass off, leaving Deebo Samuel all alone along the sideline. Lance didn’t miss this time, hitting his wide open receiver for a walk in touchdown. Then, Samuel did much of the work on Lance’s second touchdown. It was a wide receiver screen play in which Samuel got great blocking, and laid on a couple of moves for an eight-yard score.. Lance was effective on the ground however, including a great 13-yard scamper on 4th-and-10 to keep an eventual touchdown drive alive. He also scored on a designed run for a two-point conversion.
No. 2: Justin Fields (Last week: 3)
COMP-ATT, COMP%: 11-17, 64.7%
After last week, Fields needed a big bounce back performance, and he more than delivered against the Lions. It took a bit for Fields to settle in, but once he did he made some spectacular plays. The first was a perfect pass to Darnell Mooney, in-stride, that went for 64 yards. That set up one touchdown run. Then, Fields kept the Bears’ second touchdown drive alive with a nifty 11-yard scamper on 3rd-and-4. He set up the team’s third rushing touchdown with another beautiful deep ball along the sideline, hitting Mooney again perfectly in stride. That was especially important on this throw, as the ball might have been swatted away by good coverage if Mooney had to slow down at all. However, Fields’ most impressive throw may have been his 27-yard strike to Allen Robinson who was streaking towards the sideline. The Lions had good coverage on top of Robinson, and underneath Robinson, giving Fields a tiny window of opportunity. Fields had to make sure to put the ball in a place where Robinson could complete the catch and get both feet inbounds, too. It wasn’t perfect however, as there were a couple of throws where Fields hesitated instead of firing the ball right away. On his first 20+ yard strike to Mooney, he also threw an inaccurate ball. Mooney had to make an unbelievable play just to come down with the ball, whereas it might’ve gone for a long score if Fields had put the ball where he wanted. It’s worth noting the one interception was not Fields’ fault. A Lions defender made a good play to tip the ball in the air, allowing Amani Oruwariye to come down with the pick.
No. 1: Mac Jones (Last week: 1)
COMP-ATT, COMP%: 31-40, 77.5%
Jones has easily been the most reliable starter among all the rookies to start the year, and you could see him make throws with more confidence on Sunday Night Football. He also completely eliminated the silly rookie mistakes that had popped up over the first three weeks. Especially impressive was Jones' comfortability stepping up into the pocket to avoid the pass rush to make a throw. With the Bucs’ fearsome defensive line swarming all around him一 and no help whatsoever from a run game一 Jones stayed steady and took shots to complete passes. Jones threw balls into tighter spaces than he had previously, leading to some successes and failures. But that’s to be expected from any rookie as he grows into a starter’s job. One of those failures was a ball thrown into good coverage that was tipped and eventually intercepted. Jones made another dangerous throw in the red zone that could’ve been picked, but he got away with it. If you had to find another gripe with Jones’ game, it’s that he’s still lacking big-play throws, instead methodically working down the field with shorter and intermediate gains. But all those negatives were overshadowed by Jones’ incredible efficiency. At one point he complete 19-straight passes, good for the longest streak by a rookie in 40 years. Oh, it also tied the best completion streak that Tom Brady was able to put together in his 20 years with the Pats. Not bad.