We’re 10 weeks into the NFL season, which means we’ve already learned a lot about this year’s class of rookie quarterbacks and how they fit with the teams that drafted them.
But how would things shake out if teams had a chance to redo Round 1? Knowing what I know in mid-November, I’m taking a stab at re-drafting the rookie quarterbacks taken in the first round, deciding where I think they SHOULD have gone in the 2021 NFL Draft back in April.
Keep in mind, I had to consider a team’s place in the draft order when putting this do-over together. All right, let’s go.
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I believe the Jaguars made the right decision by drafting Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall. That said, I don’t necessarily like how Urban Meyer is using the rookie. Meyer is running too much of a pro-style offense with Lawrence doing a lot of dropback passing and not using his legs in the play-action game. His production (58 comp. percentage, 1,983 pass yards, 8:9 TD-to-INT ratio, 72.1 passer rating) has suffered because of it.
The Jags should use Lawrence’s running ability to help move the pocket in the pass game and give them another threat in the run game. Of Lawrence’s 37 carries this season, 16 have been designed runs for 47 yards (2.9 yards per carry) and two TDs, per Next Gen Stats. He had zero designed runs in the first two games of the season before having 12 in Weeks 3-5. Now, he’s had just four since Week 6. Allowing Lawrence to be a regular part of the run game will help open up the pass game, which in turn will help limit turnovers and keep the Jags’ offense on the field. I’m not going to be too critical of Lawrence, who’s going through growing pains; however, Meyer deserves some criticism for how he’s using his rookie quarterback.
I’m also a believer that the Jets made the right choice in drafting Zach Wilson second overall back in April. He’s incredibly talented and can make every throw in the book, yet there’s no doubt this has been a humbling rookie season for him. He had too many turnover-worthy plays prior to a knee injury that has kept him sidelined since Week 7. Trying to make too many big plays (like he did at BYU) has been costly. He needs to make the boring plays and take what the defense gives him — much like backup Mike White had been doing prior to last week’s four-pick game against Buffalo.
I mentioned a couple weeks ago that the Jets should stick with White under center, even when Wilson’s knee is at full health, to allow the rookie to learn how to better prepare and make in-game adjustments. They’re turning to Joe Flacco instead in Week 11, but I must say that I have been quite impressed with how Wilson has handled taking a backseat and, most important, what he’s learned from watching White.
“I would say my style of play needs to get more like that,” Wilson said of White’s game. “It was the same thing in college. Maybe I forced things a little bit too much my freshman, sophomore year, but I found that balance my junior year. I found what risks were worth it and I was still able to still have those big explosive plays, but I took care of the ball. So, that’s kind of the same thing now.”
If Wilson applies what he’s learned in his next on-field opportunity, we could see an entirely new Jets offense with Wilson under center.
Trey Lance is in a great spot in San Francisco, so I’m keeping him with the 49ers. If I had to pick one coach to help Lance transition into the NFL, Kyle Shanahan would be one of the guys at the top of the list, along with the Panthers’ Joe Brady and Saints’ Sean Payton. Lance is still learning and he’s not ready from a processing standpoint, but he’ll be a high-impact player when ready as a big red zone threat. He thrives as a runner, an ability that’s the great equalizer near the end zone, and his arm strength will open up the 49ers’ passing attack like we haven’t seen with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Now this is where it gets fun. Brian Flores’ Dolphins are trying to build a “Patriots of the South” type team that prides itself on a strong defense, taking care of the ball and controlling the clock. Defensively, the Dolphins have been OK, even though the numbers may not show it, but the offense has needed a boost. If I had to guess — even though they’d never admit it — the Dolphins are wishing they had taken Justin Herbert when they had the chance in 2020, and now they might have regrets about passing on Mac Jones at No. 6 overall in 2021 after watching his success in New England. Tua Tagovailoa, the fifth overall pick in 2020, is still auditioning to be Miami’s future at the quarterback position, while backup Jacoby Brissett’s skill set is too limited and his decision-making isn’t consistent.
Jones, however, would’ve been the perfect QB for the Dolphins to take sixth overall. He played like a complete veteran against the Cleveland Browns last week, and if his name wouldn’t have been next to his stat line, I would have thought Tom Brady was still in New England. He’s the best in his class thus far when it comes to making the right read and throwing with timing and accuracy. Mac is ready to go and likely would have made Miami a 10-win team this season, just like the Patriots will be.
What are the Steelers going to do when Ben Roethlisberger retires, which is inevitably just around the corner? As my colleague Aditi Kinkhabwala pointed out in a tweet earlier this week, Pittsburgh’s options on the roster beyond Roethlisberger aren’t especially inspiring. They can’t be confident turning to Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins. They can’t. I would have loved to see the Steelers make a splash trade in Round 1 of the draft (like the Bears did) to move ahead of the Panthers at No. 8 and nab quarterback Justin Fields. The rookie has a great understanding of the game, excels as a passer and runner and can transcend the X’s and O’s. He has made some big-time throws, even in the midst of a humbling rookie campaign in Chicago, and never panics. This is the type of player who’d fit right in with the likes of Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and friends.
The Steelers need a quarterback who can take them all the way. Fields would’ve been the right man for the job, well worth the precious draft capital Pittsburgh would have parted with to move up from No. 24 overall. This pair would’ve been a slam dunk.
Top 15 Offensive Players
Each week in the 2021 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season’s efforts. The Week 11 pecking order is below.
NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week’s rankings.
Allen and the Bills got rid of the bad taste in their mouths from a Week 9 loss to the Jaguars, scoring a season-high 45 points in the win over the New York Jets. This offense looked reborn under Allen’s direction, as he finished 21-of-28 with a season-high 366 yards, two TDs, one INT and a 125.6 passer rating. His connection with Stefon Diggs looks as good as ever.
It was apparent Dak’s calf injury affected his play in a Week 9 loss to the Broncos. I could tell his calf still wasn’t 100 percent against the Falcons last week, but he didn’t let it impact his play. The Cowboys rolled Atlanta in a much-needed bounce-back win with Dak finishing 24-of-31 for 296 yards, two TDs and a 127.9 passer rating.
Rodgers returned from the reserve/COVID-19 list in Week 10, but was held without a touchdown pass for the first time since Week 1 and he’s now dealing with a toe injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday. Will he bounce back against a Vikings defense that fared well against Justin Herbert last week?
Entering Sunday’s game against Washington with a 15-4 record coming off a bye week, Brady had a tremendously slow start that included a pair of picks and ultimately dug the Bucs into a 13-0 hole several minutes into the second quarter. He was able to get his team back into the game — finishing 23-of-34 with 220 yards, two TDs, two picks and a 80.5 passer rating — but you have to give credit to Ron Rivera’s group for keeping the Bucs’ offense at bay and earning a win over the defending champs.
Derek and the Raiders’ offense stayed with the Chiefs until midway through the third quarter, after to a 37-yard TD strike to Bryan Edwards. Then things got sticky as the Chiefs sliced and diced the Raiders’ pass defense and quickly got up by two scores. It’s difficult playing from behind from a QB standpoint. Derek started forcing jump-ball throws in an attempt to keep the team in it, and that normally doesn’t end well.
The always open Kupp hauled in 11 receptions for 122 yards in Monday night’s loss to the 49ers. Though he had one critical (and very uncharacteristic) drop on a third down that would have given the Rams a first down, Kupp was still the most consistent part of the Rams’ offense in the loss.
Despite some offensive struggles against Seattle, Adams had to feel good about having Rodgers back under center. The All-Pro wideout finished with seven catches for 78 yards on 11 targets. Give it a week or two (probably just one since Green Bay faces Minnesota’s poor secondary in Week 11) and this duo will be back to wreaking havoc on opposing defenses.
With Mac Jones chasing the Bengals’ receiver for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Chase needs to come hot out on Sunday against the Raiders, who allowed 422 yards to the Chiefs on Sunday night. This will be an exciting OROY race down the stretch, and I’m here for it.
The Ravens’ offensive struggles go back to Greg Roman and John Harbaugh, who said after the game that they weren’t prepared to face the Dolphins’ all-out pressure all game long. Sure, Lamar didn’t play great and his receivers had some drops, but it’s hard to adjust when you only come into a game with a handful of answers for all-out pressure. (Trust me, I know what that’s like.)
Taylor has been a HUGE part of the Colts’ turnaround after going 0-3 to start the season. Since Week 4, the Colts have gone 5-2 and their RB1 has led the charge, rushing for 109.4 yards per game, 6.4 yards per carry and nine rushing touchdowns. Sunday against the Jaguars, Taylor had 10 carries, 93 rush yards and a rush TD in the first quarter alone to help the Colts build a 17-0 lead. He may be the offensive player (non-quarterback) making the greatest impact at this point in the season.
Evans had just two receptions against Washington but made the most of them, racking up 62 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown reception from Tom Brady midway through the fourth quarter. He now has the second-most TD catches (nine) in the league behind only Cooper Kupp’s 10.
The Chiefs’ offense woke up Sunday night against a Raiders outfit that’s facing new challenges by the week. Kelce and Patrick Mahomes were on the same page again with the All-Pro tight end logging 119 yards on eight receptions and the 2018 NFL MVP throwing for 406 yards and five touchdowns. This is what we’ve expected out of the Chiefs all season long. Let’s see if they can continue it against Dallas.
It’s so good seeing McCaffrey back on the field, completely transforming the offense when healthy. Behind a great effort from the offensive line, CMC totaled 161 scrimmage yards to help the Panthers get back to .500 and keep hold of the third and final NFC wild-card spot. In the two games McCaffrey has played since returning from his hamstring injury, he has put up 267 scrimmage yards, and he’s averaging 126.2 scrimmage yards per game on the season (second-most in the NFL). The Panthers are about to make a push with CMC and Cam Newton back in Charlotte.
The Rams had zero answers and the offense looked out of sorts for a majority of Monday night’s loss. Stafford has now spotted 14 points in two straight games due to interceptions, having also thrown a pick-six in both Weeks 9 and 10. The veteran QB must clean it up to keep the Rams in play for the top seed in the uber-competitive NFC.
Jefferson came up with some big plays in Minnesota’s win over the Chargers with 143 yards on nine receptions. He joined Odell Beckham Jr. (another LSU alum) as the only players since the merger with at least 100 receiving yards in 10 or more of their first 25 career games.
DROPPED OUT: Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals (Previously No. 3); Nick Chubb, RB, Browns (No. 11); Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons (No. 13); DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Cardinals (No. 15).
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