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Each year, the incoming group of rookies offers hope for the new season. We asked our staff to offer up the rookie quarterback they are most interested in.
Here are the names who were mentioned.
And here are all of the reasons.
Easily Trey Lance. I think we know what we're getting from Trevor Lawrence. And even Lawrence's offensive system is the most predictable as Darrell Bevell is the only OC hired this year with a lengthy track record. Zach Wilson is also likely a Week 1 starter, and there's intrigue there because many think he's the most likely to flop, but I still think Lance takes the prize because of the narrative. The kid played 17 college games against uninspiring competition but was handpicked by the 49ers as their missing piece. The 49ers think they were a quarterback away from contending, and Lance is now that guy. Is he up to the task? Is this like when Andy Reid got Mahomes and now Shanahan will ascend into the upper echelon of coaches? Or will San Francisco struggle again and people will start noticing Shanahan has three seasons of six or fewer wins in four years as a head coach?
I love where Trey Lance is going in early Best Ball drafts. The prevailing theory seems to be that the 49ers will start the season with Jimmy Garoppolo under center while giving Lance time to acclimate to the NFL. But the rest of San Francisco's roster puts the team in win-now mode and it's almost inconceivable they would give up two future first-round picks to move up for Lance if they didn't think he can improve their chances of winning immediately.
It's an open secret that running quarterbacks provide a major edge over their pocket passer counterparts in fantasy football. Lance is the best rusher in this rookie class and also has the processing ability to read the full field. Getting him in the late rounds could have a similar impact on your championship aspirations as Lamar Jackson in 2019 when he was available in the late rounds of drafts.
I'll piggyback on Jason's Lance take with some thoughts as to why I'm genuinely excited for him in fantasy. Besides the obvious coaching and system stability, Lance has the highest rushing ceiling of any of the rookie quarterbacks. He ran for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign at North Dakota State and is estimated to have a 40 time around 4.5 seconds. The last time Shanahan worked with a mobile rookie quarterback taken high in the draft, it was Robert Griffin III, who was a top-five scorer in fantasy points per game.
The range of outcomes for Trey Lance and Justin Fields makes them both extremely interesting. They could play no games, 17 games, or anywhere in between. Since Jason and Anthony already highlighted Lance, I'll talk a bit about Fields. Realistically, he's the best quarterback on the Bears' depth chart right now. Mitchell Trubisky got his first taste of NFL gameplay as a rookie in a Week 5 matchup against the Vikings after Mike Glennon got the team off to a 1-3 start. A common belief is that Trubisky was pushed out a bit too early due to pressure from the fans and media in Chicago. He also had to switch coaches and offensive coordinators in his second year, which was a factor in his lack of development. Hopefully, the Bears have learned from their mistakes and have a strong plan regarding how and when they will deploy Fields. A lot of it will come down to how the Ohio State product looks in camp and the speculation right now makes his season nearly impossible to project. His long-term outlooks look great, but his usage as a rookie could leave fantasy managers hoping for more.
I'll pile on the Trey Lance bandwagon here. Anthony brought up how well Robert Griffin III III performed as a rookie in fantasy leagues, and I'll add to that - Griffin had one of the worst WR/TE groups in the league on that Washington team, and he wasn't as well-prepared to run the Shanahan system as Lance is because Lance's offense at North Dakota State had some important similarities. Shanahan's offense already set up quarterbacks to succeed, but adding the 11-on-11 dimension will put defenses in new binds that they won't be able to deal well with - at least the first time around. Lance has a chance to be an instant hit in fantasy and NFL circles. Jimmy Garoppolo is an obstacle for now, but Houston and Green Bay are both potential trade destinations depending on how their quarterback situations resolve themselves, and there is always the possibility of a quarterback injury elsewhere forcing a Sam Bradford to Minnesota type of trade on the eve of the season. Garoppolo was also terrible and/or injured any time he was on the field in 2020. One way or the other Lance will find his way on the field, and likely overshadow Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson.
For me, it’s a toss-up between Lance and Fields. Fields hasn’t played a snap and could be one of, if not the best, quarterbacks the Bears ever had. I’m very intrigued to see him run the offense and his future connection with Allen Robinson. In terms of Lance, like previously mentioned, his range of outcomes is so wide. His mobility just gives defenses even more of a headache to deal with trying to figure out the SF offense. I would be surprised if either Lance or Fields ends up being the best rookie from this class.
I agree that the high-upside or perfect-storm outcome is Trey Lance. Pair a strong running option in a Kyle Shanahan offense (plus Trey Sermon's rise during the season I project) and the 49ers have electric upside on offense.
However, I will mention Mac Jones as the most interesting to align with the title. The dialogue pre-draft was Mac Jones to the 49ers at 1.03. They went with Trey Lance. Jones and Justin Fields slipped out of the top-10. But the Patriots landing Jones, without a trade-up move, at 1.15 is the second-best fit for Jones to see success. Will Cam Newton show more as a passer than his running back-like role in 2020? The Patriots added Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, and Jonnu Smith to a poor collection of passing game weapons from 2020. Jones under center has 'do not doubt me' vibes for an already sneaky decent Patriots team and expanding offense. If the NFL handed the Patriots their next long-term starter at 1.15, that will be one of the most interesting storylines in the NFL in 2021.
Trey Lance and Justin Fields stand out to me here, and since Lance has received so much love in this thread already, I'll go Fields. I did not expect Fields to fall as far as he did, but the Bears moving up to get their guy was the most surprising and exciting pick on Night 1 of the NFL Draft. As stated by Peter Schrager, no quarterback drafted in the last 10 years has faced a more difficult defensive schedule than Fields did in his 2020 season. And the narrative that he doesn't throw beyond his first read was recently proven wrong by Benjamin Solak. In fact, he throws past his first read more often and more accurately than any quarterback from this draft outside of Trey Lance. A guy who played through a cringe-worthy hit to the ribs to finish with 385 yards and six touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl versus Clemson? That's someone I'd want leading my team. I don't see Andy Dalton holding off Fields for very long. I will be targeting Fields as a late-round pick in redraft as much as I can this year.
Fantasy-wise, I will give a shoutout to Zach Wilson. Few in the fantasy space are viewing Wilson as QB2 or even QB3 of the class for rookie drafts. One thing we know - as Jordan McNamara on staff here mentions periodically on the Footballguys Dynasty Show - is the NFL is no very good as their quarterback draft ordering within a class. As a fantasy collective, we are putting Trey Lance and Justin Field ahead of Wilson, but the Jets did not. Are they wrong? We will see, but at least be open to the idea that Wilson's odds of being QB1/2/3 of the class and an offensive lid-lifter for fantasy upside are higher than the drumbeat of minimal floating around general ranking hierarchy.
Putting Trevor Lawrence and his all-world passing ability with sneaky athleticism aside, the answer to this question is the next tier of talent that we aren't exactly sure how it pans out. Trey Lance has the "looks like Russell Wilson" vibe going for him. He can throw the ball, run when needed, and he has the athleticism to make plays either way. Add in the solid foundation of playing under Kyle Shanahan and his offensive structure, and you have the ingredients of a solid fantasy quarterback. Lance is definitely an interesting rookie quarterback to monitor.
Justin Fields has an absolutely golden opportunity in front of him as the front-man for the Bears. Like Lance, Fields has fantasy appeal due to his athleticism and dual-threat nature. You could argue a swap of who's 1a and who's 1b if Fields were drafted by San Francisco. Both he and Lance have a chance to produce fantasy-wise. Lance has the better situation, but Fields may reach the field sooner. Both are worthy of being mentioned as the top rookie fantasy quarterback this season, and both are excellent targets as a second quarterback in redraft (in-season) leagues.
For fantasy football purposes, the answer is Lance. His ceiling is as high as any rookie quarterback we've ever seen. Even if he doesn't start Week 1, on a fantasy points per game basis, he could be a QB1 quickly.
But I'm also intrigued by Mac Jones, particularly from a real football perspective. Will he help return New England to the top of the AFC East (or even the AFC)? Will he validate all of New England's free agency spending? Will he make any of his offensive weapons (limited though they may be) relevant for fantasy purposes?
Both Lance and Jones have wide ranges of outcomes, which makes them appealing watches throughout the year.
The Trey Lance love is real but I am still torn on how many games he will start as we could still see Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 1. Either way at some point Lance will see the field, but for me, I will still have to side with Trevor Lawrence as I love the talent that is surrounding him and he will be the starter right out of the gate. Wide receivers in D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, and Laviska Shenault, along with running backs Travis Etienne and James Robinson, will make the transition from College to NFL much easier for Lawrence. I still think the Jaguars will be a bad football team this year which always leads to plenty of fantasy points for their quarterback. Lawrence also has some sneaky upside in running the ball as the past two years at Clemson he rushed for 17 touchdowns in 25 games.
Surprisingly, no one thinks Trevor Lawrence is interesting. Do we all assume he will be a generational quarterback or not? I am much more interested in watching the next big thing at the position, like Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning were.
Watching guys like Zack Wilson, Justin Fields, maybe Mac Jones, and Trey Lance enter the season with optimism only for a year or two down the line to be either not developing fast enough, failed or have a new regime that doesn’t want them is so predictable in the modern NFL. From Matthew Stafford to Patrick Mahomes II, all first-round quarterbacks drafted since 2009 had an average of four years with their original team, with only four of the 22 lasting more than five years.
Allow me to see a potential future great any day.
Andy, I think it depends on how you define generational. Is he the safest prospect? Probably. Does he have the highest upside in the class, I don't think so. I think it is much more likely another quarterback in the class is better than Lawrence.
The Jacksonville Jaguars situation with Urban Meyer and the new regime has me interested in Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence is an elite prospect who will have to endure a couple of rough seasons before the team can compete for a division title. That might even be overly optimistic.
I am interested in Lawrence's ability to play through the stress of being a star on a bad team. He played on great teams at Clemson. Sure, one may make the argument that he elevated those teams. But, the Jaguars are devoid of talent and it will take at least a couple more drafts to catch up to Indianapolis and Tennessee.
When we consider the weapons Lawrence had at Clemson, they were far superior to those in Jacksonville. How will he respond to the pressure and scrutiny?
I am interested to see how the cool-as-a-cucumber quarterback handles the situation.
For me, it's Zach Wilson due to his massive range of outcomes and widespread panning in the fantasy community based on his draft profile and landing spot. I'm not a tape guy, but the ones I trust agreed that he's not a talent worthy of No. 2 overall, so I'm happy to operate under that assumption. However, I do think downgrading him because he was drafted by the Jets is misguided.
This isn't Adam Gase's offense (or team) anymore. Unlike Gase, Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur have coaching pedigrees that ooze competence if not downright success. Reshaping the Jets narrative that's existed my entire adult life doesn't seem like a job that's too big for them, as indicated by doing the smart thing right off the bat. Namely, after drafting their franchise quarterback, they spent their next three picks on offensive players to give said quarterback the help he'll need to be successful.
Rome wasn't built in a day, but the new New York regime is off to a good start. If people are going to let Wilson freefall in fantasy drafts because #LOLJets, I'll be happy to select him at that lower ADP in the hopes of hitting a home run with a boom-bust prospect with draft capital and competent coaching in his favor.