2021 NFL rookie QB stock watch, Week 2: Jets' Zach Wilson tumbles as Patriots' Mac Jones stays on right track

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Week 2 of the 2021 NFL season is officially in the books, and all five of this year’s first-round quarterbacks have seen the field early this year, albeit in different capacities. That means it’s time to take stock of the top rookie signal-callers. Who improved their value after the second week of games? Who looks a little shakier, with 15 more to go?

We’re glad you asked. Here’s how we’d categorize each of this year’s top first-year QBs:

This doesn’t mean we’re out on Lawrence as a prospect. Repeat: This doesn’t mean we’re out on Lawrence! But how can anyone describe his NFL launch as anything but mildly underwhelming? The talent is clearly there, and he actually started Week 2 against Denver in a groove, marching right down the field for a touchdown drive. But he’s now got five picks through two starts, perhaps in part because he’s trying to compensate for a lack of help/support in other areas. Growing pains were always inevitable; you just hope, for his sake, he isn’t forced into long-term bad habits by enduring them for so long.

This is much more of a hard “stock down” than Lawrence. Bill Belichick has a reputation for stifling rookie QBs, but boy did Wilson help gift-wrap a Week 2 victory, devolving from forced throws to apathetic chuck-ups in a four-interception dud. We’re still big believers in Wilson’s arm, and like Lawrence, he isn’t exactly aided by his situation (look at Sam Darnold thriving now that he’s outside of New York!), but there’s no way you can look at his performance on Sunday and not be at least a little concerned.

After getting a red-zone opportunity in Week 1, Lance stayed on the sidelines during the 49ers’ tight win over the Eagles, even though Jimmy Garoppolo threatened to warrant his own trip to the sidelines early on. Kyle Shanahan, meanwhile, is insistent he won’t give the young gun snaps just for the heck of it. But let’s face it: Lance will have a role again at some point, and it’s not hurting him to sit back and observe on a winning team. Our bet is still on him taking over under center sooner rather than later, whether due to a Garoppolo injury or series of slip-ups, the latter of which nearly cost San Francisco a win versus Philadelphia.

Imagine being a Jets fan watching Week 2 unfold, with Wilson completely stymied by Belichick and Jones left to manage an easy victory. Once again, New England didn’t ask the Alabama product to be something he’s not; Jones finished with just 186 yards through the air despite throwing it 30 times. But he didn’t make any egregious mistakes, controlled the football and displayed more of the smart, quick decision-making that earned him the starting job. He’ll only get better.

You could argue he belongs to be “stock up” for the simple fact Andy Dalton’s knee injury has paved the way for him to finally take over at QB, even if only for a week or two. But his stock was arguably already sky high because of limited snaps in relief of Dalton, in which he clearly showcased superior athleticism and a level of talent warranting a starting opportunity. Against the Bengals on Sunday, he flashed both good and bad, which is to be expected. But let’s check back in if/when he gets his first real crack at QB1 duties.

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