There is a lot of football left to be played for the 2021 NFL Draft class, but 20 games into their careers, it seems one thing has become abundantly clear: the group has a QB1, and it is exactly who it was always supposed to be.
Three games into the 2022 season, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has shown every sign of the second-year leap that many hoped and predicted he would flash under head coach Doug Pederson.
While many of the quarterbacks from the same class have floundered to start the season, Lawrence has taken a noticeable and undeniable step forward. Lawrence's play has clearly improved as the Jaguars' offense has produced 28 points per game -- almost twice as many as last year's 14.9 points per game.
The Jaguars scored 20 points or more in five games last year. This year, they have done so in all three games, largely because of Lawrence's improvement. Their fewest points scored in a game -- 22 points in Week 1 vs. Washington -- would have the third-highest scoring effort of all of 2021. Their 38 points against the Chargers on Sunday are 12 more points than the Jaguars scored in their best offensive game a year ago.
There are numerous reasons for this rapid improvement, ranging from an upgrade in personnel at wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, and running back, as well as what Pederson and his coaching staff have brought to the offense.
But the biggest reason the Jaguars are 2-1 and firmly having their arrow pointing up is Lawrence, who has begun to separate himself from his fellow second-year passers.
Starting all 17 games in Jacksonville's 3-14 campaign last year, Lawrence completed 59.6% of his passes for 3,641 yards (6.0 yards per attempt) for 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, which included a lengthy period where Lawrence didn't throw a touchdown pass.
Among last year's rookie passers, Lawrence finished No. 3 in completion %, No. 2 in passing yards, No. 3 in touchdowns, No. 1 in interceptions, No. 6 in touchdown %, No. 5 in quarterback rating, No. 1 in sack %, No. 6 in yards per attempt, and No. 6 in adjusted yards per attempt.
So far this year? Quite the contrast.
In three games this year, Lawrence has completed 69.4% of his passes (No. 7 among all passers) for 772 yards (No. 13 among all passers) and six touchdowns (tied for No. 5 among all passers), and one interception (tied for fewest among all starters). He has six touchdowns in three games after just 12 in 17 last year, on pace to crush that mark by Week 6 this season.
And in comparison to Lawrence's fellow second-year passers, the contrasts have been stark. When a team takes a quarterback at No. 1 overall, they need to hope they are not just taking the best player in the class, but also the best passer; picking the second- or third-best quarterback in the class with the top pick in the group is a tough pill to swallow and can set back a team.
Luckily for the Jaguars, it appears they have avoided such a situation. With four other second-year passers throwing at least 30 passes in 2022, none have come close to Lawrence. Meanwhile, Trey Lance and Zach Wilson have suffered through injuries, with Wilson's keeping him off the field for the first three weeks and Lance's causing him to miss the final 15 games of the season.
|Trevor Lawrence||Mac Jones||Justin Fields||Davis Mills||Trey Lance|
The numbers don't just show Lawrence slightly ahead of his fellow second-year passers; it shows him playing a different sport completely. And unless Wilson lights the league on fire upon his return, which his rookie year suggests is unlikely, then the debate is over.
The Jaguars have the top quarterback from the 2021 class. The question now is how much further Lawrence can rise in overall rankings. After a year where he was consenciously judged as one of the worst passers, Lawrence has rebounded in 2022 and the tape and metrics show that, through three games, he has been one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the NFL's first month.
Perhaps Lawrence slows down, but his improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 to Week 3 suggests he will only get better. And with a restocked offensive roster and Pederson at his side, it appears the sky is truly the limit for Lawrence.