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Capece: Get excited about Lawrence, Wilson and Jones

| Monday, August 30, 2021

When the NFL preseason concludes next Sunday, the media, fans, general managers and everyone else in between will attempt to label each of the quarterbacks selected in the first round of last April’s NFL Draft as a future Hall of Famer or a certified bust. This of course is a complete overreaction to watching a first-time signal caller play in three or four meaningless games. I will admit that I tend to be a pessimistic supporter of any quarterback the Jets pick (how can you not be after watching a dumpster fire burn for most of the last 20 years?).

There are others who are optimists and hail their team’s pick as the franchise savior after watching him torch a third string defense filled with scrubs. However, no one knows for sure exactly how a young quarterback is going to respond when he steps into the regular season spotlight, and the preseason is rarely an indication of how he’ll perform. In my non-expert opinion, taking out preseason performance, there are more reasons to be optimistic than pessimistic about each of these quarterbacks. Here are the three quarterbacks I think will eventually be the most successful at the NFL level and two reasons to be excited about each.

Trevor Lawrence

1. He’s a transcendent physical talent

Throughout his high school and college career, Lawrence has been compared to Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, and I don’t think those comparisons are that far off. He checks every box that you could possibly want checked out of the top overall pick, possessing the physical abilities to be an all-time great. A rocket arm, pinpoint accuracy and escape ability are just a few of the traits Lawrence has that will make him perfectly suited to today’s NFL. He’s also displayed a football IQ that rivals a young Manning, and his ability to read the game and anticipate throws is what really makes him stand out.

2. The kid has confidence

Lawrence is going to need it on a Jaguars team that doesn’t have much of a supporting cast. He showed that confidence at Clemson when he unseated Kelly Bryant as the starter in 2018 after he led the Tigers to the College Football Playoff the year before, and he clearly wowed Jacksonville in his pre-draft interviews. Lawrence is going to get sacked a lot in his rookie campaign, but he’s displayed he knows he can be a star when his front office gets him some help.

Zach Wilson

1. The Jets are protecting him

Wilson will be the beneficiary of a front office that under GM Joe Douglas has committed to building a foundation in the trenches. The team secured their left tackle of the future when they took left tackle Meckhi Becton in the first round of the 2020 draft, and they doubled down this year by selecting left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker with their second first round pick. Teams that win in the NFL dominate the line of scrimmage and allow their quarterback the time to go through progressions. Wilson’s blindside will be protected for the foreseeable future and allow him to do just that in his rookie campaign.

2. He’s accurate from a clean pocket

I know I said earlier I didn’t care about the preseason, but one stat that actually does matter is passer rating from a clean pocket because it tends to translate to regular season games. Through three preseason games, Wilson led all NFL rookies in that category. The Jets’ previous quarterback Sam Darnold was a turnover machine even when he was throwing from a clean pocket, and Wilson’s ability to process the game and make accurate throws when given the time will vastly improve the Jets offense.

Mac Jones

1. He’s in the perfect system

If you’re a rookie quarterback with Jones’ skill set, you couldn’t have asked for a better place to land than New England. Jones is a guy who isn’t going to scare you with his legs, but he gets the ball out fast against the blitz while almost never turning it over. That sounds a lot like a former Patriots quarterback who was the centerpiece of arguably the greatest sports dynasty of all time. The Patriots offensive system certainly works, and Jones isn’t the guy who’s going to try and fix it.

2. He gets to watch, but not for long

Jones is likely going to sit behind incumbent starter Cam Newton at the start of this season, which will provide him a valuable opportunity to learn how be a professional in the league and command a locker room. It will also give him more time to learn the offense before taking the reigns of a complicated system. However, the fact that Jones is going to have to wait to play is only going to fuel his competitive fire. Knowing that the Patriots picked him to be the future of the franchise will motivate him to prove he belongs and launch another dynasty in New England. He will be on the field sooner than people think.

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About Colin Capece

Colin is a senior at Notre Dame, majoring in political science and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He hails from the great state of New York and currently serves as an Assistant Managing Editor at The Observer for the 2021-2022 academic year. You can sometimes find him on Twitter at @ColinCapeceND

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