Ranking NFL preseason debuts of first-round QBs: Justin Fields, Trey Lance lead the pack with splashy plays


Preseason football takes on another level of importance when your favorite team is sporting a shiny new quarterback, even if said signal-caller isn’t guaranteed to start come Week 1. And a handful of teams had rookie gunslingers to show off — not to mention evaluate — during the first weekend of preseason action. Which No. 1 picks fared best in their unofficial debuts? Which ones could use an extended run before the real games begin?

Here’s how we’d rank the five first-round quarterbacks following their preseason debuts:

Drafted: No. 1 overall, JaguarsDebut stats: 6-9, 71 yards, 1 fumble, 2 sacks, 90.5 rating

The former Clemson star showed good things against the Browns, namely an ability to hang in the pocket. His 35-yard strike to a leaping Marvin Jones Jr. was a legitimate highlight. But he also waited way too long to throw the ball and took two ugly sacks, coughing up the ball (before recovering) on one. Chalk it up to jitters for now. All in all: Passable. Everyone knows the real test comes in Week 1.

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Drafted: No. 15 overall, PatriotsDebut stats: 13-19, 87 yards, 1 sack, 78.2 rating

Handpicked to give New England a real successor to Tom Brady, Jones was highly efficient, if unspectacular, in his first live reps (sound familiar?), giving Pats fans reason to hope. His best downfield throw, negated by a drop, would’ve boosted his numbers. Yes, he still could’ve pushed the limits a bit more, but man, does he get the ball out quickly, confidently and accurately. Stock up.

Drafted: No. 2 overall, JetsDebut stats: 6-9, 63 yards, 86.8 rating

Look at the numbers, and you think: What’s the big deal? The Jets, after all, emphasized the ground game over their new face of the franchise against the Giants. But Wilson made pretty much every throw he needed to, and not only that, but with genuine zip. A pair of third-down conversions alone were enough to remind you why some scouts dreamed of Patrick Mahomes-esque gunslinging here.

Drafted: No. 3 overall, 49ersDebut stats: 5-14, 128 yards, 1 TD, 4 sacks, 93.7 rating

It’s very possible to read too much into the preseason. But Lance, in his first-ever appearance, made a longer throw (80 yards) than Jimmy Garoppolo has ever completed. And he looked oh-so-smooth doing it, executing Kyle Shanahan’s play-action before rolling left and uncorking a beautiful touch pass reminiscent of his NDSU dimes. Here’s the point: He’s a naturally gifted playmaker, and while Garoppolo’s experience gives him the temporary leg up on QB1 duties, it’s only a matter of time.

Drafted: No. 11 overall, BearsDebut stats: 14-20, 142 yards, 1 TD, 106.7 rating, 5 carries, 33 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble

Not gonna lie: Andy Dalton looks pretty cool with that new beard/goatee. But Fields looks pretty cool as the Bears’ QB, mainly because he looks like the modern-day prototype there. Yes, it’s early, and he started slow after entering in the second quarter. But he finished as both victor and headliner, showcasing his dual-threat talent by extending plays, avoiding big hits and firing strong passes. His physical skill set certainly looks more like top 10-draft-pick material. Bears fans are already impatient for his real debut.



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