Quarterback competitions all around the NFL have really heated up, and that includes rookie signal-callers making a push versus veterans. Here are my best predictions for when each of the first-round quarterbacks will start.
Trevor Lawrence (JAX): Week 1
This should be obvious—and I’m assuming will be after tonight—but head coach Urban Meyer has insisted that the Jaguars are having a quarterback competition between Lawrence and Gardner Minshew. Still, the No. 1 overall pick has been treated like the starter for actual preseason games, and he’s going to be under center for the opener. Some of the decisions by Jacksonville have been questionable under Meyer, but I still wouldn’t sleep on them in the AFC South.
Zach Wilson (NYJ): Week 1
Wilson is the only quarterback on the list not competing for the starting gig, and what he’s shown through two exhibitions has been very impressive. There might be some growing pains in New York when real action begins, but Wilson will be protected by a promising offensive line with a deep collection of skill-position talent at his disposal.
Trey Lance (SF): 2022
Kyle Shanahan has kept the door open for Lance to start as early as Week 1, but it’s just hard to believe he’ll get the nod—after just 318 pass attempts at North Dakota State—over a guy that has gone 24-8 as a starting quarterback. The goal is a Super Bowl, and Jimmy Garoppolo gives San Francisco their best chance for 2021 for as long as he remains healthy (with the rookie set to see the field for different packages to shake things up). Whether it’s Lance or Jimmy G, the schedule for San Francisco appears to be very favorable; taking care of the ball will be key.
Justin Fields (CHI): Week 4
Barring a collapse by Andy Dalton in the third preseason game, Matt Nagy is highly unlikely to go back on his plan to start the veteran—especially with a matchup versus Aaron Donald and the Rams coming on Sunday Night Football to open the year. Week 2 might be the sweet spot, but I think Dalton will get a shot at his former team (Cincinnati) and then take the road game against an improved Cleveland defense before Fields takes over ahead a couple of soft matchups (v DET, @ LV) to begin October if Chicago sits at 0-3 or 1-2.
Mac Jones (NE): 2022
The Week 4 matchup with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers coming to town is the one everyone has circled on the calendar, and the timing for Mac Jones becoming the starter might depend the outcome of the primetime game and how well Cam Newton plays over the first three weeks (v MIA, @ NYJ, v NO). If Newton survives that, though, New England might be too good for them to make a change—as the former NFL MVP has looked really good this summer (despite Jones being right on his heels), and 7-1 is very possible through Halloween.