Assessing Trevor Lawrence midway through the season

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 14: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars warms up before a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) (Justin Casterline, 2021 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Just past the midway point of his rookie season, Trevor Lawrence has encountered more struggles than he ever has. That’s OK. Nearly every top pick does. Thie bigger question is whether he can learn from his mistakes and ascend in the second half of the season.

First, let’s put Lawrence’s first nine games into some historical perspective. Since 2000, there have been 16 quarterbacks drafted with the first overall selection of the NFL draft. From Michael Vick in 2001 to Lawrence in 2021. Of those quarterbacks, only one won more games than they lost in their first nine games in the NFL. That was Andrew Luck, who had the benefit of throwing to future Hall of Fame receiver Reggie Wayne.

Some quarterbacks didn’t win a game in their first nine games as a rookie. Some didn’t even play nine games as a rookie. Vick started just two. Jameis Winston, the top pick in 2007, started just one game as a rookie. Jared Goff started seven and didn’t win a single game after he was taken with the first pick of the 2010 draft.

Lawrence has won two of his first seven. That’s typical. The average number of wins for 21st century top overall picks in their rookie seasons is about two and a half. Lawrence isn’t far off from that number. That’s because when you are the first pick of the draft, you are going to a team coming off a terrible year.

So let’s look deeper at the stats.

Of all of the first-overall pick quarterbacks of the past 20 years, the average completion percentage for an entire rookie season is 58.1 percent. Lawrence is currently completing 58.0 percent. It should be noted that the three previous top picks, Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Joe Burrow all completed over 63 percent of their passes as rookies.

As for touchdown-to-interception ratios, the average of the previous 15 first-pick quarterbacks was 13 TD and 12 interceptions. Trevor Lawrence is on pace to finish his rookie year with 15 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. That is if he doesn’t improve at all over the final eight games of the season, which most rookie quarterbacks do, at least modestly. For comparison, Luck threw 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions as a rookie, including 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the final eight games of his rookie campaign. He started the year with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions in the first half of the season.

Is Lawrence ahead of pace in any key metrics? He is on pace to throw for 3,745 yards, well ahead of the average of the previous 15, and just about the same number as Baker Mayfield (3,725 yards) and Kyler Murray (3,722 yards) threw for in their rookie seasons. Luck, once again, leads the way with 4,374 passing yards in his rookie campaign.

Is Trevor Lawrence going through growing pains? Yes, absolutely. But Urban Meyer attributes those struggles more to what’s happening around Lawrence, than what the rookie is doing wrong.

“Sure, people have off days, but when you struggle like we struggled in the first half, it’s certainly not a player and it’s certainly not a quarterback,” Meyer said Monday. “And same thing when someone plays great—the first thing I always usually do is talk about the offensive line or the receiver that made that player look great. So, I know that’s a little bit not what people want to hear, but that’s actuality when you really watch. We had six penalties on offense. Six. We had guys make some mental errors, we had a sack that shouldn’t have been a sack, someone had a missed assignment at the receiver position and it turned out to be a sack. So, yes, I think that’s time-tested.”

Lawrence is his own worst critic. In college, he lost just two games. He eclipsed that number before the first month of his NFL career was through.

“It’s just details,” Lawrence said after the loss to the Colts. “All around, every position group, it’s cleaning up the details, being on the same page, and then it’s just as simple as making plays. All over the field, we have to make those plays, and that’s on all of us. Us as an offense, we have to take some responsibility and get better and put the right foot forward. So, we’ll do that. We just have to stick together, and we’re going to do that. But (we) definitely need to play better.”