Ranking NFL preseason debuts of first-round QBs, plus picking winner in Saints' and Broncos' QB battles


After a one-week hiatus, I’m back from vacation and since I never take time off during the NFL season, you are now stuck with me for the next six months. In case you’re wondering, I spent most of my off week visiting family in Cincinnati, which I believe makes me the first person ever to take a vacation to Cincinnati. 

I hope everyone had an awesome weekend, or at least I hope you had a better weekend than the NFC East. That division went 0-4 over the weekend and is now 0-5 for the preseason if you include the Cowboys’ loss in the Hall of Fame Game.

That division was bad last season and although I don’t feel like I should be making any judgements based on one week of preseason games, it might be even worse this year. If you bet $100 against each NFC East team in each preseason game they’ve played so far this year, you’d be up $512.87. 

The biggest upside of being up $512.87 is that you could then use that money to bid on a conversation WITH ME. That’s right, if you have ever wondered what it would be like to talk to me, you can now make it happen. Starting today, you can bid on a chance to have a 10-minute Zoom call with me. The auction is for our annual CBS Sports telethon that raises money for St. Jude, so all the money from the auction will be going to charity. 

If you want to bid, all you have to do is click here. I like talking to myself, so might even bid. If you have the winning bid, we can literally talk about anything during our conversation from your favorite team to your favorite brand of laundry detergent to your favorite renaissance painter. I’m open to anything.  

Alright, that’s enough of that, let’s get to the rundown. 

As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the Pick Six newsletter. If you tell five friends and then they tell five friends and then they tell five friends, we could have the entire western hemisphere signed up by next week. To get your friends to sign up, all you have to do is click here and then share this link with them. 

1. Today’s show: Recapping Week 1 of the preseason


USA Today

The first week of the preseason is officially in the books, which can only mean one thing: The recap episodes are back. If you’re unfamiliar with the formula around here: Now that games are being played again, every Monday episode of the Pick Six podcast will recap everything that happened over the weekend. We’ll be doing this every Monday between now and the Super Bowl, which means you’ll be getting a recap episode on 24 of the next 26 Mondays, so please plan your life accordingly. 

For today’s recap episode, Will Brinson was joined by Jordan Dajani and the two of them talked about everything that happened during Week 1 of the preseason. Actually, to be honest, the two guys spent most of the episode talking about quarterbacks. From the rookie quarterback debuts that went down over the weekend to the QB battles going on in New Orleans and Denver, it was all quarterbacks, all the time. 

We’ll be covering the rookies and the Saints further down in the newsletter, so we’re going to focus on the Broncos here. Although Drew Lock (5 of 7, 151 yards, two TDs) and Teddy Bridgewater (7 of 8, 74 yards, 1 TD) both looked impressive during Denver’s 33-6 win over Minnesota, Brinson thinks the QB competition in Denver is already over. 

“I was impressed with Drew Lock and would expect that he’s probably going to be the guy in Week 1 because he gives them the higher ceiling,” Brinson said. “And then if he struggles, they go to Teddy.”

At that point, Dajani had a chance to make the case for Teddy, but he couldn’t do it.  

“I agree with you, Drew Lock, I think he’s going to be the winner,” Dajani said.

I think this means that if you bought a Teddy jersey, you should probably return it for a Drew Lock one. 

To listen to today’s episode — and to subscribe to the best daily NFL podcast out there — be sure to click here

2. Ranking the debut of each first-round rookie QB

I’m not going to say this was the most exciting opening week of the preseason in NFL history, actually, you know what, I am going to say it: This was the most exciting opening week of the preseason in NFL history. Not only did we get to see our first full week of preseason games in two years, but we also saw the debut of all five first-round quarterbacks who were drafted this year. 

If you didn’t get to watch all five quarterbacks over the weekend, don’t worry, we have you covered here. Cody Benjamin decided to rank each player’s debut. 

Here’s Cody’s ranking (along with their game-ending numbers): 

1. Justin Fields, Bears: 14 of 20 for 142 yards, 1 TD, 106.7 rating, 5 carries, 33 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble
2. Trey Lance, 49ers: 5 of 14 for 128 yards, 1 TD, 4 sacks, 93.7 rating
3. Zach Wilson, Jets: 6 of 9 for 63 yards, 86.8 rating
4. Mac Jones, Patriots: 13 of 19 for 87 yards, 1 sack, 78.2 rating
5. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars: 6 of 9 for  71 yards, 1 fumble, 2 sacks, 90.5 rating

One thing to keep in mind here is that it’s almost impossible to figure out who’s going to be good based on one game in the preseason. For instance, although Fields is at the top of the list, he went 7 of 12 for 52 yards in the first half against Miami and didn’t thrive until the Dolphins’ third-string defense was on the field in the second half (Fields will soon get a chance to face better players and that’s because he’ll be getting more first-team reps going forward, according to Bears coach Matt Nagy). 

In Lance’s case, he made one great throw — an 80-yard TD pass — and then went 4 of 14 for 48 yards the rest of the way. 

I actually thought Mac Jones was the most consistent rookie QB from the first week of the preseason and I probably would have moved him up to the two-spot and slid everyone else down a spot if I had been in charge of the rankings (I agree with Cody that Fields should be on top). 

If you want to check out Cody’s full rookie QB rankings, be sure to click here. 

For more preseason coverage, you can check out our “winners and losers” from Week 1 by clicking here and if you want to know how the week went for rookies who aren’t quarterbacks, then be sure to click here. 

3. Looking at NFL Rookie of the Year candidates


USA Today

Since we just talked about rookie quarterbacks, I feel like that makes right now the perfect time to take a look at the NFL Rookie of the Year odds for the 2021 season.  

Josh Edwards recently took a dive into the odds. Not only did he take a look at the top five, but he also listed some sleepers. 

Here are the current odds for NFL Rookie of the Year (via Caesars)

  • Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jaguars: +300 (Bet $100 to win $300)
  • Justin Fields, QB, Bears: +550
  • Trey Lance, QB, 49ers: +600
  • Zach Wilson, QB, Jets: +1000
  • Mac Jones, QB, Patriots: +1000

If you’re looking for a non-quarterback who might be able to win the award, Edwards likes Steelers running back Najee Harris (+1000) and Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (+1100). If you’re looking for a sleeper, Edwards likes Jets receiver Elijah Moore (+5000), who would win you $5,000 on a $100 bet if he were able to win the award. 

That being said, you probably don’t want to get too crazy with a ROY bet. Since 2010, a QB or RB has won the award 10 out of 11 times (Odell Beckham was the only player to win that didn’t play one of those two positions). Also, a first-round pick has won it eight out of 11 times since 2010, which means a QB or RB selected in the first round is probably your best bet. 

In his piece, Edwards also took a look at NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates and you can check that out by clicking here. 

4. NFL insider notes from New Orleans: Sizing up the Saints’ QB battle, plus the latest on Michael Thomas

The most exciting QB competition in the NFL is happening in New Orleans with Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston both battling to win the job. 

CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora was in Baltimore to watch both quarterbacks play in the Saints’ 17-14 loss to the Ravens over the weekend and after one game, JLC thinks Winston has the slight edge in the QB battle: 

From his insider notes: 

“Always some risk/reward with Winston. But the potential for the scope of his offense is far greater with him, he just might be good for 35 touchdown passes, and it’s hard for me not to think the gap between him at his very best and what Hill can muster won’t grow by the week as these exhibitions continue this month.”

Winston finished the game 7 of 12 for 96 yards and a touchdown while also throwing an interception. As for Hill, he threw for 81 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. 

Here are a few other nuggets on the Saints: 

  • Michael Thomas is ahead of schedule. There was some talk that he could miss the first six games of the season, but it seems he might be on the field before that. Sean Payton said his star receiver is “ahead of schedule” in rehab. 
  • Alvin Kamara likely won’t play much in the preseason. The running back didn’t play against the Ravens and he probably won’t be on the field much in New Orleans’ next two games. The Saints don’ want to risk an injury to Kamara, who is going to be a workhorse on offense while Thomas is out. 
  • Keep your eye on Marquez Calloway. La Canfora says the Saints receiver has been impressing the right people during training camp and he showed a spark of his talent against Baltimore, catching three passes for 61 yards. 

For more notes on the Saints, be sure to click here. 

5. What happened to the NFL players who opted out in 2020?

For the second straight year, NFL players had the choice of opting out for the season due to the pandemic, but unlike 2020, no one went that route this year. However, there were 66 players who opted out last year and since they’ll be returning this season, Cody Benjamin decided to check in on them to see where they are now. 

Cody hunted down some of the most notable names who opted out to give us an update on their current playing status. 

Here are a few player from the list: 

New team

Staying with same team

  • LB Dont’a Hightower: The linebacker is a key part of the Patriots defense and Bill Belichick is likely thrilled to be getting him back. 
  • DT Star Lotulelei: The Bills did just fine without Lotulelei last year, but now he’s back at defensive tackle, their defense should be even better this year. 

Retired

For a full look at all the most notable players on last year’s opt-out list, be sure to click here. 

6. Rapid-fire roundup


USA Today

It was a busy weekend in the NFL and since it’s nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you. 

  • Jordan Love to miss some practice this week. The Packers backup QB suffered a shoulder injury against the Texans and although it’s not believed to be serious, the Packers are holding him out of practice today and could keep him out for most of the week. 
  • Bears sign Jason Peters. It’s not often you can sign a nine-time Pro Bowler this close to the start of the season, but that’s exactly what the Bears did when they added Peters over the weekend. Although he’s 39 years old, Peters will get a chance to compete for the starting left tackle job, according to Matt Nagy
  • Ex-Jets head coach Joe Walton dies. The 85-year-old Walton died on Sunday at the age of 85. Walton’s time in the NFL started in 1957 when he was selected by Washington in the second round of the draft. After retiring, Walton became a coach with his most notable run coming as the Jets head coach from 1983-89. 
  • 49ers signs Mychal Kendricks. The former Seahawks linebacker has a new home after the 49ers signed him to a one-year deal. The 49ers will be the fourth team that Kendricks has played for since entering the NFL in 2012 (Eagles, Seahawks, Washington). For more details on the signing, be sure to click here. 
  • Aaron Rodgers wants Clay Matthews in Green Bay. After convincing the Packers to trade for Randall Cobb, the quarterback is now trying to force the team to make another move. Rodgers took to social media over the weekend to make it clear that he wants to see the Packers add Matthews, who spent 10 years in Green Bay before being cut following the 2018 season. The problem for Rodgers is that Brian Gutekunst doesn’t seem too interested in signing Matthews. The Packers GM said on Sunday that the team has had “no discussions” about making the move. 
  • ESPN hires Alex Smith. The retired NFL quarterback won’t be on the field this year, but he will still be talking football. Smith was hired by ESPN on Monday for a role that will include appearances on SportsCenter, Sunday NFL Countdown and occasional stops on Monday Night Countdown.





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