Next generation NFL quarterback rankings Week 7: Justin Fields shines as dual-threat weapon

We have a quarterback controversy in New England. Bailey Zappe or Mack Jones? Jones began Monday Night Football against the Bears, it didn’t look good and then Zappe took over. The rookie led off two touchdown drives, then fumbled for the rest of the night.

Meanwhile, Justin Fields showcased his strengths with a dazzling all-around performance in Foxboro.

A total of six quarterbacks selected in the last two NFL Draft classes saw significant playing time during Week 7 action.

Let’s take a deep dive into each quarterback’s individual efforts and grade each moment by taking into account every individual aspect of their performance. At least 10 attempts are required to qualify for this piece, which is published every Tuesday during the NFL season.

High caliber throws:

  • On the first play of the fourth quarter, Lawrence stepped up on a deep throw to Zay Jones, who landed in the receiver’s hands just before being hit by a defender at the top of the play.
  • With less than a minute left, Lawrence threw a long 10-yard outbreaker with great anticipation.
  • In the same shot, he got one to Marvin Jones against super tight cover, but the ball fell incomplete.

Low Caliber Throws:

  • Early in the second quarter, he sent a throw into the end zone against tight coverage.
  • Later in the quarter, he sacked Zay Jones in the end zone. He had to get more air under it than he probably wanted because of a defender underneath, but Lawrence brought the ball incredibly high and it landed across the end zone.

Summary: It was a bit of a game of regression for Lawrence. Very thoughtful, very easy throws — which he hits more often than he did as a rookie. Late in the game, Clemson Lawrence arrived. Still, it wasn’t enough to pull out the win against the upstart Giants. One yard away from victory.

Grade: B-
Seasonal grade: C

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High caliber throws/plays:

  • Late in the second, Fields miraculously eluded multiple Patriots rushers in the pocket and scampered 20 yards on 3rd-and-14.
  • In the third, Fields spun out of what looked like a definite sack, then found Cole Kmet down the sideline on a gorgeous back shoulder.

Small caliber throws/plays:

  • On his opening kickoff, Fields threw easily behind him.
  • In the second, he bowled back at a deep over that was almost clipped.
  • On that same drive, he got a bad sack when he could have easily thrown the ball away.
  • Fields was unable to shoot on a quick screen in the second half.

Summary: Fields wasn’t alien with his arm in this game, but he was noticeably more relaxed and confident in the pocket, going through his progressions and throwing with more accuracy than he showed early in this 2022 season. Some of the runs planned were fantastic, and his struggles were special. Stock up on game for the second-year pro, though the easy passes still need to be cleared.

Grade: B-
Season Grade: C-

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High caliber throws:

  • While it wasn’t the hardest throw of his life, Pickett found George Pickens down the sideline for a 30-yard gain against rotation coverage.
  • In the second, he showed serious speed to scramble for 16 yards on 3rd-and-12.
  • The touchdown throw to Pickens was great placement, though it was an even better catch by the rookie.
  • In the second half, while under pressure inside and from the corner, Pickett threw a snap to his tight end in anticipation of a deeper break.
  • On fourth down, Pickett ducked the pressure, squared his shoulders in the target and found Chase Claypool for a first down.
  • On fourth down on the final drive of the game, Pickett lasered to Pat Freiermuth for 21 yards down the seam against tight coverage.

Small caliber throws/plays:

  • In the second, on third-and-short, Pickett rushed a throw to Johnson that was incomplete.
  • Pickett missed a shot on a deep route run by Chase Claypool in the second half.
  • Late in the fourth, his interception thrown to Jevon Holland was just a throw he had to make. Pickett tried to get the ball out quickly before Deontay Johnson made his break, but Holland was robbing that space in the zone and got a decently easy pick.

Summary: Pickett showed a lot of positive results in this contest, although the Steelers lost to the Dolphins and scored only 10 points. Much of the offensive game plan involved throws, but there was a nice mix of impressive tackles and accurate mid-range shots for this contest to earn a much higher grade than the stats would indicate.

Degree: B-
Seasonal grade: C

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High caliber throws:

  • Late in the second, he made a nasty move on a defender while scrambling. The play went 18 yards.

Small caliber throws/plays:

  • His first throw of the game was a wild mid-range throw that flew over everyone.
  • A few plays later, same thing. Intermediate Airmail.
  • Late in the first, he spun, then spun again under pressure, and a second spin caused him to lose his balance and fall to the ground for a 10-yard sack.
  • In the fourth, Wilson threw behind Denzel Mims, wide open, to shallow center.

Summary: The outing in Denver was pretty ugly for Wilson, from early misses to trouble handling pressure, there wasn’t a single throw that came close to a “wow” play from the sophomore quarterback. He only worked with checks and open throws from underneath against a zone.

Degree: e
Season Grade: C-

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High caliber throws:

  • Zappe made a nice throw downfield to DeVante Parker for a huge gain.
  • In the fourth, Zappe fielded a line drive between two defenders.

Small caliber throws/plays:

  • Late in the second quarter, he flipped a corner route to Tyquan Thornton.
  • He missed a short touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
  • His final throw of the night was late and behind the intended target on a drag route that was intercepted.

Summary: Zappe got two wide-open receivers to start his night, which energized the crowd, but when the throws needed to be made in a tight window, the rookie couldn’t connect regularly with his wide arms. It hasn’t been a brutal start, but it’s far from living up to the unfairly and unjustifiably high expectations placed on him after his two starts.

Degree: °C-
Season Grade: C+

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High caliber throws:

  • In the first quarter, Mills threw a great ball to Jordan Akins down the field on a natural snap near the line of scrimmage.
  • Early in the second, while rolling left, Mills somehow flipped it to Damien Pierce, who was running the other way.
  • Mills flicked a pass to Akins on a cutting route, inches from the bottom defender.
  • To lead off the third, Mills uncorked a rocket to Phillip Dorsett between two defenders near the front post. Amazing throw.

Small caliber throws/plays:

  • On third down, Mills opened up Brevin Jordan on a slant, but threw well behind him and the pass fell incomplete.
  • Mills’ interception in the fourth came on a throw that shouldn’t have been made over the middle. The safety was waiting to jump the route and he did. A house call.
  • Late in the game, he threw himself well behind Chris Moore on a deep in-break.
  • His penultimate throw of the game was a low and wide Dorsett infield pass.

Summary: Sort of like a classic Mills game. A few misses mixed in with some stunning throws that showcase his natural talent as a passer. But when it came time to go for a late touchdown, he made a mistake that all but officially sealed the win for the Raiders.

Degree: C+
Season Grade: C-

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