NFL rookies faced challenges like we haven’t seen before for young players in the 2021 season, with COVID-19 wiping out rookie minicamps and preseason games. Things will be back to normal this fall and that’s great news for the 2021 NFL Draft class.
There are a lot of players to get excited about among the NFL rookies. Trevor Lawrence is a generational talent, this could prove to be a historically deep wide receiver class and 13 of this year’s first-round picks were offensive skill players. But even with a full summer of practices and training, adjusting to the NFL can be a challenge.
Let’s take a look at five first-round picks who may struggle in their rookie season.
Zach Wilson, quarterback, New York Jets
Zach Wilson sent his draft stock skyrocketing in 2020 thanks to a breakout season with the BYU Cougars. After racking up 3,692 passing yards, completing 73.5% of his passes and posting a 33-3 TD-INT ratio in 12 games, everyone knew he would be a top-10 pick. After his breathtaking Pro Day performance, Wilson was locked in with the Jets.
New York is already doing a much better job building around Wilson than it did Sam Darnold. Mekhi becton is one of the best, young tackles in the NFL and he’ll now be paired with Alijah Vera-Tucker, the best interior linemen from the 2021 draft class. Not only will the left side of the Jets’ offensive line be strong, but its receiving corps is improved with Corey Davis and Elijah Moore.
Fans need to temper their expectations. Wilson dominated the likes of San Diego State, Houston, Troy and UCF in 2020. Not only were his skills far superior to the talent on the opposite side, but he always operated from a clean pocket behind one of the most dominant offensive lines in the country. That’s not going to happen in New York. The Jets’ offensive line is average at best and this remains one of the weaker rosters in the NFL. Just don’t be surprised if Wilson makes a lot of mistakes and leads NFL rookies in turnovers this season.