Justin Fields Profiles as Franchise Quarterback Chicago Bears Have Never Had

Chicago Bears’ first-round selection, 11th overall pick, Justin Fields came into the 2020 season as the consensus QB2 among draft analysts, right behind Trevor Lawrence who was selected No. 1 overall by the Jaguars. A transfer from Georgia who was granted immediate eligibility in 2019, Fields lit up his competition by accounting for a blistering  51 total touchdowns (41 passing, 10 rushing) against just three interceptions. The QB finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting that year, won the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award, and was named first-team all-conference. Fields finished the season with 3,273 passing yards, including a 320-yard, one touchdown performance in a 29-23 loss to Clemson in the CFP semifinal game.

Though he only started eight games in 2020 due to the pandemic, Fields upped his completion percentage from 67.2 to 70.2 and added another 22 touchdown passes. The junior-year QB helped lead the Buckeyes to another undefeated regular season and Big Ten Championship with a 22–10 victory over Northwestern. He followed that by leading OSU to a 49–28 victory over Clemson in a CFP semifinal rematch, accounting for 385 yards through the air with six touchdowns. The Buckeyes saw their undefeated season and bid for a National Championship end with a 52-24 loss to Alabama.

Despite throwing for 63 touchdowns and 5,701 passing yards in his two seasons at Ohio State, the signal caller’s draft stock actually declined, as Zach Wilson and Trey Lance jumped above him on draft day. With an opportunity to get the potential franchise quarterback he’s been seeking, Bears GM Ryan Pace moved up nine slots in a trade with the Giants in order to select Fields.

The following is from the Associated Press:

Strengths: Game-changing athlete who will be able to lean on his natural gifts in his first season or two … There’s something to be said for how much toughness he showed against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, leading an upset win despite what was clearly a painful rib injury … Big enough that he should hold up in the NFL, so long as he avoids hits when he tucks and runs.

Weaknesses: We learned in the days leading up to the draft that Fields has epilepsy, and while there’s a belief that he’ll “outgrow it as other family members have,” it’s at least worth noting … He got away with making some throws into tight windows in college that will get picked off or deflected in the NFL … Some, like Chris Simms of NBC Sports below, believe he’s a one-read thrower currently, though there’s certainly not unanimous agreement on that. The biggest knock on Fields is that he tends to hold the ball too long.

Analysis: “He has big talent — there’s no doubt — it’s just very raw at this point. He has room to grow. His running is real, better than I thought it was. He is a real threat, and the athletic ability will help him early in his career as he grows into being a better passer. He has an incredibly strong arm, but it can fall apart, and that’s what scares me.

“I know people talk about the Clemson game. I would challenge people to go back and watch it. I know there are some good throws, but there are a handful of throws in that game where I would expect a high school quarterback to hit them 10 out of 10. I believe he’s a one-read thrower. If the first read is not wide open, he’s going to run or panic and he can do some bad things when he does that, can be a little careless with the football.

“He is [also] not a good short-ball thrower. I look at Cardale Jones, Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields … I don’t know if they’re teaching it this way at Ohio State, but the arm can get too floppy. It just doesn’t connect all the time. His body is locked and the arm just flops everywhere.” – Chris Simms, NBC Sports

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