Welcome back to our ongoing Scouting Report Series where we are breaking down top prospects for the 2021 NFL draft. Today we are talking about Ohio State QB Justin Fields. Before you go on, be sure to check out any of our previous scouting reports you might have missed!
There will be much debate about who is QB2 behind Trevor Lawrence, and it may ultimately come down to what type of quarterback teams prefer for their franchise. Whoever you prefer, there is no denying the natural talent that Justin Fields possesses to play the quarterback position. What are Fields’ strengths and weaknesses? Which NFL teams are the best fits? Let’s get into it.
Measurables and Numbers
Weight: 223 pounds
A look at Justin Fields’ College Performance
Justin Fields was a 5-star recruit from Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Georgia. He was the highest-rated dual-threat QB in the 2018 QB class by ESPN, Rivals, and 247Sports. ESPN listed him as the top overall recruit while Rivals and 247Sports ranked him #2 behind fellow QB Trevor Lawrence.
Fields committed to the University of Georgia after withdrawing a verbal commitment to Penn State. In 2018 as a true freshman, Fields backed up QB Jake Fromm. He saw limited action in 12 different games and totaled 328 yards passing, 266 yards rushing, and 8 total TDs.
Following his freshman season, Fields transferred to Ohio State University and was granted a waiver from the NCAA that exempted him from sitting out a year after transferring.
In 2019, Fields led Ohio State to a Big 10 Championship and College Football Playoff semifinal appearance. He completed 67% of his passes for 3,273 yards and 41 TDs while throwing only 3 interceptions. He added 484 rushing yards and 10 TDs on the ground.
During the 2020 pandemic shortened season, Fields completed 70% of his passes and threw 22 TDs vs 6 interceptions while adding 383 yards and 5 TDs on the ground. His most prolific performance came against Clemson in the semifinal of the College Football Playoff when he completed 78.6% of his passes for 385 and 6 TDs while throwing only 1 interception. Fields draft stock began to soar until the following week when he faced off against Alabama and completed only 51.5% of his passes. Although he didn’t throw an interception, he struggled mightily against the elite Crimson Tide defense.
Fields fits the model of the new breed of NFL quarterbacks. He possesses great athleticism that allows him the opportunity to extend plays and make something out of nothing. He can convert elusiveness into power in the running game and his big frame can stand up to the pounding at the position.
I may have yelped. pic.twitter.com/JRaJBJoDIA— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) January 22, 2021
The trait I have liked so far about Justin Fields game is this.— Tim Jenkins (@TJenkinsElite) January 26, 2021
He is extremely athletic, however he doesn't fire drill the pocket for no reason like most. He evades the rush while staying within the pocket.
Making people miss in a phone booth, confirmed. pic.twitter.com/VtDXqUoNbl
He is proficient in the RPO game, able to make quick decisions and proper reads at the mesh point and excels in putting defensive ends and linebackers in conflict constantly. When required, he demonstrated the ability to make throws from multiple arm slots to avoid defenders and place the ball into tight windows in rhythm.
We've all seen it 100 times now but it's hard to overstate how absurd this throw from Justin Fields is. pic.twitter.com/knYqIBKC4w— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) January 28, 2021
However, his ability to stress the defense horizontally with his legs and quick RPO reads shouldn’t lead you to believe that he can’t stretch the field vertically. Fields has great arm talent in terms of both velocity and accuracy. Simply put, Fields can make every throw required of an NFL QB whether it be in or out of structure.
Justin Fields was 19/32 with 9 TD passes on throws 20+ yards down the field in 2020, good for a 117.2 passer rating— Matthew Betz (@TheFantasyPT) January 28, 2021
If Fields lands in a system that lets him push the ball down field, BLAST OFF ??
Fields has an extremely high motor which sounds like a strange thing to write in a scouting report for a quarterback if you haven’t watched the tape on him. But then you see a play like this one where Fields is 60 yards downfield (running down a safety I might add) to make a block for his running back.
If that doesn’t get your juices flowing maybe it would help if I mention that Ohio State was already winning this game 28-0? Those are the types of plays that endear you to your teammates immediately.
Justin Fields 60-yards down field blocking for his back pic.twitter.com/vEXYhREENq— Greg Brandt (@devywarehouse) January 23, 2021
Fields 2020 season allowed some of the flaws in his game to show through. After bursting onto the scene in 2019 with a 14:1 TD:INT ratio, Fields came back down to earth some in 2020 with a more reasonable 4:1 ratio. Fields was prone to hot and cold streaks in 2020, completing 87% of his passes with 6 TDs and 0 INT against Nebraska and Penn State along with the aforementioned performance against Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
But on his bad days Fields really put his team in difficult positions turning the ball over 3 times against Indiana, hitting only 44% of his passes with 2 turnovers against Northwestern, and completing only 51.5% of his passes against Alabama.
Fields struggles with processing speed beyond his first read. He doesn’t necessarily “lock onto” his first read, but he is slow to move through progressions after he identifies that his first read is covered. Compounding this issue is his overconfidence in his arm strength. Often, he will place the ball in harm’s way trying to make the great throw instead of checking down to a less risky option. He struggles to throw with anticipation, instead waiting on receivers to uncover before pulling the trigger.
At the college level, his arm was strong enough to negate this tendency, but at the NFL level he must develop better anticipation.
The final concern with Fields relates to his pocket presence. As with most mobile QBs, Fields can get jittery when the pocket is messy, often preferring to run away instead of standing in the pocket to deliver a ball on time, including hitting check down options. He needs to make strides reading hot and getting the ball out of his hands when under pressure.
Fields possesses all of the natural talent that you would expect from a top 10 draft pick as well as many of the flaws expected from college QBs. He will at times make plays where he puts the ball in danger and takes unnecessary sacks, but the big play potential he possesses helps make up for these negatives. Fields needs to go to a team who is willing to install a creative offense that will use his legs as a weapon and focus on dialing back his natural aggressiveness through the air just a bit.
The Falcons sit at #4 in the draft and could be in prime position to select Fields if the New York Jets pass on him. New head coach Arthur Smith may be looking to pick his QB of the future with Matt Ryan’s career winding down. Smith was able to get the most out of Ryan Tannahill in Tennessee while building a punishing rushing attack on the legs of Derrick Henry, but that style of offense may have been born out of necessity rather than desire.
The Eagles have something of a QB controversy and you may think I’m crazy for listing them as a fit for Fields. For reasons I have enumerated here and don’t want to spend too much time rehashing, I think drafting a QB is definitely on the table for the Eagles. That said, Fields would be a perfect fit for the team. He would bring the playmaking ability that Jalen Hurts brings with his legs combined with the ability to play from the pocket that Hurts seems to lack. His proficiency with RPOs could be used in conjunction with Miles Sanders’ rushing ability and Jalen Reagor’s explosiveness with the ball in his hands to create a very successful horizontal offense for the Eagles in 2021 and beyond.
The Teddy Bridgewater experiment didn’t exactly work out for the Panthers in 2020, as evidenced by their #8 overall pick in the 2021 draft. Head Coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady form a formidable cabal of offensive genius that draws heavily on college style concepts. If I could place Fields anywhere to see him thrive Carolina would be my #1 option for the best fit for him as a player.