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2021 NFL Draft profile: Ohio State QB Justin Fields

If the Denver Broncos have a shot at Justin Fields, should they go for it?

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is among the top quarterback prospects for the 2021 draft.

It’s no secret that Denver’s quarterback situation is up in the air. In a press conference on March 18, GM George Paton made it clear that they’re paying close attention and have evaluated the quarterbacks, but that they like Drew Lock.

“We do want to bring in competition,” Paton said, “We are not going to force it. We are monitoring the market right now.”

In other words, Lock could very well be Denver’s starter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean drafting or trading for another quarterback is out of the question. With the Broncos picking 9th in the first round, it’s possible another team could snatch up Fields first.

In Mel Kiper’s 2021 mock draft, he predicted Fields to be a third overall pick, going to the Carolina Panthers - but that was before the wheeling and dealing by the 49ers to get into that third spot.

And with the Niners possibly taking Mac Jones and the Falcons maybe picking a defender instead of quarterback, the Broncos would likely just need to trade up a few spots to get ahead of the Panthers in the 8th spot.

So it’s worth Broncos Country taking a look, too.

Background

Justin Fields is just a junior, but opted for the draft instead of playing at Ohio State in his last year of eligibility.

In his freshman year at University of Georgia, he started out as a backup, playing a total of 12 games. His stats included four touchdowns, 328 passing yards, and 27 pass completions for a rate of 69.2%.

Fields transferred to Ohio State in 2019 where he led the Buckeyes to a Big Ten Championship win and a College Football Playoff appearance. He was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.

The 2020 season was completed with 22 passing touchdowns, 9.3 yards per pass attempt, and 158 completions from Fields for a completion percentage of 70.2%. Ohio State again won the Big Ten Championship and advanced to the College Football Playoffs, where he suffered and played through an injury in a victory over Clemson.

The Buckeyes would ultimately lose the National Championship game to Alabama, but Fields was named Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year and awarded the Chicago Tribune Silver Football.

Fields’ stats

Height: 6-foot-3 / Weight: 228 pounds / 40-yard dash: 4.41 seconds

2020: 158 completions with 225 attempts for a passing completion percentage of 70.2%. 2100 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 6 interceptions.

2019: 238 completions with 354 attempts for a passing completion percentage of 67.2%. 3273 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, 3 interceptions.

2018: 27 completions with 39 attempts for a passing completion percentage of 69.2%. 328 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.

Note that the 2020 season was shortened to 7 games, 2019 was 14 games, and in 2018 Fields only appeared in 12 games, as he played backup for Jake Fromm.

What Fields can bring to Denver

What can’t he bring to Denver? Justin Fields is a gunslinger with everything you could ask for in a promising quarterback, including accuracy, mobility, awareness in the pocket, and fantastic scrambling ability.

Fields also has an undeniable hunger for the game. If this wasn’t evident when he fought to play during his first year at Ohio State (this is typically against NCAA transfer rules), it was certainly evident when he led the Buckeyes to a 13-1 record (9-0 Big Ten) in 2019 and a 7-1 (5-0 Big Ten) in 2020.

It should also be noted that he played through injury during the Sugar Bowl vs Clemson.

Following this victory over Clemson, Fields said, “My body’s pretty beat up right now, but you know, I’m happy. And my teammates are happy, and this is a feeling like no other, so I know my body’s gonna be hurting tomorrow morning but...it’s worth it for this win.”

Possible drawbacks

Fields’ stats really stand up. My hesitations are almost nit-picky and generally involve things that quarterbacks learn over a season or two in the NFL. If he’s teachable, he can overcome these hurdles.

What I mean is, some traits that might help win a game in college football won’t necessarily translate well in professional circles. Some of these would include:

  • Overconfidence. Confidence is a quality you want in your quarterback, but I would argue that Fields can put too much trust in his arm, attempting harder passes that result in incompletions or interceptions. Here’s an example from an Indiana vs Ohio State game:
  • Not throwing the ball away. Somewhat related to the previous bullet, but Fields often attempts a completion when he should really just get rid of the ball. This is something that will make a huge difference in the NFL vs NCAA.
  • Delayed passing. Sometimes he waits until a receiver is in the intended spot before he even passes, which causes clear confusion and can result in interceptions.

The buzz around Fields

  • Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day:
    “I can promise you this, Justin Fields is gonna make plays in the NFL. No matter what you do, no matter what you say, you can’t put a value on that – his ability to make plays. He’s done it with space, with his feet, making throws down the field, those things are gonna continue to happen at that level. Again, I always think great coaching is adjusting your scheme to the personnel that you have, and some team’s gonna get very lucky by drafting him.”
    (TheSpun)
  • Sports analyst Mel Kiper:
    “I know he had those two sub-par games this year against Indiana and Northwestern but he bounced back so strong in that semifinal game against Clemson, outplaying Trevor Lawrence. Back in 2019, he was spectacular with 41 touchdown passes, only three picks. I’m not going to discount what he did in 2019 and what he did in a season interrupted with COVID. I’m going to stick with Justin Fields as the second-best quarterback in the draft. I know there’s going to be some critics out there, but I’m not one of them.”
    (SaturdayTraditions)
  • Former Buckeyes coach Jim Mora:
    “I think that his dual-threat ability...they’ve (the NFL) followed the path of the college game in terms of quarterback play. The most successful - except for Tom Brady - quarterbacks in the NFL seem to be guys that can get out of the pocket and make plays either with their arm or their feet, and when you look at Justin Fields...he can remain a threat as a passer with the ball, he can throw accurately on the move whether he’s moving to his right or his left...but he’s also a threat to run the ball at all times.”
    (Buckeyes Now)

Does he fit the Broncos’ offense?

George Paton has significantly beefed up the Broncos’ secondary for this year, and the team as a whole is shaping up to be championship material.

I’m not saying the biggest hope we have of winning is to draft a new quarterback, but what Justin Fields has to offer might fit what Denver needs. Paton may decide to run it back with Drew Lock, so we’ll see what happens.

Fields’ pro day will be March 30, and he’s already promoting his skills:

When it comes to drafting a rookie quarterback, potential is so important to consider. Assuming the Broncos have the opportunity of drafting him, I think he’d be a great fit. Just watching his tapes (and his stats don’t hurt either) is enough to see enormous potential from him, even if his skills need fine-tuning.