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March 01, 2021

Eagles 2021 draft prospect review: Ohio State QB Justin Fields

Eagles NFL
030121JustinFields Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State QB Justin Fields

The Philadelphia Eagles will surely add quarterbacks this offseason, with Jalen Hurts currently serving as the only one on the roster. It's really only a matter of what kind of resources they will put into the position. Would they take one with the sixth overall pick, or even trade up for one? That will depend heavily on what the Eagles think they have in Hurts. In case you missed our review of Hurts' rookie season, you can find that here.

The 2021 draft class is a strong one, as four quarterback prospects – Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, BYU’s Zach Wilson, and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance – are all first-round locks, and it’s quite possible that all four get picked in the top 10. And so, I guess I should probably familiarize myself with all four guys, and as long as I'm doing so, while I'm no NFL scout, I'll still opine on what I saw.

Last week we started with Wilson, and continued on with Lance. Today we'll cover Fields. 

Justin Fields overview

Coming out of high school, Fields committed to Penn State, decommitted to Penn State, enrolled at Georgia, and then transferred to Ohio State. He was a Heisman candidate for much of 2019 at OSU, when he threw 41 TDs vs. 3 INTs. Heading into 2020, Fields was thought of as a likely top 10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, as he remains that, of course, but some flaws in his game emerged in what was otherwise another strong season.

Level of competition 👍

Ohio State made the College Football Playoff in each of Fields' two seasons as the starter, facing Clemson twice in the semi-final (1 win, 1 loss) and Alabama once in the National Championship Game (a loss). Those were his only two losses at OSU. He also played in a Big 10 conference with a lot of good football programs.

Though Fields did play against good competition, it's worth noting that he played behind an elite offensive line (opposing defenses also had to worry about a strong OSU rushing attack), and he threw to very good receivers. 

Size/athletic Measurables 💪

Ohio State listed Fields at 6'3, 228 pounds, which doesn't feel fudged. Like Lawrence, Wilson, and Lance, Fields has running ability. I'm curious how he tests at his Pro Day. While he is clearly an elusive runner with a power element to go along with it, I wouldn't be surprised if he runs in the 4.7 range.

Accuracy 🎯

Accuracy is obviously a positive trait. Fields completed 67.2 percent of his passes in 2019, and 70.2 percent of his passes in 2020. 

In addition to impressive accuracy on deep balls, he routinely hit tight window throws in the red zone, and on easier short throws he put the ball in the right spots to maximize YAC opportunities.

But where he really stood out was his willingness to challenge opposing corners who seemingly had good coverage. For example, the ball placement on this slot fade throw against Alabama to a covered receiver is a thing of beauty. 

030121FieldsFade2

Or this fade down the sideline to a covered Chris Olave: 

030121FieldsFadeGif

In the NFL, those are the types of throws you have to make. You can't always just depend on hitting wide open receivers like so many college quarterbacks do. Fields showed that he can hit these more challenging NFL-style throws, whereas many quarterback prospects sort of have to learn how to do that once they get to the next level.

There are times when he'll try to force throws that maybe aren't there, but personally, I'd rather see that out of a prospect than a guy who is afraid to pull the trigger unless it's wide open.

Arm Strength 💪

Still hurting after a big hit earlier in the game against Clemson, Fields moved to his left away from a pass rusher and uncorked this 60-plus yard throw. WEEEEEEEEE!

030121FieldsDeepGif

So, uh, yes, his arm strength is good. 

Mobility ✔

Over his career, Fields racked up 1133 rushing yards and 19 rushing TDs. Wilson has a little more suddenness in his running ability, and Lance is more of a bruiser.

Mobility will be an asset for Fields in the NFL, but one that I believe he'll rely on less than Wilson and Lance.

Release/Mechanics ✔

Pure passer. Throws a pretty ball, rarely ever a wobble. Gives me a little bit of a Warren Moon vibe.

Pocket presence 😬

This is a clear area of concern. Despite playing behind an outstanding offensive line, Fields took 31 sacks in 2019, and 21 sacks in 2020. That would be 52(!) sacks in 22 games. He doesn't recognize the blitz well, and will get flustered by it when late to recognize. Spoiler: Defensive coordinators are going to blitz the living crap out of him early in his career.

There is bust potential if Fields' NFL team can't get him to improve pre-snap recognition, and make opposing defenses pay for blitzes with quicker decision-making. To be fair, however, Fields only had one full year as a starter in college, and one COVID-shortened season, so he could improve in that area as he gets more reps, but there could be some ugly games early.

Play-making ability 👍

Fields didn't make the same types of off-schedule highlight reel "wow" plays that Wilson and Lance did, but he made his share of big plays throwing on the run.

Intangibles

He's tough. In the semi-final game against Clemson, Fields took this big shot to his back from LB James Skalski, suffering a hip injury. He remained on the field for a bit, came off for one play, and was right back in there.

Fields would throw a TD on his first play back on the field, and then proceed to throw three more. It was also interesting to see how he changed his game after that hit. Clearly in a lot of pain, Fields had to win without the use of his running ability, and he was able to become a pure pocket passer and pick apart the Clemson defense.

It's also probably worth noting that Fields played in his share of huge games at the collegiate level, and played well, so big games in the NFL shouldn't faze him.

Otherwise, I can't speak to what NFL teams think of his mentality.

Age 👍

He'll turn 22 on March 5.

Worthy of the sixth overall pick?

Yep. Fields' pure ability as a passer and as a runner make him worthy of the sixth overall pick. It might just take some time to iron out some of the rough areas.


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