Former Ohio State QB Justin Fields will get his first start today for the Chicago Bears, and expectations are high. The 11th overall pick, Fields has the traits to be successful even as a rookie, but a lot has to go right for him to be better than his rookie QB peers so far.
Fields was a two-sport athlete at Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Georgia. He was the starting QB there for two years and the raw talent leapt off the page as he was rarely hit cleanly and launched the ball with ease to his receivers. He competed with fellow Georgia QB Trevor Lawrence for who would be the top 5-star QB of the class. Ultimately, Fields won the Elite 11 competition and was one of the best QB recruits in recent memory.
After committing to the University of Georgia, Fields was relegated to being the back-up to Jake Fromm. When he did see action, Fields was electric and the belief was that Fromm would be benched at some point for the true freshman, similar to how Trevor Lawrence won the job over Kelly Bryant. But, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart stuck with Fromm and a tumultuous relationship with the coaching staff and the University itself led Fields to transfer to Ohio State for his second season.
Fields won the job immediately as a Buckeye and never looked back. He showcased flawless ability to throw the ball downfield and be a rushing threat that defenses had to account for. Ending up 3rd in the Heisman voting, Fields earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and was heralded as the best QB Ohio State ever had. In this 3rd and final year in college, Fields took Ohio State to the National Championship game. This led to him being viewed by many as the #2 QB in the 2021 class.
That final year did have some warts for Fields has he had a few times forcing the ball into bad situations leading to turnovers. Against Indiana, Fields three interceptions and had to use his legs to execute a victory. NFL teams seemed to question if he indeed was a top tier passer in reading defenses and it caused him to fall out of the Top Ten as the 4th QB off the board. Add in a slight hitch in his release, and that scared away some teams.
Despite these issues, the strengths give him the upside to being one of the league’s best QBs. Legit 4.5 flat speed with a powerful arm to launch the ball downfield. He has a ton of experience against top-tier competition, proving he can put up points in big games. His ball placement film is excellent, especially along the sideline, a challenging area for young QBs to throw accurately.
In the modern NFL, Fields has the traits that you want. He can be mobile in the pocket with good presence to extend plays with his legs and give his receivers time to get open. With great rushing and downfield passing ability, Fields can be a success, even as a rookie.
The Bears aren’t exactly a golden situation for a rookie QB. With an injured Offensive Line, Fields won’t have a ton of time to get the ball out or find his way out of the pocket. He has to keep his eyes downfield and feel the pressure while making quick decisions. This is probably his biggest question mark. At least David Montgomery has shown the potential to carry the load as a runner and balance out the offense.
Despite dropping a Fields pass that would have a TD, Allen Robinson is an exceptionally talented WR to lead the Bears. Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet are second-year guys with some upside, but it isn’t exactly a treasure trove of receiving targets either. Fields will need to make his way a bit against the Browns defense, who haven’t met their expectations this year.
A lot will come down to how the coaching staff utilizes Fields (hopefully better than the Jaguars and Jets have been utilizing Lawrence and Zach Wilson). If they put him in good spots to be successful, Fields will flash the abilities that could make him the best rookie QB of the class. Even with a few mistakes against the Browns, look for Fields to show promise of a high-end QB and live up to the high expectations placed on him.