2021 NFL Draft Profile: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

  • 6-3, 228
  • 40 Time: 4.60
  • Projection: First Round
Justin Fields
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Overview

As it becomes increasingly obvious that success in the modern NFL is reliant upon star power at the quarterback position, teams are increasingly willing to gamble on upside. Fields offers as much as perhaps any player in the 2021 draft class, which is why even with some troubling inconsistencies in accuracy and overall performance in his second season as a starter for Ohio State, he will still command plenty of interest from clubs on draft day.

Fields was not as productive in 2020 as he was the previous season, tossing 22 touchdowns against six interceptions in eight games, including a Sugar Bowl victory over fellow first-round quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers, as well as in a national title game loss to Alabama. Despite failing to rank among the Heisman contenders at season’s end, Fields quietly set career-highs in completion percentage (70.2) and yards-per-attempt (9.3), important metrics showing his development as a pocket passer.



The perception that Fields struggled to live up to expectations in 2020 is, at least in part, due to the fact that he was so brilliant in 2019, his first season for the Buckeyes after initially signing with his homestate Georgia Bulldogs out of high school.

While leading the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title and playoff berth, Fields accounted for a jaw-dropping 51 (41 passing) touchdowns while throwing just three interceptions, completing a sterling 67.2 percent of his passes. It was the first time that a Big Ten quarterback had ever thrown for as many as 40 touchdown passes while also rushing for at least 10 scores.

Justin Fields
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Ranked by recruiting experts as one of the elite talents in the entire country, Fields saw action in 12 of 14 games for the Bulldogs in 2018, throwing four touchdowns (while rushing for four others) in mostly mop-up duty behind then-sophomore Jake Fromm.

Rather than risk not overtaking Fromm and understandably upset after a star Georgia baseball player made racist comments about him during a game against Tennessee, Fields opted to transfer to Ohio State, where he was granted immediate clearance, leading to his breakout for the Buckeyes.

Analysis

Strengths

  • Dynamic dual-threat quarterback who can beat opponents with his arm, feet and mind.
  • Talented passer with the strong arm, touch and accuracy to make every throw.
  • Quick set-up and delivery with an efficient, over-the-top release, as well as the ability to drop his arm slot and improvise.
  • Sets his feet nicely and throws with balance, generating torque on the ball to deliver tight-spinning fastballs receivers can track easily.
  • Power arm with throws of 75-plus yards in the air dating back to high school. Scouts can hang their laundry on the frozen ropes he delivers to the sidelines with deep balls forcing receivers to keep running.
  • Flashes pillow-soft touch on quick flips, down the seams and on verticals, as well.
  • Showed impressive recognition for a first-year starting quarterback, quickly moving through his progressions and rarely risking the ball by throwing it into coverage. Wonderful athlete with the agility and acceleration to be a constant scramble threat.
  • Compact, well-built frame with the requisite body armor to take punishment.
  • Bounces off of would-be tacklers, showing impressive core strength and determination with the ball in his hands, without being reckless.
  • Good awareness and vision from the pocket, exhausting passing opportunities before scrambling.
  • Uses the threat of his running to suck up defenders, before calmly flipping the ball over them.
  • Showed his grit and competitiveness by returning to action after a big hit vs. Michigan and promptly throwing a touchdown, something matched on an even greater stage in the Sugar Bowl, where Fields threw a game-record six touchdowns in the showdown with Lawrence.



Weaknesses

  • Starred in a player-friendly scheme which created openings for receivers with clever play design and was surrounded by a virtual all-star team, including a Joe Moore Award-caliber offensive line.
  • Was not often asked to anticipate throws, instead typically waiting to see receivers open before making his deliveries.
  • Accuracy drops slightly while on the move, occasionally forcing receivers to adjust their routes.
  • Some “ballpark” rather than ballistic accuracy, getting away with some 50-50 balls that Ohio State’s athletes either turned into receptions or at least helped ensure weren’t intercepted.
  • Slightly shorter than scouts prefer.
  • Generally does a nice job of protecting his body but takes a lot of hits, raising concerns about his long-term durability.

Pro Comparison

Dak Prescott, Cowboys: While more polished than Prescott when he entered the NFL from Mississippi State, Fields still has plenty of work to do as a pocket passer. The raw talent and toughness, however, is there to project as a potential franchise quarterback, warranting an early first-round selection.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)