2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Justin Fields
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Coming out of high school, Fields was one of the top recruits in the nation along with Clemson's Trevor Lawrence. Fields then ended up at Georgia after a competitive recruiting battle. As a freshman backup to Jake Fromm, Fields was 27-of-39 for 328 yards and four touchdowns, plus he rushed for four more scores. Fields decided to transfer to Ohio State following that season because the Bulldogs were sticking with Fromm as their starter for 2019.
Fields was one of the nation's best players for the Buckeyes in 2019, dominating the Big Ten and leading them to a spot in the college football playoff. The sophomore completed 67 percent of his passes that season for 3,273 yards with 41 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for 484 yards and 10 scores.
Fields turned in a number of uneven performances across Ohio State's limited 2020 schedule. He dominated Nebraska, Penn State and Rutgers, but he struggled against Indiana and Northwestern. Fields then played well in the college football playoff, leading Ohio State to a win over Clemson and putting up a respectable outing versus Alabama. In 2020, Fields completed 70 percent of his passes for 2,100 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. He had five rushing scores as well.
As a passer, Fields has a lot of ability for the next level. He can throw the ball accurately, showing rhythm and anticipation. Consistently, Fields locates his passes well, placing them in position for his receiver to make the catch and pick up additional yards. Fields has a quality arm and can push the ball vertically, but he does not just fire fastballs, as he throws a very catchable ball. Fields demonstrates good feel, lofting in touch passes and throwing flat. He is an aggressive quarterback who challenges defenses downfield. Fields will need to learn to utilize his check downs more as a pro, however, because not using those open options led to numerous poor decisions in 2020
Overall, Fields does a good job of protecting the football and avoiding interceptions. He typically makes good decisions, and with his ability to locate the ball, he does not regularly provide a defense with the opportunity to take the ball away. Fields does a nice job of moving his eyes while scrambling and is cognizant to look downfield for receivers uncovering. When he gets rattled by blitzes though, he can drop his eyes. For the most part, Fields does a respectable job of seeing the field while moving. He also throws accurately on the run.
In terms of his ability on the ground, Fields reminds me of Deshaun Watson in terms of shiftiness, quick feet, and elusiveness. Fields can juke and dodge defenders in embarrassing fashion with his burst to accelerate into space. On top of his feet and quickness, Fields has a sturdy build that gives him the strength to create a push in short-yardage situations. In the NFL, Fields won't be a runner like Lamar Jackson, but his mobility could be similar to Watson's or Dak Prescott's.
There are definitely some major areas for improvement for Fields for the NFL. He has to improve his pocket awareness and not panic with the rush bearing down on him. Fields can get rattled by the pass rush, and blitzes can cause him to freeze in the pocket. Improving his ability to pass from the pocket while under heavy pressure is the No. 1 aspect that Fields must improve upon for the NFL.
Fields is raw and enters the league having only started 1.5 seasons, so some of his developmental issues are understandable. Considering his limited experience as a starter, his field vision has a good starting point, but it needs to improve for the NFL. Fields needs to speed up the process to work through his progressions and be quicker at reading coverage. He won't have as much time in the pocket in the NFL compared to what he had at Ohio State. Fields can hold the ball too long sometimes, and he got away with it because of the competition. There were also plays where he needed to take the short completion to open underneath receivers or the check down rather than forcing riskier throws downfield. Related to the vision, Fields needs to improve his knowledge of defenses and blitz recognition. He can have problems when facing heavy pressure and can get rattled by blitzes - see Clemson in 2019 and Indiana and Northwestern in 2020. NFL teams will blitz him heavily until he shows he can burn the blitz. Fields should be able to improve on all of these issues with more experience and coaching.
With his skill set and passing ability, Fields has the tools to be a franchise quarterback and a good NFL starter. He could use more development, so going to a good coaching staff will be critical for him to pan out as a pro.
Player Comparison: Deshaun Watson/Dak Prescott. Some team sources say Fields is built like a thicker Deshaun Watson, and others say he has a build like Dak Prescott. Many forget that Watson had some uneven performances in his final year of college. I think Fields could be similar NFL quarterback to Watson, while some team sources comped Fields to Prescott.
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