Height: 6-foot-3 (1.91m)
Weight: 227 lbs (103kg)
Age: 21 (22 during 2021 NFL Draft)
- Incredible athleticism
- Has all the physical tools you could want in a potentially elite NFL quarterback
- Great mobility and size
- Has the arm to make most NFL throws, will occasionally make jaw-dropping rocket throws
- Shows flashes of excellent touch ability
- Shows flashes of good footwork in the pocket
- Shows flashes of pocket mobility
- Can throw off platform
- Showed ability to vary arm angles with pressure in his face
- Throwing motion needs to be more compact -- ball drops below his elbow
- Occasionally lazy with base
- Has tendency to drop front elbow, leading to underthrows
- Slow reader of the field
- Occasionally lacks touch on deep balls (trajectory is too flat)
- Occasionally panicked under pressure and wasn't able to get rid of ball
- Needs to work on pre-snap reads, especially with identifying blitzes
- Refused to slide and took unnecessary hits (ie Clemson game)
Summary and Archetype:
Simply put, Justin Fields is everything you want in a potentially elite NFL quarterback -- a great arm, excellent mobility, and strong intangibles.
The Ohio State quarterback was highly touted as a five-star recruit in 2018 and initially played for the Georgia Bulldogs, where he sat behind Jake Fromm. After transferring to the Buckeyes, Fields showed very quickly that he would be a top prospect in the draft, throwing for 3,273 yards, 41 touchdowns and three interceptions in 2019, and 2,100 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2020.
A lot of draft philosophy can be boiled down to how upside is valued against immediate production.
Especially recently, projecting raw quarterbacks like Fields in the league is tricky because of how important it has become in finding a truly "elite" quarterback -- the "do x to get x" mentality of evaluating quarterbacks is starting to change. Naturally transcendent throwers like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen weren't polished as prospects, but once developed, are playing on a different level compared to the rest of the league.
If there was a spectrum of upside versus immediate production, on the upside extreme would be a prospect such as Allen, and on the production extreme would be a prospect such as Mac Jones. Fields lies about a third of the way through the spectrum, closer to the "upside" end. Therefore, while he was great in college, he has a lot of developing left.
Fields has a robust collection of highlight plays in which he does everything: dimes from the pocket, missiles on the run, out-speeding defenders, trucking defensive backs -- everything. He is the definition of an electric prospect at the most important position, and will immediately improve a lot of teams in the league with his natural athleticism.
However, despite his incredible ceiling, there is concern with his realistic level of play in the league, and this concern stems mainly from his ineffectiveness in the mental aspect of the game. Fields generally only had a single read on a play and rarely had to make full-field reads. He additionally had a lot of trouble picking up blitzes and calling the correct checks at the line, which meant that he had to rely too much on his athleticism to bail him out of compromised positions.
As a whole though, Fields' biggest concerns can be fixed after either a year of sitting behind a veteran or simply by being drafted into a good situation. While I don't think Fields will be "bad," per se, if drafted by a weaker team such as the New York Jets, I think he will have to go to a team with a proven coaching staff to become the truly elite NFL player that many college fans expect him to be.
Fit with the Patriots:
Speaking of good coaching staffs...
Fields to the New England Patriots would be a dream-come-true scenario for fans. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels already attempted to create a more mobile-quarterback-friendly scheme with Cam Newton, and while the end product wasn't very successful throughout the course of a season, the team has shown an ability to adapt relatively decently to otherwise anemic personnel.
In order for Fields to really shine with the Patriots, he will obviously need weapons -- if he does fall to pick 15, Bill Belichick can likely take advantage of the free agent market and the team's massive cap space to get Fields some help. It's worth noting that New England has already done an excellent job building up arguably the most important piece of an offense: the offensive line. Even without weapons, Field's ability to be a dual threat will give the team an improved iteration of the Newton-style offense.
The point of interest if Fields lands with the Patriots isn't his role, it's his development; the New England offensive system is notoriously hard to learn, but if Fields can demonstrate a strong grasp of the system, he can be a truly elite quarterback for the Patriots to build another potential dynasty around.