Last night, the former Ohio State quarterback experienced a dream coming true. The Chicago Bears selected Justin Fields 11th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. With just a contract formality standing in the way of starting his professional career, Fields will now move on to bigger and hopefully better things as a football player. Skill and ability recognized, a goal accomplished, generational wealth, and the pursuit of a Lombardi Trophy await the man who helped take the Ohio State fans and football program to extreme heights. Kudos to Justin. Buckeye Nation will root for him every step of the way.
This is not to say that it has always been puppies and rainbows for Fields. As a freshman, he was forced to sit behind an inferior quarterback at Georgia, and then left his home state to make big things happen in Columbus. Ohio State was the recipient of a few “questionable” calls in his first CFP, and suffered an arguably embarrassing defeat at the hands of an Alabama juggernaut in last year’s championship game. All the while, he — and Ohio State to an extent — faced critics, battled injuries, and endured a pandemic. Did I mention clearing the hurdle of Jim Harbaugh-led Michigan? Cheap shot, and I digress.
Fields now embarks on his Windy City journey as a face of the franchise. But what took so long for Justin to be drafted? Or, as some will ask, why was he drafted so high? For weeks and months leading up to the draft, he and others were picked apart by analysts and NFL personnel seeking the right combination of talent, potential, and positional/franchise need. While a team like the Jets has proven that draft capital and incoming talent can trump the need to develop a recently drafted quarterback, most teams tend to give the position a handful of years before moving on. The Bears’ selection is a big deal.
Coming into the 2021 season, Fields was perceived as the second-best QB prospect, or perhaps even 1B to Trevor Lawrence from Clemson. All he did over a two-year stretch was throw for over 5,300 yards and 63 touchdowns, lead Ohio State to two CFP berths, become a Heisman finalist, push the B1G return-to-play initiative, and perform lights out at multiple pro days.
By the way, he also received offers from the Ivy League, and he’s built like the modern linebacker. Need I say more? Little he did on or off the field should have done anything to change the perception of him as a prospect.
However, slowly but surely, other quarterbacks such as Zach Wilson and Mac Jones began to move the needle. Wilson (Provo, Utah’s version of Tate Martell) put up big numbers in an exciting way at BYU. Jones was the engine behind a prolific Alabama offense that ran roughshod over most of their competition (one engine for a fleet of Ferraris).
In the midst of this, Fields had a few less-than-stellar games against Indiana and Northwestern. Then, “Draft Season” began. The pundits went to work, and questions started to fly.
“He focuses on his first read too much.” “Does he really love the game?” “Is he ultra-competitive, like Tom Brady?” Recently, Fields revealed to NFL teams that he has been living — and playing — with epilepsy for years, so that of course became a topic of conversation. All of these questions were brought up as part of his evaluation. So, was he taken too low, or too high?
The answer is, we don’t know; nobody knows! The NFL (or any sport’s) Draft is a crapshoot. Just like a former intern being hired full-time at a financial firm, we need to see the performance in a professional setting. Professional athletes just happen to be paid significantly more than the common professional, so every pick and move tends to be over-analyzed before the data even exists.
For every draft bust, there is a hidden gem (again, that Brady guy). Look at recent NFL QB movement, and then try to tell somebody that any of the 2021 draftees were taken in the wrong spot. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Justin Fields was drafted by the team that wanted him the most, traded up to draft him, and sees the most potential in him. So therefore, he is currently in the right place; drafted right where he should have been. Here at LGHL, we are excited to see what happens next for him, and my money is on fireworks.
Which QB drafted in 2021 will have the most individual success?
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