When Justin Fields was selected 11th overall in the 2021 NFL draft, most of us assumed that he had just been given the keys to the Chicago Bears franchise. With only Andy Dalton and Nick Foles on the roster, Fields was going to be named the Week 1 starting quarterback, and lead Chicago to their first Super Bowl victory since Walter Payton and Co. were doing The Shuffle in 1986.
33 years ago, the Super Bowl Shuffle was born ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/CkumlxAbO5— Barstool Chicago (@barstoolchicago) December 3, 2019
Unfortunately, Bears coach Matt Nagy has since put a damper on those thoughts. He has repeatedly said that Dalton is the starter, will remain the starter until the beginning of the season, and that the team has a plan for everything after that. The Bears also had a plan for Mitch Trubisky…
Regardless of your belief in Fields, or confidence in his ability, fantasy football players have to take Nagy at his word come draft time. Unless a change is formally announced, the former OSU quarterback is not worth a selection outside of deep dynasty leagues. Even if a change were to take place, I would argue that quarterbacks are best to wait on — unless you are grabbing Pat Mahomes or Josh Allen at great value. With the added uncertainty of the Bears’ situation, it is best just to avoid Fields altogether, despite your inner-Buckeye homer telling you otherwise.
For the record, I believe Fields will be great both on the field and in fantasy lineups. However, fantasy football is best played without emotion for your favorite former Buckeye.
Fields is entering a competition that his own coach has stated he will not win. Maybe that coach will be proven wrong, and what he sees on the field will force his hand. If football fans have learned anything, it is that coaches are stubborn. Coaches are especially stubborn if they have found success in the past, which Nagy has done. He may also be doing the best thing for Fields, which is to let him sit and learn, rather than putting him in a position to fail early.
Although it is likely just a matter of time before Fields does earn the starting nod in Chicago, there is recent history of young quarterbacks being handled in different ways. Mahomes is arguably the best quarterback in the league, and the beginning of his NFL career is similar to that of Fields. Both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Bears traded up to get their coveted quarterback. Both teams have a veteran starter in place, and a plan for the rookie to acclimate to the pros. It worked out pretty damn well for Kansas City, so why would the Bears lack faith in their plan? It is worth mentioning that Matt Nagy was in K.C. when they drafted Mahomes, and played a role in his development.
Other teams draft their future franchise quarterback and thrust him into the starting role immediately. There have been both horror and success stories as a result; too many to dissect.
But the last possibility, and what I find to be most likely, is that Dalton will keep the seat warm until Chicago plateaus or struggles for too long, and then Fields is given an opportunity. This same scenario has occurred over and over again, also with mixed results. While the results have varied, I believe that Fields will follow a similar trajectory to that of Tua Tagovailoa in 2020. Tua sat behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for the first part of the season, before being tabbed to start nine of the last ten games.
However the events transpire, it is risky if not irresponsible to take Fields with a high pick in your fantasy football draft. Since 2000, only five rookie quarterbacks have finished inside the top ten at their position. Cam Newton (2011), Robert Griffin III (2012), and Kyler Murray (2019) were outliers due to their running ability and starting opportunity. They each ran for at least 500 yards and five touchdowns.
Dak Prescott unexpectedly won the Dallas Cowboys’ starting job in 2016, and put up great numbers after a Tony Romo injury. The most recent top-10 finisher was Justin Herbert last season. Herbert only became the starter after an unfortunate medical procedure forced San Diego Chargers starter Tyrod Taylor out of the lineup minutes before a game.
While it is not exactly likely that Fields will start Week 1, it is even more unlikely that he puts up big stats when he does earn an opportunity. The Bears have one great receiver in Allen Robinson. Other pass-catching threats are few and far between in Chicago. Their running back, David Montgomery, came on strong at the end of 2020, but he has been inconsistent over his first few seasons.
The Bears need to continue to build the offense around whomever their quarterback is. We have seen Fields elevate those around him, but a below-average NFL offense presents a challenge for even the most skilled QB.
Ohio State fans surely cannot wait to see Fields play at the next level. Like many others, I expect him to be great. But fantasy football is about much more than collecting talented players. In order for a player to produce, he must possess great ability, have ample opportunity, and share the field with skilled teammates. Fields simply does not meet all the criteria. Sit on him in your drafts. Take him late if you are bold, and be ready to pounce when QB1 gets his chance.
Do you plan to take Justin Fields in your fantasy football draft?
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