Justin Fields’ rookie season wasn’t easy on the eyes. Sure, his performance was fun and entertaining (and most importantly, promising). But the need for further development is/was plainly evident.
With that said, Gregg Rosenthal just ranked the 62 starting quarterbacks of the 2021 season, and Fields placement is rather favorable, if not for the overall ranking (28th), than for his position relative to some other notable contemporaries.
For instance, Fields ranks higher than fellow rookie (and 2021 NFL Draft first overall pick) Trevor Lawrence (32nd). He also checks in ahead of Zach Wilson (43rd), who beat out Fields (and others) to be the second QB taken in last year’s class. When it comes to Wilson, Rosenthal writes that he was a “primary reason” the Jets are uncompetitive in about half of his starts. Ouch. Fields also tops Sam Darnold (42nd), whom the Panthers committed to when they could’ve easily taken Fields with the eighth overall pick. Same for Drew Lock (47th), once seen as the Broncos’ heir apparent. And, yes, Fields out-ranks Jordan Love, who Rosenthal writes had “a lot” of misses, turnover plays, and confusion. There were still “wow” throws, but Rosenthal notes Love “still looked like a rookie, which isn’t the greatest sign.”
As for the assessment of Fields, Rosenthal’s outlook is sunnier than you might otherwise expect:
The tools are there. He ran more than expected, and his deep accuracy came as advertised. Missing five starts down the stretch was disappointing, but he’s going to be learning a new offense in 2022 anyhow. Wasting a year with Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace was predictable, but I’m just as high on Fields now as I was on draft day.
It is only a few sentences, but they’re a refreshing few. Twelve games into his NFL career and there are no questions about the pure skills. Fields still has loud tools, highlighted by an arm that can stretch the field vertically and connect with splash plays. His legs made him an exceptional weapon (and probably saved him from getting crunched a time or two). And there’s that flair for the dramatic that can be a game-changer that hasn’t gone anywhere. Does Fields still have work to do? Absolutely. But that NFL pundits are still was high on him now as they were on draft day *DESPITE* failures by Nagy and Pace to be helpful on any level is encouraging.