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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: QB Justin Fields

  • The Draft Network
  • December 18, 2020
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Justin Fields projects as a franchise quarterback at the NFL level—he offers the blend of throwing ability, athleticism, stature, and clutch play that will cause NFL teams to fall in love with his evaluation, even if his 2020 campaign showed some cracks in his play. Fields' ability as a passer is top shelf when accounting for his natural delivery and how easily he's proven to be able to throw around defenders or work himself into generating velocity and accuracy when on the move; the Buckeyes embraced rolling the pocket with Fields at quarterback to take advantage of his arm strength and the subsequent access he'll get to all areas of the field as a passer. Fields will kill man-coverage heavy teams with his legs; he's big, strong, and yet still quite dynamic as a runner, so breaking contain and converting third downs with his legs is a large staple of the conflict Fields is capable of putting you into as a player. There are also plenty of examples of Fields successfully engineering option-based reps in the mesh point between zone read, RPO concepts and extending even to sparing use of the speed option, giving his NFL coordinator the full bag of tricks to create conflict defenders and isolate them in the game plan. It's what Fields has largely done best. There are instances of overconfidence in his arm and continuing to quicken his process beyond the first read is a needed point of emphasis for Fields to stay "on schedule" and keep his sack totals down, but that is inevitably going to be part of his game that his pro team will have to be ready to live with in the same way it is true for quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, and others. Their play can be a double-edged sword at times and so it will be for Fields, who is every bit as physically gifted as those previously mentioned passers. Fields will need to arrive to a destination that embraces his ability to win with his legs and the QB run game or else run the risk of a bumpy road early on as a starting NFL quarterback; but if he is paired with a head coach or offensive coordinator who can pull the best parts of his college game and implement them in the NFL, Fields has the potential to splash early.

Ideal Role: Franchise Quarterback

Scheme Fit: Hybrid Spread/West Coast Offense with QB power run dynamics


Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Cincinnati (2019), Wisconsin (2019), Penn State (2019), Michigan (2019), Illinois (2020), Clemson (2019), Nebraska (2020), Penn State (2020), Rutgers (2020), Indiana (2020), Northwestern (2020)

Best Game Studied: Penn State (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Northwestern (2020)

Accuracy: His ability to throw strikes to all levels of the field is impressive; he's done well on vertical throws to drop them over the shoulder just as well as he can lace a far sideline out right on the numbers and in stride with timing. There's plenty of flashes of Fields throwing dimes on the move as well. He'll throw strikes on scramble drills and quickly push the football to uncovered receivers amid the chaos. It is easy to appreciate some of his rock and release red zone work, too—he'll make quick throws in the red area that are tight windows and away from leveraged defenders in tight space, indicating he has that "artistic" eye for the most congested areas of the field.

Decision Making: There are definitely some instances of overconfidence in his arm; trying to force throws up the seam while ignoring the post defender. His lapses here are exacerbated by his habit of dropping his eyes when he begins to feel the pocket squeeze around him—he's fortunately quite gifted in getting out of those instances and then subsequently finding open receivers or utilizing his legs. He's very proficient to take profits on the boundary against soft coverages and identifying soft spaces in coverage before the snap. He feels like a rhythmic passer. The games he's struggled the most in have come against quality opposition who can get him out of his zone early on and disrupt the flow of the game.

Poise: Big-time players make big-time plays and Fields has, even in the games where he has struggled, consistently found winning plays throughout the contest. It may not always be as a passer, either—he's got that mobile quarterback dynamic that seemingly all of the NFL's best have to some degree to fall back on when he's pressured and forced to create on his own. Awareness of blitzes can improve, although some of that may be due to the Buckeyes' system and the need to install more easily digestible hots into concepts so he can be drilled on getting the ball out quick to beat the blitz. He's a fearless passer and not afraid to challenge tacklers in one-on-ones if it stands between him and a big play.

Progressions: He'll get busted habitually sitting on his first read a little too often and as a result, his timing working deeper into his targets can get disrupted and forces his offense into scramble drill. That will be the book on Fields early on, how many answers can his play-caller build into each rep for him through the mesh point—RPOs are likely to be an essential layer to his play as he's first getting acclimated to the NFL level to avoid a heavy workload of scanning full field of play. Based on his current play, he'd probably be most effective highlighting those conflict defenders and working with "MOFO/MOFC" (middle of the field open/closed) progression rules instead of pure progressions.

Release: Slingshot-style passer who can effortlessly whip the football if he's staring down the barrel of interior pressure and his quick release allows him to get away with some of his prolonged holding of the football for his preferred target to uncover. He's comfortable dropping his arm angle and throwing from a variety of arm slots to avoid crowded throwing lanes and shows no lapses in accuracy when charged with doing so.

Pocket Manipulation: There are quite a few instances of him dropping his eyes and looking for escape hatches in the pocket, which won't result in as many big plays at the pro level with tighter windows to work with. But he's quite sufficient at forcing the first arriving rusher to miss and climbing or juking his way into space on the perimeter, where he'll get downhill and get momentum behind his delivery. His deep set passing is complemented with an effective hitch to force whiffs by engaged defenders off the edge and buying him the split second he needs to push the ball vertically.

Arm Strength: There's plenty of juice in his arm and he'll effortlessly spin deep shots down the field as opportunities arise, regardless of whether he's faced with split safeties and taking the deep post or single high and forced to shoot his throws down the sideline. His velocity on the move is the most dangerous dynamic of his arm strength; he can be rolling left and still square himself and work vertically as available. Throws to the far side of the field look as effortless as pitch and catch.

Mobility: This is a dangerous player in the open field. The quarterback power dynamic to his game, which is complemented by a stocky build to sustain wear and tear on 100-plus carries over a 16-game season, adds further dynamics that will make him challenging to stop, even when he's not humming as a passer (just ask Indiana). There's plenty of long speed to break angles from pass rushers and B-level defenders as he presses for the sideline and he's big enough to physically impose smaller defenders in the secondary or on the perimeter.

Leadership: Fields transferred in from Georgia and immediately energized the Buckeyes offense. His fearless style of play is easy to root for from afar, let along knowing he's your quarterback. You'll often see Fields exercising the little aspects of leadership; such as a quick correction with a young receiver after a mistimed rep (Northwestern, 2020) or visibly taking accountability for a poor throw (Indiana, 2020). Knowing that Fields is a fearless player and willing to own his share of the shortcomings suggests he'll be a fine leader of a locker room at the pro level as well. Fields has willed big plays into existence with the football over his two years with the Buckeyes and produced an environment in which his teammates fall in line during crunch time to pull out needed plays for the win.

Mechanics: Some of his quick throws on predesigned screens to the perimeter struggle to be on target but some added focus to snapping the feet will help the cause. He's someone who can easily fall into just leaning into his arm because he's got the physical skill to do so, but when he's throwing with a set base and really rooted in the ground with all his cleats; he'll throw dots all over the field. As with any passer, his consistency does wane when his foundation isn't established; but his rushed ergonomics as a passer still produce better results than his contemporaries on a snap-by-snap basis.

Prospect Comparison: Dak Prescott (2016 NFL Draft, Dallas Cowboys)


TDN Consensus: 88.75/100

Joe Marino: 89.50/100

Kyle Crabbs: 88.50/100

Jordan Reid: 89.00/100

Drae Harris: 88.00/100

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