Too often in our daily news cycle we hear stories on draft day about the black quarterback that could be a potential bust. Do you remember the things that were said about Russell Wilson? Or do you remember how Blaine Gabbert was a better quarterback than Cam Newton? We could throw Jake Locker in that 2011 mix, but only one of them is still a starting quarterback. To be fair Blaine Gabbert does have a Super Bowl ring, but he didn’t play in the game to earn it. Sometimes the narrative gets pushed against quarterbacks in college that maybe they’re not smart enough, or they don’t process reads on the field quick enough. There’s always something. The 2021 version in the NFL draft of this particular example, is Ohio state’s Justin Fields
From Kennesaw Georgia, Justin Fields has been in the limelight for more than half a decade. From his play on the field in high school, to his personal competition against the number one draft pick, Trevor Lawrence, for a long time. His high school record is impeccable, but people only measure your standard by what you do in college and the pros. He couldn’t beat out Jake Fromm in 2018 for the starting position, so he transferred to Ohio State. He had been used to being a starter since his days in high school. So now, having to readjust his game, and his mentality, he wanted to prove all the doubters wrong. Critics and analysts often said that he is a potential draft bust. Or that he’s lazy in the film room, doesn’t read defenses as well. They don’t like his footwork. They’re not quite sure if he’s durable. Very often you get analysts that break down a quarterback a little bit different than they would break down their white counterparts. Some even said that he wasn’t top prospect material. From his days in Harrison high school, he was fighting and battling with Trevor Lawrence for the top quarterback spot in the country. Trevor, unlike Fields, is the number one prospect that will land in Jacksonville, Florida. Fields’ draft stock is up in question, but naysayers don’t want to look at his college records. From 2019 to 2020 he did nothing but wreck shop.
Since arriving in Ohio State all he did was produce. In 2019 he completed 67.2% of his passes. He threw for 3,273 yards his sophomore year in college, averaged 9.2 yards a pass, and exploded for 41 touchdown passes to three interceptions. He also showed that he was a dual threat quarterback. He rushed for 471 yards and 10 touchdowns as well his sophomore year. He lost to the Clemson Tigers on the last play of the game proved to be heartbreaking, and judgmental. From that point forward people questioned his leadership. They also questioned whether or not he had the mentality to be an NFL quarterback. People are still questioning his intangibles. 6 ft 3, 227 lb, who can run a 4.4 40 yd dash, but still not good enough. It’s easy to argue that he has the best and most accurate deep ball of any of the quarterbacks available in this year’s draft, but somehow we look at the bad with some quarterbacks instead of all of the good. His only defeat was to Clemson in the 2019 bowl game. He went undefeated in the regular season.
In a covid-stricken season, Justin Fields pleaded with the NCAA to allow the Big Ten to play a regular season. With a shortened schedule, Ohio State only faced five opponents. People worried whether that would be a big enough resume to make it into the BCS bowls. His numbers were not spectacular. With only 2,200 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, the numbers weren’t superior at all for a top labeled prospect. Yet, somehow some way they produced wins. When the BCS Bowl was presented to Ohio State at number four, everyone counted Ohio State out. Once again being matched up with Clemson, everyone thought that it would be a rerun of what they saw in 2019. But this is why they play the game. Fields was spectacular. He threw for 346 yards, and five touchdowns. It is debatable whether or not he accomplished this feat with a broken rib. Often being matched up and compared against Trevor Lawrence in high school and in college, Fields played with a major chip on his shoulder. Ohio state was no match against Alabama. Alabama was Superior on both sides of the ball. While Mac Jones isn’t the superior quarterback, it is assumed that he is a better quarterback due to the fact that he was able to manage the game, and lead the Alabama Crimson Tide to victory. People often look at results, other than numbers. Wins and losses is a team effort, yet Justin Fields was taking the brunt of the blame for losing against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama will could have potentially seven players leave in the first round of this year’s draft. DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Patrick Surtain, Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood, Christian Barmore, and Mac Jones.
In regards to his collegiate career at Ohio State, Justin Fields threw for 5,473 yards, 63 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. His total QBR was a whopping 92.1%, while his completion percentage was 68.8%. He rushed for 854 yards, and 15 touchdowns in two seasons. Yet somehow, some way, he’s a potential draft bust. There are a lot of things that Justin Fields doesn’t have in common with any of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft. He faced Power 5 teams unlike Trey Lance. He beat Trevor Lawrence, although his team did play less games than Clemson. Trevor Lawrence record finishes at 39-3. Field’s doesn’t have any DUIs under his belt, unlike Mack Jones. Vicariously, Jones’s indiscretion gets swept under the rug. And finally, unlike Zach Wilson he played and won against top notch competition.
Maybe it’s because he’s a quiet guy. Maybe it’s because he’s been a silent leader since his days in high school. Maybe it’s because he’s a consummate worker, and confident in his abilities, and somehow some way that rubs people the wrong way. Something doesn’t fit the narrative when it comes to all of the criticism that Justin Fields faces on an everyday basis. Now it is without a doubt that his epilepsy issues will and could make his draft stock fall. If a team is willing to take a chance on him, that lucky team can definitely reap the benefits of a dual threat quarterback with a lot to prove and offer. Epilepsy hasn’t affected his football career yet, and it is said that over time as he gets older that his surges for epilepsy will decrease. When speaking with Kirk Herbstreit about the hypocrisy when it comes to college quarterbacks, he gave me an excellent quote that should summarize this article. My final note, Ohio State quarterbacks have had a terrible history of success in the NFL. It’s time for Justin Fields to change the narrative.
Deshaun Watson 6-4, 225 pretty solid, and yet, people were questioning whether he was solid enough to play, yet Zach Wilson is 6-2, 210, but no one questions that. How do we handle the hypocrisy when it comes to analyzing these college quarterbacks?
Herbstreit: “Well, to me, I don’t know how you filter the noise that’s out there. I try to filter it the best I can. I don’t speak to a ton of NFL folks leading up to the draft. I don’t know if all this noise that you’re referring to is coming directly from the NFL or if it’s coming from media, the media, you know it seems like often it comes from anonymous sources when it comes to evaluating these guys they are questioning. These players, I think they all know going in, they’ve watched it since they’ve been in high school. You know that once they get ready for the draft, if they’re lucky enough to be in that position, especially as a first rounder that they’re all going to be scrutinized to a certain degree, I know what you’re referring to. I know I personally don’t really get caught up in it, I evaluate the film. I don’t listen to things when it comes to what you’re referring to. I break down quarterbacks. I don’t break down white quarterbacks. I don’t break down black quarterbacks. I break down quarterbacks and because to me that’s what all these guys are. If you want to talk about the system that they come out of. If you want to talk about the consistency they have played with or maybe have not played with, I’ll talk about that all day, but when I hear – like I called it earlier, BS or nonsense about any of these players that I’m not familiar with any of that information on my own. It’s like a lot of stuff that you hear on social media or a lot of stuff that we consume whether it’s sports or politics, it’s up to you to on how you want to filter out what makes sense and what’s real and what isn’t. And, to me, I haven’t heard an NFL GM or an NFL head coach in the last four, five, six weeks come out and say anything in a derogatory way about Justin Fields. Is it happening? I have no idea are people saying quote unquote sources are saying things? That’s happening, but I haven’t spoken anybody, and whenever I do talk about quarterbacks I’ve never spoken to anybody in my life that’s it college or in the pros that breaks down a quarterback and has certain concerns because a quarterback is black or because the quarterback is white. The people that I speak with they break down quarterbacks and they’re more concerned about how he’s playing and how he’s leading, what kind of intangibles does he bring to the table, what kind of decision maker is he? I’ve just never met anybody that really gets caught up in that. I don’t want to say naive. I’ve just never experienced it and so, when I hear people talking about that I just kind of tune out. I just don’t participate. I don’t really hear much about that on a personal level.”
San francisco, Denver, and the New York Jets are all in need of a quarterback. Let’s wait and see who is brave enough to take a chance on this Georgia Buckeye.
feature photo: ESPN