In the final stretch leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, there is so much misinformation. Some manufactured in an attempt to damage the stock of a prospect, like the alleged drug use of Dan Marino prior to the 1983 NFL Draft. Most are much more genuine, a misread article or a misquote that just happens to spread like wildfire. So how do we tell fact from fiction in this time of rampant speculation? Well, that’s what I’ll be working on over these last few days of the draft.
Today we’ll break down rumors, myths, and narratives regarding Justin Fields and the roller coaster that has been his draft stock. Here’s how the process works, I’ll break down the story, bring evidence to its fact or fiction, and give an honest verdict. and without further ado…
Myth #1: Justin Fields almost never looks past his first read, and struggles when he does because he is slow to process information.
This is something that originated from a quote from ESPN’s Todd McShay claiming that teams expressed concerns over this part of Fields’ game. Here’s the quote:
“It’s not about Fields falling or anything about his skill set. He is probably the most physically gifted quarterback in this class. The only issue when I talk to teams is that he had over 200 passes last year, 200 plus were off his first read and only seven were him sitting in the pocket going from progression one to progression two.”
But here’s the thing, it doesn’t show up on film. At all. Fields does have a tendency to lock on to Chris Olave at times, but it’s far less often than the above quote seems to claim. In fact, Fields very often will get to his fourth or fifth read before passing the ball. He’s one of the more advanced passers in this draft in that regard. But I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here is ESPN Analyst Dan Orlovsky breaking down his progressions.
Really watch the way Orlovsky breaks down this play, this is how you scout this trait. Notice that Fields not only moves his eyes to each read, but also resets his feet to each read to ensure an accurate pass when he finds the correct read. The feet in particular really demonstrate how proficient Fields is in this particular trait. How Proficient? Let’s ask Pro Football Focus.
Not only is he proficient he’s the best in this class according to PFF’s data. So why does this myth exist? I believe it’s a mixture of a few things, Ohio State’s reputation for running a simplistic offense that schemes guys open as well as the bad taste the NFL got with the Dwayne Haskins debacle.
Verdict: Myth Busted (100% False)
Myth #2: Fields isn’t an accurate passer.
This is another that may stem back to the helmet donned on Saturdays, but regardless of it’s origin it seems the idea that Fields would need to work on his accuracy has found its way into the NFL Draft circles. Once again, this doesn’t show up on tape. At All. Fields is an extremely accurate passer, maybe the most accurate in this class.
Derrik Klassen called Justin Fields adjusted accuracy “the best he’s ever had” in his time Quantifying QB prospects, while his true accuracy rating is tops in the 2021 QB Class. Here’s a similar study from Ian Wharton of Sports Bets Review
Surprise Surprise, Justin Fields is not only the most accurate overall but he’s also the most accurate to all levels of the field. Pro Football Focus has Justin Fields as the most accurate on all throws over 20 yards, the highest average depth of target, and the highest passer rating from a clean pocket.
All in all, he’s laser accurate. The myth however…is not.
Verdict: Myth Busted (100% false)
Myth #3: Justin Fields played in a simplistic offense that manufactured yards on screens and simple reads.
This myth will be a quick one, in part because I have already busted half of this myth (see: Myth #1), and in part because I want to spend more time on the next, and final myth regarding Justin Fields. I want to make something absolutely clear here, this is based on truth, but it’s not a truth that applies to Fields. The offense that Dwayne Haskins ran in 2019 was almost entirely screens, slants, and schemed open deep balls. Not the case at all with Fields, I’ve already broken down the reads, but if you go back and watch the video I posted in myth #1 you’ll see that Fields ran a number of complex concepts in Ohio State’s offense. So what about the screens, how many of his yards were manufactured on screens?
Oh? He was dead last. Almost no screens.
Verdict: Myth Busted (100% False)
Myth #4: Fields is “the last guy in and the first guy out” and doesn’t necessarily love the game or want to be great.
This one is just… this one is just silly. It originated from Dan Orlavsky (yes the same guy I praised earlier) going on TV and saying that he heard from teams that they were genuinely concerned about Fields work ethic and passion for the game.
This is wild, looking at the evidence, not one single person has said this prior. More than that it’s patently false. Fields could have easily accepted the Big Ten Conference’s decision to cancel the 2020 football season due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. If he had he would have likely been the slam dunk #2 pick in the draft. He didn’t. Instead he chose to lead a petition to get the the conference to overturn it’s decision. He played a huge role in bringing football back to the conference. He also suffered an injury in the playoffs, and instead of leaving the game, he stayed in and dominated the game. Sounds like he loves the game plenty.
Orlovsky for his part retracted the statements and called Fields to apologize. But the damage was done.
I could show you quotes from dozens of people refuting these claims. I could. Or I could simply show you this article detailing his petition. I’ll leave you with this quote from Justin Fields about his injury during the Clemson game (he finished 22-28 for 385 yards, 6 Touchdowns and an interception)
Sounds like a guy who no one should be questioning his passion or love for the game.
Verdict: Myth Obliterated (100% False)
Fields has chance to be a real star in this league and is one of the best prospects I’ve ever scouted. Lets not overthink this one. He’s the real deal.