The physical traits are all there for Fields (6-2 3/4, 227 pounds), who has a big arm and backed up his play speed by blazing a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. “Justin Fields is uber-talented,” an NFC coordinator said. “To me, he is probably a more pure quarterback than Kyler Murray (who was drafted first overall by the Cardinals in 2019), throws it better and he’s bigger. I’d love to get my hands on that guy.” A transfer from Georgia after his true freshman season, Fields was a Heisman finalist in his first season with the Buckeyes in 2019, when he put up huge numbers — 3,273 passing yards with 41 touchdowns and just three interceptions, plus 484 yards rushing with 10 more scores — on a team that went 13-1. He helped Ohio State reach the national championship game in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 2,100 yards and 22 touchdowns in eight games.
Media speculation about Fields’ work ethic was overblown, though several coaches and scouts said they have questions about Fields’ drive based in part on how things for him ended at Georgia after the much less-talented Jake Fromm retained the job in 2018. Others praised Fields for starting a petition and becoming a face of the successful push to get the Big Ten to reconsider its decision to cancel fall football, when he could’ve just turned his attention to the draft. And he showed toughness by missing just one play after a monster hit early in the national semifinal against Clemson, finishing with six touchdown passes in a 49-28 rout of Lawrence and the Tigers. The real question continues to be how well Fields processes and sees the field, coming from an Ohio State offense that’s designed to limit what the QB has to read and let him play fast. “He has to see it open,” an AFC executive said. “I think you appreciate [Fields’ game] more when you see him live, because it’s just how he’s built. And I think he’ll work all f—ing day. But I don’t think it’s ever been demanded of him from the mental side of the game.” Said a coach: “You’ve got to do your homework, because the fact of the matter is, he’s just not being asked to (process) for a lot of things. But you talk to (Ohio State coach) Ryan Day, you talk to those guys out there, they’ll tell you he absolutely can. And in the interview, I would tell you yes. There’s going to be a learning curve, but I think he can do it, for sure.” Several people brought up the struggles of past Ohio State QBs coming from the same system, though as one AFC GM put it: “It’s not Fields’ fault (Dwayne) Haskins was a [mess].” Fields’ hands (9 1/8 inches) are on the smaller side, but big enough.
Teams learned through the pre-draft medical process that Fields takes medication to manage epilepsy — a neurological disorder that can cause seizures, but which hasn’t affected Fields’ football career, and which doctors are confident he’ll grow out of, as other members of his family have. Team medical staffs have discussed Fields’ treatment plan and whether any events during his NFL career, such as a concussion, could put him at greater risk. But as Day tweeted Wednesday, Fields never missed a game during his college career, and he wouldn’t be the first NFL player to excel while managing epilepsy. (Most notable, Pro Football Hall of Fame guard Alan Faneca took medication to control seizures throughout his career.)
There remain questions about how Fields’ quieter personality and leadership style will play in an NFL locker room (though it’s worth noting the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert, faced similar questions during the pre-draft process a year ago). The early word was, Fields didn’t really get to know his teammates his first year on campus, focusing solely on winning the job. But Fields was named a captain in 2020, and the people at Ohio State now vouch for him on that front, too. “The people there believe in Justin,” an AFC coordinator said. “His ability to throw the deep ball [is exceptional]. He was pissed he ran 4.4 (at the pro day), he kind of stumbled, but that’s a big man now that can move. The big thing’s going to be, does all this negative publicity make him have a chip on his shoulder? Is he that kind of kid?”