The Chicago Bears have had a surprisingly spectacular off-season. Fans were maybe hopeful, but not convinced that Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy would find themselves a franchise quarterback. After swinging and missing on Russell Wilson things looked bleak for the Bears quarterback room. Then, in the first round of the NFL Draft, a miracle happened: Justin Fields.
Heading into the College Football 2020 Season
Justin Fields was talked about as a top two pick before the 2020 college football season. Some analysts were saying he could push Trevor Lawrence for the first overall pick. Unfortunately for Justin Fields, the Big Ten decided to cancel their season while the SEC, ACC, Big-12 and (most importantly) BYU decided to play a full season.
The Other Quarterbacks
BYU and their star quarterback Zach Wilson came out of nowhere this college season. Wilson had a spectacular college season, displaying arm talent few could rival in college. He also showing athleticism and playmaking ability that got him the nickname “Mormon Manziel”.
Trey Lance was also getting plenty of hype heading into the 2020 season. His only problem was North Dakota State would be canceling their season. However, Lance’s elite athletic traits, rumored leadership qualities, and football IQ kept NFL teams very interested.
Alabama and Mac Jones were also having a spectacular season. Jones would lead Alabama to 48.5 points per game. All in an SEC-only scheduled season, ranking second in the nation behind only Kent State (49.8 PPG).
Justin Field’s 2020 Season
Zach Wilson and Mac Jones were making names for themselves on the National stage. Meanwhile, Ohio State was clamoring to Big Ten officials to let them play a conference-only schedule. Justin Fields was leading the charge and was the voice of the players who wanted to play a season. COVID protocols were finally agreed upon and Big Ten games would be played.
Fields looked strong in Week 1 of his season. He completed 20 of his 21 pass attempts (95.2 completion percentage) for 276 yards and 3 total touchdowns against Nebraska. Fields would then go on to have an up and down year, struggling against a talented and well coached Indiana team throwing 3 interceptions that day. Northwestern, another talented and well coached team, also gave Fields problems as he only completed 44.4% of his passes in the Big Ten championship game. Fields would bounce back and have a spectacular day against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State would advance to the National Championship game where they would inevitably lose to Alabama and Mac Jones, but the damage was done.
Between the hype of Zach Wilson, the intrigue of Trey Lance, and the record-breaking season Alabama’s Mac Jones just had, Justin Fields had a lot of competition to see who would go #2 overall behind Trevor Lawrence in April.
After another uninspiring year from their 2017 #2 overall pick, Mitch Trubisky. Chicago’s quarterback room was probably the most bleak in the entire NFL. Their defense was just good enough to help them win enough game to secure a playoff spot. Everyone thought this would take them out of the rookie-quarterback market.
Chicago was linked to just about every quarterback on the market, which ironically happened to be more quarterbacks than usual this year with Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, Sam Darnold, and Carson Wentz all being traded. As well as Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson both being disgruntled with their situations and rumored to be trade candidates as well. Chicago reportedly was extremely close to trading for Russell Wilson, rumored to be giving up multiple young pieces like Jaylon Johnson & Roquon Smith as well as 2-3 first round picks. A steep price to pay for a franchise quarterback and one trade looking back, I’m thankful fell through.
Jacksonville was almost certainly taking Trevor Lawrence #1 Overall. With New York trading Sam Darnold to Carolina and San Francisco trading up to secure the #3 Overall pick, it was clear they were both taking quarterbacks as well. The four realistic options were Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Mac Jones, and Justin Fields. Zach Wilson turned into the heavy favorite to go to New York at #2 Overall, leaving the 49ers with their choice of Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones.
It was as expected on Draft Day. Jacksonville would take the generational talent, Trevor Lawrence. The Jets would then take the biggest riser in college football, Zach Wilson. San Francisco would shock most of the draft world by taking Trey Lance. A D1-FCS quarterback who had only 318 pass attempts. A very small sample size for the #3 overall pick. Especially when Justin Fields and Mac Jones were also on the board. Each of them eclipsed 550 pass attempts in college, a much bigger sample size.
With Mac Jones and Justin Fields still available, the Carolina Panthers (#8 pick) and Denver Broncos (#9 pick) both came in with questions at quarterback. Both teams decided quarterback was not necessarily a huge need. Both opted to take a cornerback. Carolina selected Jaycee Horn and Denver selected Patrick Surtain II with the next pick. Leaving room for Justin Fields and Mac Jones to continue to fall.
With their top two players off the board (presumably Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II), Dallas opted to trade back from the 10th pick. Philadelphia (#12 pick) wanted to jump the New York Giants (#11 pick), Dallas was the perfect trade partner. Philadelphia traded up to take wide receiver DeVonta Smith, the Giants’ top target. With DeVonta Smith now an Eagle, New York decided they needed to trade back. The Giants still wanted to draft a wide receiver, but there was more value if they traded down before selecting one.
Ryan Pace and Chicago’s staff were ultra-aggressive. Giving up their 20th and 164th overall selections in 2021 as well as their 1st and 4th round picks in 2022. A steep price to pay to move up 9 slots maybe, but well worth it for a player as talented as Fields at the quarterback position.
Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy are clearly on the hot seat heading into the 2021 season. Some analysts and fans thought they would be fired after the 2020 season. Justin Fields has already shown how talented he is with his Preseason Week 1 performance. Even though it was “just preseason” it was still encouraging to see Fields get better as the game went on. He showed Bears fans that their offense could be exciting. Fields is one of the most athletically gifted quarterbacks in the NFL right now, with his speed, size, and arm strength to go along with his accuracy and decision making, I’m not sure how you could describe him falling to Chicago at 11th Overall anything except for a Football Miracle.
Thank you everyone who read this brief timeline on how Justin Fields fell out of the top 10 and all the events that had to take place just for Chicago to have a chance to draft him! Make sure to give bears_atb a follow on Twitter as well as me: @ryfootballscout! Shoot me or bears_atb a DM on Twitter if you’re interested in writing for us! Until next time, peace!