The Ohio State Buckeyes once again have a superstar quarterback primed for the NFL Draft. Depending on the mock draft, analysts see Justin Fields as either being a top-10 pick, or in some mock drafts, falling until the mid-to-late first round. There is absolutely no question the talent he has shown at the college level. Hell, he suffered a brutal hit against Clemson in the national semifinals that gave him a hip pointer and bruised, if not broken ribs, then still made a 427 total yard and six-touchdown night look easy.
At the end of the college football season, it looked like Fields was a lock to be a top-five pick. Now? There seem to be plenty of scenarios and rumblings where he may not even go top 10. The question that is undoubtedly factoring into this possible decision for NFL teams is simple: can Justin Fields finally break the curse of Ohio State quarterbacks in the NFL?
Past Ohio State Quarterback Failures
Since 2002, six Ohio State quarterbacks have been drafted into the NFL. Those quarterbacks are Steve Bellisari, Craig Krenzel, Troy Smith, Terrelle Pryor, Cardale Jones and Dwayne Haskins. While only Haskins and Pryor were even drafted within the first three rounds (Pryor was drafted in the 2011 compensatory draft, so he counted as a third round pick), these quarterbacks can be summed up by one simple question: can anyone tell me anything good they’ve done in the NFL, minus Pryor’s turning into a wide receiver?
Terrelle Pryor is without a doubt the best pick in this group, and he was so bad as a quarterback he had to change his damn position. Even if you bring play styles into the mix, it still gives a gloomy outlook on Ohio State quarterbacks. The pocket passers of the bunch never did much of anything in the NFL. The run-first quarterbacks were also below average at best.
How Justin Fields is Different
The biggest difference between Fields and the past Ohio State quarterbacks is he can do a little bit of everything. On the ground, Fields is just as good as any other quarterback to come out of Ohio State. While he doesn’t flash it quite as much as a Braxton Miller or a J.T. Barrett did, he certainly has the abilities. Over his two seasons at Ohio State, he had 15 rushing touchdowns and 867 yards. While that may not seem like much, keep in mind that’s only over 22 games, as the 2020 season was shortened due to COVID. As we’ve seen from his game against Clemson this past season as well, he’s not afraid to run when he has to, even when in severe pain.
Passing wise, Fields is head and shoulders beyond any other quarterback that has donned the scarlet and grey. Dwayne Haskins was the best passer among the grouping, passing for 50 touchdowns, eight interceptions and over 4,800 yards in 14 games as a full time starter. While the yardage is certainly eye-popping, remember that Haskins only ran for 108 yards. Fields, on the other hand, threw for much fewer yards, but also posted 63 touchdowns through the air and only nine interceptions in 22 games. Not only is Fields a better passer than Haskins was in college, he is also arguably just as good of a runner as any other too.
Verdict on Justin Fields
As good of a school as Ohio State is, their quarterbacks have been nothing short of pathetic. You know you suck at developing pro talent quarterbacks when Wisconsin produces better products with a bunch of one-star, no name walk-ons. While Justin Fields has not played the stiffest of competition every game, it’s certainly not the worst. Add in the fact that he can run and throw efficiently, he easily has the best chance out of all of those before him to make it work in the NFL without having to change positions.
The problem with the NFL Draft is shit teams get high picks. They pick a quarterback and throw him onto their garbage team, and fans expect immediate results. It seems like it would be obvious seeing how players like Robert Griffin III, Sam Darnold, Dwayne Haskins and many others turn out, but every year, teams do the same stupidity over and over again. For Fields to succeed at the next level, he first needs to be granted the ability to sit for a year and develop. When he does develop, the crucial second step is to give him in offense that isn’t so inept his body literally gives out (see Joe Burrow).
If the stars align correctly and Fields ends up on the right team who doesn’t immediately feed him to the wolves, maybe, just maybe, Ohio State can finally give the NFL a solid quarterback talent. Of course, Fields needed to develop at a different school first, but we can talk about that another day.