Philadelphia Eagles: Passing on Justin Fields will define the 2021 Draft

2021: 11, Justin Fields, ChicagoSyndication The Columbus Dispatch
2021: 11, Justin Fields, ChicagoSyndication The Columbus Dispatch /

Regardless of if you wanted the Philadelphia Eagles to draft a new quarterback this offseason or not, the simple reality of the situation is that Howie Roseman traded up two spots in the first round – with Justin Fields still on the board – and chose not to take him.

For a team that doesn’t exactly have a crystal clear picture of what their QB position will look like moving forward, such a move is at least worth examining in greater detail.

On face value, the decision to pass on Fields for DeVonta Smith makes sense from the standpoint of the Eagles trying to “build around” second-year player Jalen Hurts. After all, the organization just ran one starting QB out of town due to a lack of support, and both fans and teammates alike have quickly rallied around Hurts’ charisma and well-put-together demeanor.

With that said, the NFL is a business, and it’s going to be pretty hard for Howie Roseman to sell the 2021 NFL Draft as a successful one if Justin Fields ends up blossoming into a legit franchise-caliber arm.

The Philadelphia Eagles decision to pass on Justin Fields could backfire.

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While opinions on Fields were rather mixed heading into the draft process, the general consensus around the NFL atmosphere is that pretty much everyone is still willing to acknowledge the pure talent that Fields still has at his disposal. Questions about his work ethic and ability to read complex defenses withstanding, this is a quarterback prospect who has all the tools to thrive at the next level.

The Draft Network” (my go-to source for NFL prospect-related coverage) had Fields as their fifth rated prospect in this year’s class, above the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, Patrick Surtain II, and even Zach Wilson.

Here’s a bit of what TDN had to say about the newest Chicago Bear:

"Justin Fields projects as a franchise quarterback at the NFL level — he offers the blend of throwing ability, athleticism, stature and clutch play that will cause NFL teams to fall in love with his evaluation, even if his 2020 campaign showed some cracks in his play. Fields’ ability as a passer is top shelf when accounting for his natural delivery and how easily he’s proven to be able to throw around defenders or work himself into generating velocity and accuracy when on the move; the Buckeyes embraced rolling pocket with Fields at quarterback to take advantage of his arm strength and the subsequent access he’ll get to all areas of the field as a passer.Fields will kill man-coverage heavy teams with his legs; he’s big, strong and yet still quite dynamic as a runner — so breaking contain and converting third downs with his legs is a large staple of the conflict Fields is capable of putting you into as a player. There’s also plenty of examples of Fields successfully engineering option-based reps in the mesh point between zone read, RPO concepts and extending even to sparing use of the speed option, giving his NFL coordinator the full bag of tricks to create conflict defenders and isolate them in the game plan.…but if he is paired with a head coach or offensive coordinator who can pull the best parts of his college game and implement them in the NFL, Fields has the potential to splash early."

Even if you’re higher on Hurts as a future franchise arm as opposed to Fields (I’m not sure why you would be, but to each their own), it’s also worth highlighting the awkward contract situation the Philadelphia Eagles have put themselves in by selecting Hurts in the second round. Fields will be under team control all the way through 2025; Hurts is set to be an unrestricted free agent after 2023.

A minor detail in the grand scheme of things (having the more talented QB is the most important), but worth acknowledging all the same.

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The Jalen Hurts-DeVonta Smith connection may very well be an elite one, and the Eagles might surprise a few people and have a productive 2021 campaign, but if Justin Fields ends up being that top-five caliber prospect that so many people think he will be, the 2021 NFL Draft will forever go down as one where Howie Roseman passed on a franchise quarterback…for a wide receiver.