As the NFL's regular-season races towards the finish line, 2021 NFL Draft buzz is heating up. Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence is widely considered the top prospect in the class and has been for several years. The second best player, according to many, is Ohio State QB Justin Fields. Most top experts believe there's a fairly significant gap between Lawrence and Fields as prospects. There are undoubtedly other intriguing QB prospects in Zach Wilson and Trey Lance, but they don't come with quite as impressive of resume. Just three years ago, Fields and Lawrence were the top two prospects in high school football. Now they're the best NFL prospects that college football has to offer.
With the Jaguars currently holding the number two overall pick, the chances are high that they'll be able to land one of these two quarterback prospects. I decided to dive into as much film on these two as I could possibly consume to figure out which I preferred.
Let's take a look.
There's a lot to love about both Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. They're both impressively built — Lawrence stands 6'6'' and weighs in at 220 pounds while Fields is 6'3'' and weighs between 220-230 pounds (he shed some weight heading into 2020 in order to run faster). Both have fantastic arm strength — they can make any throw you ask them to. And their quick releases make it difficult to react in time. Mobility? Yep, these guys can get it done with their legs.
Their statistical output has been astounding. Lawrence has started 37 games, completed 66.7% of his passes for 9,181 yards with 85 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He's also added 820 yards on the ground with 14 rushing touchdowns. Fields has been the starter at Ohio State since the beginning of the 2019 season and has 18 starts under his belt. In total, he's completed 70.2% of his passes for 4,809 yards with 58 touchdowns and six interceptions. Fields has tallied 885 rushing yards with 17 rushing touchdowns.
With the remarkable efficiency and explosiveness that both have played with and their tremendous physical tools, Lawrence and Fields are two of the best prospects I've ever seen.
But they aren't perfect. Both tend to stare down their first read for too long, and neither are immune to trying to do too much in the moment. They've shown the ability to throw with anticipation but need to do so more often.
So, how do you separate the two? It's easy to like how much experience Lawrence has, having started double the number of games as Fields.
But experience isn't everything.
When breaking down the tape from 2019-2020, I came away with a shocking conclusion: At this time, Justin Fields is more ready-made for a transition to the pro game and is a better overall prospect.
As I mentioned before, both can do it all on the football field. Give them a clean pocket, and they'll shred you no matter what. They'll usually beat you when you blitz too. Good luck. But there are several key reasons that I'd take Fields over Lawrence if I were in charge of an NFL front office.
There's a narrative that Trevor Lawrence is a more advanced player when it comes to being a field general, progressing through reads, looking off defenders, and knowing where to go with the ball. I don't believe that portrayal to be accurate. Both players often lock on to their number one read, which they'll need to improve at the next level. But they also have shown the ability, at times, to manipulate defenders with their eyes, move through their reads, and find the open man with haste. And both have been able to identify a weakness in a defense and attack it for an easy pitch and catch. I don't believe one player to be more advanced in this area than the other.
Where Fields separates himself from Lawrence is when the play breaks down. When blitzers are screaming into the backfield, Fields is my guy. Both are first-rate against the blitz, but Fields has more poise and natural ability when pressure is imminent. Fields is more accurate under pressure and against the blitz than Lawrence. Reminiscent of Deshaun Watson, Fields is challenging to bring down on first contact. He's able to shrug off arm tackles, absorb body blows, and keep moving. He's also more adept at avoiding hits entirely. His ability to plant his foot in the ground and take off in the other direction is rarely seen at all, much less from a quarterback. And while Lawrence is a mobile quarterback in his own right, he tends to take big shots, and his frame, which is significantly thinner than Fields', doesn't seem to hold up as well. Lawrence has been left lying on the turf after big hits several times throughout his career. And when having to throw off-platform due to incoming blitzers, there's an almost effortless quality about how Fields can place the ball where he wants to. Lawrence has made some dazzling throws on the move too, but Fields does it with more consistency.
Fields is also more accurate than Lawrence, both generally speaking and on the run. Both guys can absolutely sling it, but Lawrence misses throws with more regularity than does Fields. Fields also shows the propensity to throw accurate passes from odd arm angles. Fields almost always seems to throw a catchable ball, whereas Lawrence sometimes makes it difficult — or flat out impossible — for his intended target to make the catch. And Fields is much more consistently accurate and precise on deep passes.
One somewhat understandable knock on Fields is that his receivers are always open. While Ohio State's receivers do tend to create separation, there are countless reps where Fields fits a ball into seemingly impossible windows. While both excel in this area, Fields seems to place the ball in the perfect spot more regularly than Lawrence.
If there's one thing that this film study made incredibly clear, it's that both of these prospects project to be franchise quarterbacks. Again, they're not perfect and need to improve their recognition, decision making, and anticipation. But with a little development upstairs, there's no reason Lawrence and Fields can't be perennial Pro Bowlers. They've got all the tools.
Both kids carry themselves like professionals and put the work in off the field too. So I don't think there are any character concerns to be found.
You can't go wrong with these two. But if I had to make the choice, I'd take Justin Fields. Because he throws with more consistent accuracy (both from the pocket and on the move), has a thicker frame, is better with off-platform throws, and is a better overall athlete, Fields is more tailor-made for the modern pro game. And it doesn't hurt that he's already been running a pro-style offense for almost two years.
I'm genuinely thrilled to watch both quarterbacks down the stretch this season. Seeing them go head-to-head in the CFB Playoffs would be the ultimate treat, should Clemson and Ohio State get matched up.
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