Bears trade up, take Ohio State QB Fields who's 'excited' to get going
Bears fans know this story well. The team got it wrong when they traded up for a quarterback in 2017.
But maybe they got it right Thursday. The Bears ignored other needs, jumped from No. 20 to 11 and snagged Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
Of course it came at price. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Bears gave up this year's fifth-round pick, plus first- and fourth-rounders next year to the New York Giants to get to No. 11.
"I don't think I had any hints," Fields said in a Zoom call with reporters. "I had no idea, to be honest. I was confident in myself I guess to wherever I ended up, I was going to be in the right place for me. So again, I'm excited."
There's no questioning Fields' athletic ability and arm strength. Whether he can put everything together to be a successful NFL quarterback is the question for any young player at the position.
With general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy believed to be on the hot seat, will they rush him onto the field this season, after already signing for Andy Dalton to be this year's starter and trading for Nick Foles last year?
Pace referenced the QB pecking order when he spoke to reporters via Zoom call.
"Matt has spoken with Andy Dalton. Andy is our starter and we're going to have a really good plan in place to develop Justin," Pace said.
Pace said he started talks with the Giants on Thursday morning and thought they came up with a fair deal.
"It's just the combination of factors he has," Pace said of Fields. "It's the arm talent, it's the accuracy, it's the athleticism. When you see a guy with that kind of arm talent, with that kind of quarterback makeup that he has, with that kind of work ethic, that's played in really big games, really big moments. By the way, he runs a 4.44. you throw that all in together and it just feels good."
Whatever they do, the Bears are obviously hoping this turns out better than their 2017 trade to move up from No. 3 to No. 2 to take Mitch Trubisky. As everyone knows, Trubisky is no longer on the team and neither are the three picks they needlessly gave up to move up one spot.
Nagy was hired by the Bears after that fateful 2017 draft. Fields said he was able to build a little bit of a relationship with Nagy during the predraft process.
"I would say most of it was during Zoom calls," Fields said. "Of course, we did have a little bit of conversation at my pro day. But most of it through Zoom calls. I'm pretty big on having great relationships with my coaches. I think that's the most effective way to be great and be cooperative as a team.
"I think if he didn't think I fit well, he wouldn't have traded up. Just talking to him, getting to know how he communicates with his quarterbacks and his learning style, I think that's going to make me a better quarterback and he's going to teach me a lot. So I'm just excited to get up there and learn."
Fields is a native of Kennesaw, Ga., a five-star prospect coming out of high school, originally went to Georgia, then transferred to Ohio State, where he started for two seasons.
In fact, Fields seemed reference getting beaten out for the starting job at Georgia by Jake Fromm, who is now battling Trubisky for the backup job with the Buffalo Bills. This was in response to a question about dropping to the No. 11 pick, when he was once projected to go No. 2 or 3.
"I've gone through situations where I haven't been chosen and I think the world has seen the outcome of that," Fields said. "But my goal right now is not to worry about those things. Those things have nothing to do with me."
During his only full season at Ohio State in 2019, the 6-foot-3, 228-pound Fields posted incredible stats, completing 67.2 percent of his passes in 2019 for 3.273 yards, 41 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also ran for 484 yards. He led the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff both years and lost to Alabama in the title game back in January.
Why did he drop to No. 11? San Francisco obviously was looking to take a QB with the No. 3 pick and settled on North Dakota State's Trey Lance instead of Fields or Alabama's Mac Jones, who went to New England at No. 15.
Maybe it was his performance in the Big Ten title game this year against Northwestern. Fields completed just 12 of 27 passes for 114 yards and 2 interceptions against the Wildcats that day. Maybe it was a key interception against Clemson in the 2019 semifinals.
For the most part, it was smooth sailing for Fields at Ohio State, where he had plenty of protection and weapons. That might not be the case with the Bears.
"There's definitely been a lot of criticism, but at the end of the day I feel like I know myself, I know how much work I put in the game, I know how much I love the game, I know how much I want to be great," Fields said. "There comes a point in time where you just have to cut all that criticism out.
"It's good to listen to the criticism you get from people that are actually there to help you. So if it was from a coach or anything like that, then of course I'm going to take that criticism. But I feel like there was a lot of criticism coming from outside voices that didn't really matter, so I just did my best to kind of cut that out and really just get to work."