Mac ******* Jones and the NFL's struggle with quarterback strategy

Ian Boyd

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The wider world of sports was first introduced to Mac Jones during the 2018 National Championship game. Alabama was floundering a bit trying to finish drives in the red zone against Clemson's defense, which was powered by a defensive line entirely comprised of future draft picks.

Nick Saban got desperate, there's no other word for what happened. He called in the field goal team but then they attempted a trick play in which the field goal kicker, Joseph Bulovas (6-0, 206) became a lead blocker for the holder. The holder was back-up quarterback Mac Jones, then listed at 6-2, 205. He was immediately swallowed up by one of the aforementioned Clemson defensive linemen. The whole world was shocked.

Everything about the play was bizarre. The fact Alabama went for it on fourth and six, that they did so with a trick play, the fact the trick play involved the two least imposing athletes on the richly loaded Alabama roster, everything. Alabama's fans basically knew in that moment, when Mac Jones was asked to pick up six yards between the tackles with the Tide season on the line, that they were in trouble.


Next we saw Mac taking over at the end of the year when Tua Tagovailoa injured his hip in the following season. His results were mixed, he hit some throws down the field on opponents but also threw a few picks to doom the Tide to a final loss against Gus Malzahn's Auburn in the Iron Bowl. A common assumption across college (though not by yours truly) was 5-star freshman Bryce Young would take over for the 3-star Mac Jones.

Everyone knows the story from here. Mac Jones held onto the starting job and threw for 4500 yards at 11.2 ypa with 41 touchdowns and four interceptions while leading Alabama to a 13-0 season and a National Championship.

After such a season, Jones naturally flew up the draft boards. This finally culminated in a particularly wild turn of events.

Trevor Lawrence has been the assumed no. 1 pick for years. After a brilliant pro day and a lot of ooh'ing and ahh'ing over arm strength, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson was locked in by most everyone as the no. 2 pick. Then the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins announced a trade.

In this deal, the 49ers would get the no. 3 pick and the Dolphins would get the no. 12 pick, a third round pick, and two future 49er first round picks.

The stated reasoning for San Francisco's aggressive move was the need to land their "quarterback of the future." Draft analyst Warren Sharp noted recently on the Bill Simmons podcast how infrequently Jimmy Garappolo has been healthy and available for the 49ers, who are otherwise well poised to win now, and everyone took note when Jimmy G's play held San Francisco back in their Super Bowl matchup with the Patrick Mahomes KC Chiefs.

This trade also came quickly on the heels of everyone deciding Zach Wilson was the surefire no. 2, so it sure seems likely the 49ers realized if they thought one of the quarterbacks not named Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson were franchise players then there was a sparkling opportunity to make the most of it. For most everyone, including myself, it was assumed this player would be Justin Fields. Not long after, it became more or less accepted knowledge San Francisco had actually pegged Mac Jones as the man, to the great consternation of draft Twitter.

Justin Fields

Justin Fields has been a lightning rod in his own right. He was one of the all-time, highest rated quarterback recruits in history and it's very easy to understand why seeing his pro day numbers. Fields checked in at 6-3, 228 and ran a 4.4 40, which are exactly the sorts of numbers which garnered him his recruiting ranking, to which he adds good accuracy and a cannon arm throwing down the field.

At Ohio State they utilized his skill set with two main components. First, an effective zone running game paired with some quarterback run reads but more often with play-action in which he'd throw deep option routes to Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Secondly, an empty passing game which could create simple reads outside and fall back on Fields' own scrambling ability. This was extremely difficult to defend because his arm strength could stretch the defense out beyond the hash marks but leaving the middle of the field devoid of linebackers and numbers was a surefire way to get killed by Fields' scrambling.

The formula worked pretty well but came up short in a few notable games. The first was in the 2019 playoffs when Clemson thwarted their offense with the "flyover defense" which confounded Fields while stuffing the vaunted Buckeye run game. The second was the 2020 Big 10 Championship Game, when Ohio State was without Chris Olave and had only Garrett Wilson. Northwestern pounced and played cover 2 to Wilson's side for virtually the entire game, confounding Fields who'd hardly ever thrown to anyone else save for check downs to the running backs or Olave.

He went 12-27 for 114 yards at 4.2 ypa with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. After about a half of that, Ryan Day just started running wide zone for Trey Sermon every play and they put away the Wildcats by him running for over 300 yards.

Finally we have the National Championship game. Alabama also gave Fields a lot of cover 2 and Fields went 17-33 for 194 yards at 5.9 ypa with a touchdown and zero picks. Trey Sermon wasn't there to bail the Buckeyes out this time and they were washed out by the Tide, 52-24.

So in Justin Fields we don't quite have the sort of player you'd expect from the measurables or the reputation. The most yardage he ever ran for in a season was 484 in 2019, while the scramble was often an effective check down threat on third and medium and they mixed in zone-option concepts, he wasn't dominating teams with his speed or running ability. Nor was Fields necessarily using his speed and quickness to buy time to throw.

He took 31 sacks in 2019 and 21 in 2022, for sack rates of 8% and 8.5%. For comparison's sake, Trevor Lawrence had sack rates of 2.7%, 4%, and 4.3%.

Mac Jones had sack rates of 1.4% in 2019 and then 3.1% in 2020. More locally, Sam Ehlinger's sack rates were 3.8% as a freshman, 5.8% as a sophomore, 7% as a junior, and then 7% as a senior. Ehlinger had a rep for holding the ball too long at times and missing check downs. He took a sack with the season on the line against Iowa State...but he never took sacks at the rate of Justin Fields.

You see where the "one-read Justin" narrative is coming from? We have a couple of years of evidence now to say Fields was lethal at combining some run game threat with an arm which could push the ball down the field on option routes, much like Zach Wilson. However, we don't have much film of a guy with a knack for getting through progressions or having solutions when defenses took away his ability to chuck it down the field to his favorite guys. We also don't have film of a Vince Young or Kyler Murray type runner who can obliterate defenses for their choices in defending the passing game, nor of a Joey Burrow or Trevor Lawrence with a particular knack for hitting checkdowns or getting through progressions.

NFL quarterback roster strategy

Everyone understands quarterback is the most important position in football and some will say it's the most important position in team sports. Why? Because they have such a massive burden of decision-making.

Your ability to execute strategy depends heavily on quarterback, and remember, "the essence of strategy is to play to your strengths while trying to force your opponent to come to grips with their weaknesses."

Despite this truth, we see NFL evaluators regularly grade quarterbacks based on athletic ability. We keep hearing, every darn year, about how important it is today to have athleticism at the quarterback position. Last year's playoffs were won by a 43-year old who got there after dispatching other old, slowed down signal-callers like Drew Brees (never terribly athletic even when he was young), Aaron Rodgers (good but not elite athlete), and then finally Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl. Mahomes is a superior athlete, but the way he uses his athleticism is a big factor you rarely hear discussed when people talk about the next great quarterback.

It isn't just that he can make pass-rushers miss, throw the ball a mile from any angle, or scramble for big yardage. It's that he DOES those things, in games, and not just in pro day settings. He always has, you go watch him at Tech and he's seeing the field and making decisions while facing live bullets, it wasn't this theoretical ability he only unlocked after coming to Kansas City.

So this is the first mistake we regularly see, is the prizing of raw athletic traits rather than actual, demonstrated in-game skills. Justin Fields and Zach Wilson, the guys who make everyone miss before finding a receiver down the field and thwarting the best laid plans of defensive coaches, are largely fictional characters.

The other mistake we see comes from brilliant, fine-tuning offensive coaches like Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay. These guys have endless knowledge and understanding of how to attack defenses on the field...but they can't. They have to delegate this to their quarterbacks.

If the 49ers traded up and dealt all those resources in order to draft Mac Jones count on this, they probably did so because Shanahan got a strong impression from Steve Sarkisian (another brilliant, chess-master play-caller) this Alabama quarterback was just the guy to be a reliable pawn.

In reality, the very best quarterbacks are the ones who can make those decisions for themselves, in live time, without needing a guru guiding them like a puppet. What do Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Drew Brees all have in common? They are field generals who use a variety of very different skills to effectively guide their teammates to winning plays while in the line of fire.

I don't really know if Mac Jones is that or not but I haven't seen a great deal of info to suggest any of the top guys all these teams are buying up like stonks are the next Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, or Tom Brady who can be reliable field generals.

I appreciate the NFL's growing awareness of the limited value of first round picks and their accurate sense of the importance of the quarterback position. It's not about athleticism though and it's not about rookie-scale contracts. You push in your chips on the quarterback who has the knowhow to guide your team to execute winning strategy in the moment. The teams who do so will continue to be the ones who win big.
 

stilesbbq

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So basically Shanahan put himself in a situation where if the 49ers dont win a SB in the next two years or draft a QB who is Mahomes adjacent they lost the trade? Smart.
 

melodicmarc

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Go to 7:12 in this video and tell me Justin Fields can't go through reads. He has an elite deep ball, elite athleticism for a qb. He can escape the first tackles and has awesome accuracy. I am way more impressed with his film than I am with Mac Jones.

 
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Ian Boyd

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So if you had to pick a QB, which one would it be?
Trevor Lawrence, same as most everyone else who isn't trying to be an edge lord.
Go to 7:12 in this video and tell me Justin Fields can't go through reads. He has an elite deep ball, elite athleticism for a qb. He can escape the first tackles and has awesome accuracy. I am way more impressed with his film than I am with Mac Jones.

You had to go 7 minutes into an 8 minute highlight video to find an example. And the question is "what happens if Chris Olave ISN'T running wide open on a post route in front of a clean pocket?"
 

bHero

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Go to 7:12 in this video and tell me Justin Fields can't go through reads. He has an elite deep ball, elite athleticism for a qb. He can escape the first tackles and has awesome accuracy. I am way more impressed with his film than I am with Mac Jones.

He might be fine with time, he just hasn't consistently show it yet. Could be scheme, could be coaching, could be anything. Teams will interview him to find out as much as they can. And if he slides, you know why.
 
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melodicmarc

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You had to go 7 minutes into an 8 minute highlight video to find an example. And the question is "what happens if Chris Olave ISN'T running wide open on a post route in front of a clean pocket?"
You really don't like Justin Fields do you? My point is he has proven he can go through reads, regardless of where it happened in a video. There's a lot to like on that video, but I found the best example of him going through reads at 7:12. I wouldn't call that a completely clean pocket as two players almost got their hands on him. But the argument of "What if the player wasn't open?" baffles me. You could literally say that about any successful throw a qb has ever made and use that as a counter argument. Checkmate I guess. To have nothing but criticisms for that play is ridiculous rather than acknowledging that it was a really good play for Fields.
 

sherf1

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Great stuff.

Fields seems like the archetype of the kid who was so talented he never had to learn the soft skills, but once you get to a certain level, everyone is your same level of talent and it becomes about how much can you avoid your weakness, not just demonstrate your strength.

You're not beating a guy like Belichick doing what you want to do. It then becomes, can you beat him doing what's available after he's taken your main tools away. It's not a question Fields has ever answered to the positive.
 
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Ian Boyd

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You really don't like Justin Fields do you? My point is he has proven he can go through reads, regardless of where it happened in a video. There's a lot to like on that video, but I found the best example of him going through reads at 7:12. I wouldn't call that a completely clean pocket as two players almost got their hands on him. But the argument of "What if the player wasn't open?" baffles me. You could literally say that about any successful throw a qb has ever made and use that as a counter argument. Checkmate I guess. To have nothing but criticisms for that play is ridiculous rather than acknowledging that it was a really good play for Fields.
I think Fields is interesting, I wouldn't be trading up for him and certainly not paying the price the 49ers did for that pick. I don't think he's Luka Doncic.

The problem is it's not clear if he has the sorts of traits I think make for the best QBs, nor that he puts his elite athleticism to use in the way which would make it a major problem for opponents. Other than hitting guys down the field, he does that well. This example doesn't strike me as being a good counter for my concern.
 

melodicmarc

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Here is a great analysis of Fields' game from a guy I trust more than anyone when it comes to QBs. They compare his decision making and going through reads and compare 2019 and 2020.

 
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melodicmarc

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I think Fields is interesting, I wouldn't be trading up for him and certainly not paying the price the 49ers did for that pick. I don't think he's Luka Doncic.

The problem is it's not clear if he has the sorts of traits I think make for the best QBs, nor that he puts his elite athleticism to use in the way which would make it a major problem for opponents. Other than hitting guys down the field, he does that well. This example doesn't strike me as being a good counter for my concern.
If your argument is that "Fields cannot go through reads consistently" then I get it. I could see you saying that the play I presented is just a small sample of when he does go through reads, but the majority of the time he doesn't. I disagree, because people I trust who watch a lot of film on qbs disagree.

What I don't get is saying that the play I showed specifically isn't an exceptional play with a QB going through reads. That is arguably the best throw Justin Fields has made in his college career.
 

melodicmarc

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He might be fine with time, he just hasn't consistently show it yet. Could be scheme, could be coaching, could be anything. Teams will interview him to find out as much as they can. And if he slides, you know why.
I agree that they are concerns, but I think he has shown to outgrow those concerns. If he does slide then I am sure those concerns played a big part of it.
 
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Ian Boyd

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If your argument is that "Fields cannot go through reads consistently" then I get it. I could see you saying that the play I presented is just a small sample of when he does go through reads, but the majority of the time he doesn't. I disagree, because people I trust who watch a lot of film on qbs disagree.

What I don't get is saying that the play I showed specifically isn't an exceptional play with a QB going through reads. That is arguably the best throw Justin Fields has made in his college career.
His guy is running open behind the safeties.
 
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Ian Boyd

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Here is a great analysis of Fields' game from a guy I trust more than anyone when it comes to QBs. They compare his decision making and going through reads and compare 2019 and 2020.

The 2020 stuff on here just isn't all that much. "Look here, the second receiver in his progression is wide open." Okay. Lots of guys can do this.

He might develop in time but it's all theoretical upside.
 

melodicmarc

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His guy is running open behind the safeties.
I thought your concern was decision making and progressions rather than throwing into tight windows? I presented that play as an example of excellent decision making and him going though a progression. Am I wrong?

And then you say "having solutions when defenses took away his ability to chuck it down the field to his favorite guys." so I show you a video of him going through progressions on plays without the deep ball. The highlight video also has plenty examples of him scrambling when the play breaks down.

Any time I present evidence contrary to your opinion, you take the stance of that it is bad evidence. I don't see how it is bad evidence. If your argument was "yes those are a few examples of him doing these things, but all to often he doesn't do those things" then I could understand, But when you say that plays I have presented are trash rather than acknowledge that they are good plays it makes me think you are somewhat biased against Justin Fields. Because any time you see an example of him doing something well then you automatically dismiss it.
 

DuvalHorn

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Have you read Klassen's features on Fields?


 
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Ian Boyd

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I thought your concern was decision making and progressions rather than throwing into tight windows? I presented that play as an example of excellent decision making and him going though a progression. Am I wrong?
My concern was, "is this guy an elite field general? Does he put his athleticism to use making big plays against live bullets?"
And then you say "having solutions when defenses took away his ability to chuck it down the field to his favorite guys." so I show you a video of him going through progressions on plays without the deep ball. The highlight video also has plenty examples of him scrambling when the play breaks down.
Those progressions are standard fare though. We could cut videos of dozens of college QBs doing the things Fields does in those clips.
 

melodicmarc

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My concern was, "is this guy an elite field general? Does he put his athleticism to use making big plays against live bullets?"

Those progressions are standard fare though. We could cut videos of dozens of college QBs doing the things Fields does in those clips.
The first play I presented is about as good as it gets for a field general. Being able to go to the second progression on the opposite side of the field and hit a deep ball in stride is everything I want in a qb. This clip has nothing to do with athleticism and that is a separate discussion. You could argue he doesn't use it enough but the potential is definitely there.
 

melodicmarc

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My concern was, "is this guy an elite field general? Does he put his athleticism to use making big plays against live bullets?"

Those progressions are standard fare though. We could cut videos of dozens of college QBs doing the things Fields does in those clips.
Here is Fields dodging bullets, using his athleticism, and not making a throw downfield.

 

matt103455

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I wouldn’t trade that much capital for anyone past Wilson, but if I’m the 49ers I’m not drafting Mac Jones either. He’s at best Kirk Cousins. Which is still good fwiw, but that’s a lot of give up for that guy.

I’m not making any definitive takes on Fields. His accuracy is as good as anyone else’s in the draft. He also didn’t have to go past his first read because he plays for Ohio State. He’s one that would take all the additional info teams get to make an argument for or against. My guy Dane Bruglar has him QB5 behind Lance.
 

stilesbbq

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I wouldn’t trade that much capital for anyone past Wilson, but if I’m the 49ers I’m not drafting Mac Jones either. He’s at best Kirk Cousins. Which is still good fwiw, but that’s a lot of give up for that guy.

I’m not making any definitive takes on Fields. His accuracy is as good as anyone else’s in the draft. He also didn’t have to go past his first read because he plays for Ohio State. He’s one that would take all the additional info teams get to make an argument for or against. My guy Dane Bruglar has him QB5 behind Lance.
I wouldnt do it for Wilson. You gotta be really sure to give up 3 first rounders for anyone

Even for Lawrence there is a bit of risk involved
 

matt103455

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I wouldnt do it for Wilson. You gotta be really sure to give up 3 first rounders for anyone

Even for Lawrence there is a bit of risk involved
I think Wilson is going to be really good and QB is the most important position in sports.

Which the new coaching staff I think the Jets are about to be in a solid spot.
 

Ian Boyd

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I wouldnt do it for Wilson. You gotta be really sure to give up 3 first rounders for anyone

Even for Lawrence there is a bit of risk involved
I think Lawrence is the closest to a sure thing. He makes reads and throws on a different level than everyone else in the draft.

If I'm trading multiple no. 1 picks for a QB though I want someone who's already shown they can execute a gameplan against a good NFL defense. I'd probably be more inclined to be the team trading for multiple no. 1 picks, drafting talent, and then pulling a Tennessee or some such team to acquire a guy like Tannehill who's a veteran who's stuck in the league long enough to learn some tricks.
 
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melodicmarc

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Why is proving Ian wrong and Justin Fields being that good so important to you?
You raise an excellent question. To be honest I feel like there is an unfair narrative against Fields right now, and I feel like Ian is blindly following that narrative rather than admitting there are plays that contradict that narrative. So naturally I debate this on a website largely built for debating sports. The reason I am willing to watch all this film though is because I am a Falcons fan and we have a chance of getting Fields, so I also wanted to learn more about him and see film rather than blindly following any narrative.

On a broader level these types of arguments happen on social media all the time and it is a stupid waste of time, yet occasionally I get pulled in anyways. Although I don't consider this a huge waste of my time because I wanted to see more film on Fields, and I am now more convinced that he would be a great pick for the Falcons.
 

kevinbelt

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JT O’Sullivan did a video today breaking down Fields against Alabama, and he was more positive than I remember being. I don’t really understand either extreme on Fields. Like, he’s not going to be Peyton Manning’s upper body grafted onto Michael Vick’s legs, like some OSU guys think, but he’s not brutally bad, either. He’ll be ok. I saw someone compare him to Dak Prescott, and that seems reasonable.

The OSU fan base is in a tizzy that he won’t be the second pick, which I don’t understand regardless of how you project him. I’m like, you realize the teams that draft later are better, right? Why would you want him to go the Jets? Wouldn’t you rather see him play for a good team where he isn’t getting blasted?

As for Jones, he’ll be OK. I see him as a Nick Foles/Ryan Fitzpatrick type who’ll hang around the league for a dozen plus years, sometimes starting and sometimes not. There’s something to be said for guys like that, but with the #3 pick? Notably, Tua hasn’t exactly been dominant in Miami, and it’s hard to see Jones doing better than him.

I really don’t see what people are seeing in Zach Wilson. Well, I see what they think they’re seeing, which is the next Patrick Mahomes, but just throwing a few sidearm passes doesn’t make you Patrick Mahomes. I feel bad for him. He’s a raw guy with a lot of physical ability who needs more development, and instead he’s going to NYC with the expectations of being Mahomes.

I haven’t watched Trey Lance enough to have an opinion. But my chiropractor went to NDSU and likes him more than Carson Wentz, so take that for what it’s worth.
 

Ian Boyd

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You raise an excellent question. To be honest I feel like there is an unfair narrative against Fields right now, and I feel like Ian is blindly following that narrative rather than admitting there are plays that contradict that narrative. So naturally I debate this on a website largely built for debating sports. The reason I am willing to watch all this film though is because I am a Falcons fan and we have a chance of getting Fields, so I also wanted to learn more about him and see film rather than blindly following any narrative.

On a broader level these types of arguments happen on social media all the time and it is a stupid waste of time, yet occasionally I get pulled in anyways. Although I don't consider this a huge waste of my time because I wanted to see more film on Fields, and I am now more convinced that he would be a great pick for the Falcons.
I was down on Fields before it was cool.

Just never saw the dominant player I was always told about, and I watched him a few times.
What’s your thinking on him?
Similar to fields. Sure there’s some overpowering physical talent, what else is there? I want my quarterback to be able to figure out where the ball goes, not to be where the ball goes, if that makes sense.
 
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Ian Boyd

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JT O’Sullivan did a video today breaking down Fields against Alabama, and he was more positive than I remember being. I don’t really understand either extreme on Fields. Like, he’s not going to be Peyton Manning’s upper body grafted onto Michael Vick’s legs, like some OSU guys think, but he’s not brutally bad, either. He’ll be ok. I saw someone compare him to Dak Prescott, and that seems reasonable.

The OSU fan base is in a tizzy that he won’t be the second pick, which I don’t understand regardless of how you project him. I’m like, you realize the teams that draft later are better, right? Why would you want him to go the Jets? Wouldn’t you rather see him play for a good team where he isn’t getting blasted?

As for Jones, he’ll be OK. I see him as a Nick Foles/Ryan Fitzpatrick type who’ll hang around the league for a dozen plus years, sometimes starting and sometimes not. There’s something to be said for guys like that, but with the #3 pick? Notably, Tua hasn’t exactly been dominant in Miami, and it’s hard to see Jones doing better than him.

I really don’t see what people are seeing in Zach Wilson. Well, I see what they think they’re seeing, which is the next Patrick Mahomes, but just throwing a few sidearm passes doesn’t make you Patrick Mahomes. I feel bad for him. He’s a raw guy with a lot of physical ability who needs more development, and instead he’s going to NYC with the expectations of being Mahomes.

I haven’t watched Trey Lance enough to have an opinion. But my chiropractor went to NDSU and likes him more than Carson Wentz, so take that for what it’s worth.
I remember thinking the cowboys were silly for drafting Dak and then watched his senior film to find examples of what I thought was wrong. Then I saw him making a lot of reads and flinging it around and was like, “oh, so...this guy is pretty good.”

I liked Dak more than Fields.
 
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biodogtexas

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You raise an excellent question. To be honest I feel like there is an unfair narrative against Fields right now, and I feel like Ian is blindly following that narrative rather than admitting there are plays that contradict that narrative. So naturally I debate this on a website largely built for debating sports. The reason I am willing to watch all this film though is because I am a Falcons fan and we have a chance of getting Fields, so I also wanted to learn more about him and see film rather than blindly following any narrative.

On a broader level these types of arguments happen on social media all the time and it is a stupid waste of time, yet occasionally I get pulled in anyways. Although I don't consider this a huge waste of my time because I wanted to see more film on Fields, and I am now more convinced that he would be a great pick for the Falcons.
No, what's actually happening is that you're putting words in his mouth and projecting onto him the narrative you think is out there. Ian never said he couldn't make reads or couldn't make it through a progression. What he did say was "we don't have much film of a guy with a knack for getting through progressions or having solutions when defenses took away his ability to chuck it down the field to his favorite guys". 10 posts in you still haven't actually shown any evidence to the contrary.

A read is when you identify the coverage and decide if a receiver is open to throw to or not. A progression is what happens when you go through multiple reads on a play until you find someone who is open. You've shown clips of Fields making a few good reads, but nothing that shows him consistently getting to his 3rd or 4th option. That's mostly because the Ohio State offense with him doesn't have 3rd or 4th options. The first clip you posted, doesn't show a progression. In that play, Fields is just looking off the safety as I imagine he was coached to do, reads the deep post, and then makes a great throw. The question Ian was posing was what would Fields have then done if Olave wasn't open and he couldn't throw that ball. The answer is that we don't really know since he almost always made the throw. I'm pretty sure the Mark Schofield and the other videos you posted doesn't actually show him ever getting past a 2nd read or more than one half of the field.

You should never put a lot of stock into what the "amateur" or "professional" QB evaluators say they see on film. Previously, I was a student assistant in College work primarily with video and I despise these guys for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is that they operate under the almost entirely false assumption that offense is standardized and that they have correctly identified what the play was. Even though people might be running the same routes out of the same formations, no one has any idea what the guys were actually coached to do. It's a total crapshoot. Was the QB reading a vertical route to the field or was he just looking that direction to move or freeze the safety before chucking it deep to the other side of the field to your fastest player as was the plan all along? It's basically impossible to tell. In a pivot/dig combination, is he reading the pivot before separately reading the dig or is he just reading the single defender in a hi-lo to see which is open? No one but the QB and coach knows. The internet evaluators sure as hell don't know.

The same things people are saying about Justin Fields are the same things people were saying about Vince Young. They're the same things people said about Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, Lamar Jackson, and Tua Tagavailoa. It's the same thing as Jamarcus Russell, Tim Tebow, Jake Locker, Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel. They all found success in college with the same formula that Fields has, that is, to summarize Ian, "an effective running game with quarterback run reads paired with play-action passing to highly talented deep threat receivers and then an empty passing game which could create simple reads outside and falling back on the QB scrambling ability. That's extremely difficult to defend because the Qb's arm strength could stretch the defense out beyond the hash marks while leaving the middle of the field devoid of linebackers and numbers in a surefire way to get killed by scrambling.", and none of them translated to long term success in the NFL.

When people question a QBs ability to consistently go through progressions, they're almost always right. Since '98 when Peyton was drafted, more than 280 QBs have been drafted and dozens if not hundreds more have signed. How many have been great NFL progression passers? Less than 20? You're talking about 5% or less of guys who get to the NFL and are great progression passers. Chances are Justin Fields, especially with his skill set, isn't one of them.
 
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Ian Boyd

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The same things people are saying about Justin Fields are the same things people were saying about Vince Young. They're the same things people said about Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, Lamar Jackson, and Tua Tagavailoa. It's the same thing as Jamarcus Russell, Tim Tebow, Jake Locker, Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel. They all found success in college with the same formula that Fields has, that is, to summarize Ian, "an effective running game with quarterback run reads paired with play-action passing to highly talented deep threat receivers and then an empty passing game which could create simple reads outside and falling back on the QB scrambling ability. That's extremely difficult to defend because the Qb's arm strength could stretch the defense out beyond the hash marks while leaving the middle of the field devoid of linebackers and numbers in a surefire way to get killed by scrambling.", and none of them translated to long term success in the NFL.
This is the main key. When you have this in college you’re a juggernaut. The nfl doesn’t work the same way. Even Lamar Jackson has struggled come playoff time when defenses gameplan for this formula.
 

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Reading the last two comments it occurred to me to ask: how many QBs who won a national championship then went on to win a Super Bowl? (Googling around I think the answer is 4: Kenny Stabler, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, and Troy Aikman (sorta)).

I suspect this tells us something about what really works at the two levels. Basically, in college dominant physical traits can win big because the talent disparity is so high between teams / players. In the pros, however, once nearly everybody on the fields is a physical freak it’s the mental side that is the decisive advantage and that generally takes longer to develop / hone. So the greatest pro QBs were still pups / in development as college players and only really came into their own later. There are perhaps a few exceptions (Peyton? Luck?), but even those guys aren’t on the National Champion/Super Bowl champion list.
 
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kevinbelt

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Since '98 when Peyton was drafted, more than 280 QBs have been drafted and dozens if not hundreds more have signed. How many have been great NFL progression passers? Less than 20? You're talking about 5% or less of guys who get to the NFL and are great progression passers.
This sums up my issue with everyone in this draft except Lawrence. If you’re going to draft a QB in the top five, you should make sure he’s in that 5%. The opportunity cost is an immediate-impact player at another position or, even better, a trade package that includes an immediate-impact player(s) and/or future picks in a potentially better draft. And if you’re trading up into the top five, you’d better be sure he’s one of them, because you’re giving up too much for him not to be.

I mentioned Dak as a comparable for Justin Fields before, but Dak was a mid-round pick. I think pretty much anyone would take Fields in the third or fourth round, because the opportunity cost is so much lower. But even knowing what Dak would become, would you pick him at #2 overall?

Four of the five first round QBs in this draft would be significantly better values lower on the board. They’re all reasonably good QBs who will be on NFL rosters for years into the future. But they’re not superstars, and it’s hard to justify any of them at their current value.
 
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oso_serious

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No, what's actually happening is that you're putting words in his mouth and projecting onto him the narrative you think is out there. Ian never said he couldn't make reads or couldn't make it through a progression. What he did say was "we don't have much film of a guy with a knack for getting through progressions or having solutions when defenses took away his ability to chuck it down the field to his favorite guys". 10 posts in you still haven't actually shown any evidence to the contrary.

A read is when you identify the coverage and decide if a receiver is open to throw to or not. A progression is what happens when you go through multiple reads on a play until you find someone who is open. You've shown clips of Fields making a few good reads, but nothing that shows him consistently getting to his 3rd or 4th option. That's mostly because the Ohio State offense with him doesn't have 3rd or 4th options. The first clip you posted, doesn't show a progression. In that play, Fields is just looking off the safety as I imagine he was coached to do, reads the deep post, and then makes a great throw. The question Ian was posing was what would Fields have then done if Olave wasn't open and he couldn't throw that ball. The answer is that we don't really know since he almost always made the throw. I'm pretty sure the Mark Schofield and the other videos you posted doesn't actually show him ever getting past a 2nd read or more than one half of the field.

You should never put a lot of stock into what the "amateur" or "professional" QB evaluators say they see on film. Previously, I was a student assistant in College work primarily with video and I despise these guys for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason is that they operate under the almost entirely false assumption that offense is standardized and that they have correctly identified what the play was. Even though people might be running the same routes out of the same formations, no one has any idea what the guys were actually coached to do. It's a total crapshoot. Was the QB reading a vertical route to the field or was he just looking that direction to move or freeze the safety before chucking it deep to the other side of the field to your fastest player as was the plan all along? It's basically impossible to tell. In a pivot/dig combination, is he reading the pivot before separately reading the dig or is he just reading the single defender in a hi-lo to see which is open? No one but the QB and coach knows. The internet evaluators sure as hell don't know.

The same things people are saying about Justin Fields are the same things people were saying about Vince Young. They're the same things people said about Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, Lamar Jackson, and Tua Tagavailoa. It's the same thing as Jamarcus Russell, Tim Tebow, Jake Locker, Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel. They all found success in college with the same formula that Fields has, that is, to summarize Ian, "an effective running game with quarterback run reads paired with play-action passing to highly talented deep threat receivers and then an empty passing game which could create simple reads outside and falling back on the QB scrambling ability. That's extremely difficult to defend because the Qb's arm strength could stretch the defense out beyond the hash marks while leaving the middle of the field devoid of linebackers and numbers in a surefire way to get killed by scrambling.", and none of them translated to long term success in the NFL.

When people question a QBs ability to consistently go through progressions, they're almost always right. Since '98 when Peyton was drafted, more than 280 QBs have been drafted and dozens if not hundreds more have signed. How many have been great NFL progression passers? Less than 20? You're talking about 5% or less of guys who get to the NFL and are great progression passers. Chances are Justin Fields, especially with his skill set, isn't one of them.
I agree with pretty much everything you said, but I am curious on whether or not you're including JT O'Sullivan in that category of QB evaluators not to trust (the QB School guy, long time NFL veteran).

Not a coach or assistant, but I do listen to a lot of coaching podcasts and videos because I love learning more about the game and the consensus from pretty much everyone on the coaching side is that JT does a phenomenal job breaking down both concepts and techniques.

Obviously commenting on specific reads and progressions is very system dependent, but from what I've seen he does a really good job of acknowledging that while still breaking things down. Would be curious as to your thoughts on that.
 

Ian Boyd

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This sums up my issue with everyone in this draft except Lawrence. If you’re going to draft a QB in the top five, you should make sure he’s in that 5%. The opportunity cost is an immediate-impact player at another position or, even better, a trade package that includes an immediate-impact player(s) and/or future picks in a potentially better draft. And if you’re trading up into the top five, you’d better be sure he’s one of them, because you’re giving up too much for him not to be.

I mentioned Dak as a comparable for Justin Fields before, but Dak was a mid-round pick. I think pretty much anyone would take Fields in the third or fourth round, because the opportunity cost is so much lower. But even knowing what Dak would become, would you pick him at #2 overall?

Four of the five first round QBs in this draft would be significantly better values lower on the board. They’re all reasonably good QBs who will be on NFL rosters for years into the future. But they’re not superstars, and it’s hard to justify any of them at their current value.
There’s a lot to think about and chew on here.

One thing we have to note is that traditionally the National Championship teams are the blue bloods and they have found their advantage in the trenches.

This is partly why I was shrieking loudly about how different it was for LSU to dominate with a 5-wide passing attack. That’s not how you won.

All that to say, blue blood teams planning to win based on QB/WR play is new so the historical “where did the good QBs come from” could be changing.