Setting realistic expectations for Justin Fields rookie season

Chicago Bears (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

One thing that we have learned in the past is that it is pretty hard to gauge how good a rookie quarterback will be by their rookie season. Some look like they have it and lose it, and those that struggle flash later. We will judge if Justin Fields is not the Chicago Bears Week One starter but know at the same time that most quarterbacks in his situations do not start as rookies.

Looking at past first-round picks and saying that most first-rounders get on the field is tough to say in the case of Justin Fields. When you are the New York Jets and you draft 2nd overall and you take Zach Wilson with no backup, he is going to play.

However, Fields is not a number two, or even number five overall pick. Teams were not clamoring to trade up, and he fell to pick 11, so comparing him to number 1 and 2 overall picks rookie seasons does not make sense. Matt Nagy himself said he wants him on the Patrick Mahomes plan, another player who fell to number 10.

Comparing Justin Fields to rookies from pick 10-20

When a quarterback falls into that 10-20 range, it is much different than the 1-9, and 21-32 range. Most players who go top ten are expected to start early. There is a thirst for QBs and if you fall out of the top 9 or 10 picks, there is at least a question as to why so many teams with a need passed.

On the other end, comparing Fields to players picked outside of the top 20 is not fair either. In most cases, like the Ravens with Lamar Jackson, or the Browns with Johnny Manziel you see a team that already passed on a QB with a higher first-round pick then double-dip late in the first round. That is not what Fields is.

So, to find the best comparisons to Justin Fields, we are going to look at only quarterbacks taken from pick 10-20 in the NFL draft. These players fell outside of 9, which does not happen, but also were never going to fall past pick 20. This is a rare zone, and we only have 16 quarterbacks drafted from 10-20 in the past 22 years. These players are at least in a more similar situation than all first-rounders.

Cade McNown, Dante Culpepper, Chad Pennington, Kyle Boller, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Matt Leinart, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, E.J. Manuel, DeShaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Rosen, Dwayne Haskins.

There are some big hits, and big misses, which is why this particular point in the draft is worth magnifying considering how Fields fell.

Expectations for Justin Fields

The only players not to take a snap are two of the older players in Culpepper and Pennington. Mahomes waited a year, but the Chiefs at least got him on the field in week 17. At some point next season we are going to see Justin Fields, but it is likely not week one.

The only players of this group to start week one were Joe Flacco and E.J. Manuel. So, to recap, 16 players were drafted in this range, and only 2 never took a snap, but only 2 started week one. Fields is very likely to be on the bench week one, but find his way onto the field, which happened in 12 of the last 16 QBs in this draft range.

Even in the case of Manuel he only started 10 games, though. Flacco did start all 16 games, being the only one of this group. Flacco made the playoffs as a rookie too, joining just Ben Roethlisberger as the only two of this group to make that run as rookies. Big Ben sat behind Tommy Maddox for two weeks before reeling off 13 wins to start his career.

Sometimes you just know, like with Roethlisberger, that he is special. The same could have been saying for DeShaun Watson, who did not start week one but started the next six games. He could have gone 15 starts but tore his ACL as a rookie.

With this in mind here are the rest of the quarterbacks.

Cade McNown- 6 starts

Kyle Boller -9 starts 

Jay Cutler -5 starts 

Matt Lienart – 11 starts 

Josh Freeman – 9 starts 

Christian Ponder -10 starts 

Blaine Gabbert – 14 starts 

Josh Rosen – 13 starts 

Dwayne Haskins – 7 starts 

On average, those QBs started 9 games as a rookie. That could be a rather realistic expectation. In a perfect world, he would follow the Mahomes path, but that is a tough line. Or, he would pull a Roethlisberger, which would be historic.

Film Review: Legitimate Concerns for Justin Fields. dark. Next

However, reasonably, you expect to see Fields get NFL playing time. More likely than not it will be more than four or five games, but less than 11. That is enough time to get him ready for what will be a big year two.