Reasonable goals for Justin Fields to finish rookie season

Chicago Bears (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Bears (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports) /

At the bye week, Justin Fields has started seven games and should be starting another eight. He has been progressing every week so it is fair to expect him to finish with better efficiency stats than he currently has. With that in mind, it is worth wondering what exactly fans should be looking for from Justin Fields.

Since 1990 there have been 90 rookie quarterbacks who have started at least five games and have thrown over 150 passes. Looking at these past players there are some stats that only busts hit, while there are stats that the majority of long-term starters hit.

What are the possible thresholds that Justin Fields is going to want to hit?

Justin Fields Completion Percentage Goals

Since 1990, only Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Josh Allen, Donovan McNabb, and Eli Manning had a completion rate below 56.7% and were able to find success in the NFL. Essentially, 48%-56.7% is the low bar for what a rookie quarterback can get away with without being completely disregarded.

However, the majority of quarterbacks from Derek Carr, Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson, and more were in the range of 58.1% to 64.12%.

Lastly, the top five in completion percentage are Dak Prescott, Justin Herbet, Ben Roethlisberger, RGIII, and Joe Burrow.

Obviously, there are hits in all three, but the players surrounding them are what makes it more notable. Below 56.7% are 37 players, with just six being hits. Other names include Patrick Ramsey, Joey Harrington, and Ryan Leaf.

In the middle tier, the misses are closer to Nick Foles, and Gardner Minshew, while the top tier is just players who went on to have success aside from RG3.

Currently, Justin Fields has a 59.36% completion rate, which would put him firmly near Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton in their rookie seasons. He is above the 56.7% clip where few quarterbacks survive, but not quite above 64% where the best rookies were. The goal would be to keep his rate where it is or to get closer to 60% or above.

Justin Fields Touchdown Rate Goals

Touchdown rate is better to look at here because it looks at how many passes are converting to a touchdown, so volume is not an issue. There is really no case of a rookie quarterback having a TD% under 2.6% and going on to have success with the team that drafted them.

Ryan Tannehill and Carson Wentz sit at 2.6%, and Jared Goff is 2.4%. The names around them include Kyle Orton. DeShone Kizer, Nick Foles, Blake Bortles, David Carr, and Andrew Walter to name a few. Even in the case of Wentz and Goff, they worked out in ways but left their team, and in the case of Tannehill, it took a new team.

The majority of rookie quarterbacks sit between 3-4.5%

Manning, Palmer, Newton, Murray, Ryan, McNabb, Stafford, Jackson, Burrow, Allen, almost anyone you can think of that turned out lives in the 3-4.5%.

Now, there are some that were 5% and higher. Watson, Wilson, Roethlisberger, Mayfield, Herbert, and Prescott lead that group.

Right now Justin Fields is at 2.1%, which is what Mitch Trubisky had. The names below him are just David Carr, CJ Beathard, Andrew Walter, Jimmy Clausen, and Ryan Leaf. The names just above are Trubisky, Kizer, and David Blough. He needs to throw touchdowns at a higher rate to avoid sticking with names like this.

The good news is that his touchdown rate has gone up and the past five games have Fields at 2.9%. So, if his final eight games are a bit better, or even on pace with his past four games he should be clearing the Wentz and Tannehill hurdle and closer to a normal rookie season.

Justin Fields Interception Rate Goals

Everyone knows Peyton Manning threw a lot of interceptions, and he is the one player people point to. So, with his INT rate at 4.87%, that should be the bar that he should not cross. TO be fair, Matt Stafford was at 5.31%, but those two are outliers. Eli Manning was at 4.57%, but beyond that, this is the range where there are a few exceptions and many busts.

A tier of Palmer, Watson, Leftwich, Roethlisberger, Allen, Newton, and McNabb all sit between 4.17% and 3.7%, which is reasonable for Fields as he profiles similar to a few of these guys with a big body and push it downfield mentality.

Still, the best rookies are at 2.9% and under. Prescott, Burrow, Jackson, Herbert, Carr, Murray, and others are under 2.9%. The top five sit at 1.37% This would be the ultimate goal for Fields, who currently sits at 4.28%.

He is under Manning but needs to cut it down a bit to get into the mix with those others QBs who are in the high three or low four range. Still, when you take away the Bucs game, his INT rate drops all the way to 3.2%. If he plays at 3.2% or lower the rest of the way, he will be right in the middle of every rookie quarterback.

Justin Fields Sack Rate Goals

Justin Fields is taking a lot of sacks, but not quite at an all-time bad rate. Alex Smith and Jake Plummer were at 14.9%, and David Carr saw 14.6% sacks on his drop-backs. McNabb is the best quarterback to stick with his team after a bad sack rate, and he was at 11.5%. That should be the bar for Fields to cross.

That is because no one besides McNabb took that many sacks and turned out. Roethlisberger was at 9.2%, Jackson and Watson were at 8.6%, and 8.5% and Wilson, Murray, and Allen were at 7.7% to 8.1%. This is where Fields needs to be.

Still, the best rookies were from 3.7% to 6.3%. Fields is near Manning in picks, but Manning is at 3.7% in sacks. Even Cam Newton and Andrew Luck were at 6.3% and 6.2% as rookies. Almost all players under 6.3% as a rookie turned out okay, while the big names did stand out in amongst some busts in the 7.7%-8.1% range.

Right now Justin Fields is at 13.4%. This is going to have to drop just to hit McNabb, who is a supreme outlier. Still, not to keep adding qualifiers, but Fields at nine sacks against Cleveland, which is a rare outlier. He has not been great, but the number drops to 11.9% when you remove the Cleveland game. This number is closer to McNabb but does show that of all things, he needs to take fewer sacks.

Justin Fields Quarterback Rating Goals

Eli Manning, McNabb, and Stafford had passer ratings under 62 as a rookie. They are three of 20 guys, and the other 17 are not quarterbacks you want to be, so 62 would be a low bar.

Josh Allen hit 67.9, Peyton at 71.2, and Luck at 76.5. You could include Palmer and say that from 77.7 to 67.9 is an average scenario where there are some busts, but clearly some success stories.

The best quarterbacks are at 87 and up as rookies, though. The top five are 101.7, including Watson, Prescott, RG3, Wilson, and Herbert.

Right now Justin Fields is at 69.4. He is right above Allen and below Peyton, which is fine and is above the low bar where the busts live. Still, he should want to get into the mid-70s, and at least push for the 80s by the end of the season.

Justin Fields Yards Per Attempt Goals

Stafford, McNabb, Eli Manning, and Derek Carr all had under 6 yards per attempt as a rookie. Still, that is four out of 30 names that turned out okay after that poor of a rookie season. Six is a low bar for Fields to hit.

Meanwhile, 6.4-7 is where the majority of rookies sit. This would be an expected number from Fields. On the high end, 7.3-8.8 is where the best rookies sat. Roethlisberger, Watson, Prescott, Wilson, and Ryan were at 8.1 on average.

Justin Fields is at 6.86, which is right in the middle once again. It is great that he is progressing, and not near the floor. In fact, in the past four games Fields is at 7.16. Again, a small upgrade would be great, because the best are above 7.3. Still, this is right where Fields needs to be as a rookie to say that he is still on track.

Justin Fields Adjusted Yards Per Attempt Goals

Adjusted yards per attempt adds points for touchdowns and take away for picks. With all of Manning’s interceptions, he was at 5.22, which is a low bar for Fields to reach. The majority of rookie quarterbacks sit at 5.3 to 6.4, though.

Then, there are the best who are 6.6 and greater. Even the top five averaged 8.3 in this area, boosted by touchdowns. Fields currently sits at 5.35. The names below him are Geno Smith, Derek Carr, Christian Ponder, and Peyton Manning. The names above are Sam Bradford, Josh Allen, CJ Beathard, and Carson Palmer. A mixed bag, but certainly not in the bust range.

Still, the names such as Murray, Wilson, Ryan, Herbert, Wtaosn and Jackson, Burrow all clear 6.6 adjusted yards per attempt as a rookie.

Justin Fields Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt Goals

Lastly is adjusted net yards per attempt which include sack yards. This is going to be the most important stat for Fields considering his biggest case towards being a bust is the number of sacks he is taking. If you read our article yesterday you know that while Fields is not to blame for being under pressure so much, he does take too many sacks while under pressure.

Stafford had a 3.64 ANY/A, Eli had 3.21, McNabb had 2.41. The rest of the players under 4.3 are busts. 3.7 is a low point, but even that is low where about 40 of the busts are.

Josh Allen was a 4.37 for a rookie, and many thought that was too low to improve. 4.37-4.87 is not great, but there are examples of QBs with rookie years in there. Most of the quarterbacks were in the 5.2-6 range, and the best quarterbacks were from 6.2 to 7.8. Prescott, Wilson, Watson, Ryan, and Roethlisberger average 7.1 ANY/A, which is where the no-doubters are.

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Fields is at 3.63, almost identical to Stafford. As noted, it is not a death nail, but this is not where he can be as there are far too many busts with similar metrics. Improving this to at least 4.3 is the biggest factor for Fields to check on by the end of the season.