What is Justin Fields’ ceiling as an NFL starting quarterback?

There is a chance Justin Fields becomes the best quarterback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Although the Chicago Bears stumbled to 3-8 on the season after losing a heartbreaker on the road to the Atlanta Falcons, it appears that Justin Fields has serious star potential under center.

Fields nearly quarterbacked the Bears to victory over his hometown team who passed on him in the 2021 NFL Draft for tight end Kyle Pitts. While one could argue for Pitts being a generational talent at his position, Atlanta could have been in the market for a quarterback. However, amid the sacks and the game-ending interception, Fields is proving to everyone that he has staying power.

Let’s discuss what Fields’ NFL ceiling is and if he can be the best quarterback in his draft class.

Chicago Bears: What is Justin Field’s ceiling as an NFL starting quarterback?

Coming out of high school, Fields was a five-star, dual-threat prospect from Kennesaw committed to Georgia. He backed up Jake Fromm during his freshman season in 2018 before transferring to Ohio State. Fields flourished in his two years in Columbus, but there were skeptics about his loopy throwing motion, as well as the level of competition he played against. The Big Ten is not the SEC…

Despite leading Ohio State to the national championship in 2020, the Heisman Trophy finalist fell to No. 11 in the NFL Draft where the Bears traded up to get him. He was the fourth quarterback taken that year behind Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Zach Wilson to the New York Jets and Trey Lance to the San Francisco 49ers. Fields did go ahead of Mac Jones at No. 15, though.

After their rookie seasons, Jones had the easily the best year. Lance did not play much at all, while Fields, Lawrence and Wilson had to navigate tough spots playing for bad teams. Although Jones appears to have been elevated by former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, it is Fields who may have what it takes to be the best quarterback from what looks to be a weak draft class.

Lance is hurt, has played very little the last four years and reeks of a total bust. While the Jets are winning games under Robert Saleh, it feels like they are doing that more in spite of Wilson, a la what Rex Ryan did with Mark Sanchez as his young starting quarterback over a decade ago. As for Lawrence, he has all the talent in the world, but perhaps we overlooked the Clemson bubble a bit?

What gives Fields an advantage over the four other first-round quarterbacks from 2021 is he seems to have that gene to just make something happen. Lance is too raw, Wilson is too reckless, Jones is too coaching-dependent and Lawrence is lacking mettle. Eventually, the Bears are going to surround Fields with league-average talent. When that day comes, look out for Chicago, man!

I watched the Bears-Falcons game on Sunday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised by how competent the Chicago passing game looked. No team has less of a clue historically over how to move the sticks aerially than the Bears. It may have been in a dome vs. a not great Atlanta team, but the Bears offense looks exciting with Fields running it and Luke Getsy calling the plays for him.

The three things the Bears need to do for Fields going forward is to draft well, maintain some continuity on the sidelines and get this dude playing inside of a dome stat. If Chicago wants to win a Super Bowl in the next decade, they need to get that state of the art facility built in the suburbs with a dome. This will allow for Fields to show off all that he can do from the quarterback position.

I mean, this looks fun. Free agents will want to catch passes from him. The Bears have a pretty solid receiving corps as is with Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet at tight end. While they can still run the ball, and should still run the ball because that is their offensive identity through and through, Fields is proving he can be the difference-maker leading a chaotic franchise.

As far as his ceiling is concerned, he will never be an undeniable tractor, one who pulls his team to victories they should have never had in the first place. Fields does have a bit of that off-script, reckless nature in him, which could be his kryptonite. The good news for Bears fans is he does not have to be akin to Joe Burrow to win plenty of games as Chicago’s long-lost franchise quarterback.

If all goes well, he can be a way better version of Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill, two former first-round picks who can play at a high level, but are too inconsistent to build a franchise around long-term. If we are talking about Fields’ absolute zenith, he can be Steve Young. Nobody wanted to believe Young was the guy until he was the guy for the 49ers after Joe Montana was cooked.

Ultimately, Fields is not consistent enough to overcome perpetual organizational dysfunction. However, he does possess certain dynamic traits that can elevate bad rosters to make them more competitive. Fields has more raw talent than Russell Wilson. It is up to the Bears to get him his Pete Carroll, but he must feel empowered so he will not bail to go play for a Nathaniel Hackett.

Matt Eberflus and Ryan Poles’ second offseason in charge may shape what Fields’ NFL ceiling is.

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