Widely regarded as one of the top quarterback prospects in this year's draft, Ohio State's Justin Fields is nevertheless battling a perception problem. It's not one that he has any control over, mind you. It's just one that's there. Because he happened to play at Ohio State, and the recent history of Ohio State quarterbacks in the NFL does not paint a pretty picture.
Asked about the comparison to previous quarterbacks that came out of OSU, here's what Fields had to say, per The Washington Post:
"I don't know those guys personally. I don't know their work ethic. I don't know what they were taught. I know what Dwayne (Haskins) was taught was a little similar to what coach [Ryan] Day was teaching me. But in all honesty, I think I'm different than those guys. I know my work ethic is unmatched, and just my dedication and passion to wanting to be great is just another level. In terms of the past quarterbacks, I can't control that. The only similarity that me and those guys have is that we wore the same uniform. So if they want to say that, then that's on them. I'm going to focus on myself and focus on continuing to get better in every aspect of the game."
Statistically speaking, Fields is correct. Comparing him to the five Ohio State quarterbacks since 2000 that have been drafted to play quarterback (unlike Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, who were, respectively, drafted as a wide receiver, and undrafted), Fields is pretty clearly the best of the bunch. He ranks first among the group in yards per attempt and touchdown rate, and second (by a hair) in completion percentage and interception rate.
|PLAYER||DRAFTED||PICK||ATT||COMP %||YDS||YPA||TD||INT||TD %||INT %|
The only passer among the group that even approached Fields' level of performance was the aforementioned Haskins, who went in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft -- just as Fields is expected to be a first-round pick next month. Unfortunately, we can only get non-sack rushing statistics (via Tru Media) for the 2016 through 2020 collegiate seasons; but since Fields was a far superior passer than all the pre-2016 quarterbacks anyway, that actually works just fine for us. And Fields, as you can see, was in a completely different world from Haskins as a runner.
|PLAYER||ATT||YDS||YDS/ATT||TD||NEG RUN||NEG %||EXPL RUN||EXPL %|
As a prospect, Fields is unlike his predecessors that wore the same uniform in college. It seems silly to compare him to them simply because they went to the same school, but that's the kind of thing that happens during draft season. There used to be a stigma surrounding quarterbacks that played for former college coach Jeff Tedford, for example, right up until Aaron Rodgers became one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game at the NFL level. How Fields fares in his next destination will be determined by a wide variety of factors, but the color uniform he wore while in college is pretty low down on that list.