Is Mac Jones better than Justin Fields?

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Justin Fields, quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes

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It’s not Browns related, exactly, but we have no problem jumping into the Justin Fields v Mac Jones debate. Three of the four hosts here at The Dawgs Podcast are also big Ohio State fans, so we’ve watched every game Justin Fields played for the Buckeyes. We did not watch every Mac Jones game, though what game was usually on in the afternoon slate right after the Buckeyes? Yep, Alabama.

So the 49ers traded up to the 3rd overall slot in the 2021 NFL Draft. We’ll acknowledge that supposedly Trey Lance from North Dakota State is also in consideration with the pick, but he seems too much of a project quarterback for the 49ers to select this high, especially with Fields and Jones also available.

Justin Fields • 6’3” • 228 lbs • Junior • Ohio State

Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded Fields 91.5 in 2019 and 93.6 in 2020. He has two solid seasons starting for a major team in a big conference. He has playoff experience, so he’s tasted the big stage. His passing grade overall is a 92.2, his intermediate passing grade is 94.5, but most importantly, his deep passing grade is 96.5. Having watched every Justin Field snap, we can attest to the deep downfield passing accuracy and arm strength this young man possesses. The throws look effortless sailing down the field, which says a lot considering the amount of zip required to throw it that distance. And, more times than not, the ball lands not behind the receiver or way out front, but right in the receiver’s outstretched hands. 

And while Fields is a dominant passer, he also excels with his legs. Rattling off 484 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019, then following with 383 and 5 in 2020, Fields clearly showed how dangerous he can be on the ground. At his pro day, Fields ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, further solidifying his elite athletic standing.

The knock on Fields – and this comes from Buckeye fans who lived these moments – is his tendency to hold the ball far too long. Against Indiana, Fields barely completed 18 of 30 passes for 60% completion. He did tally up 300 yards, but that was because his 3 interceptions had the Buckeyes playing disadvantaged. Again, when he faced Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game, Fields struggled with 12/27 passing (44.4%), 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

But the bounceback in this kid is unreal. Justin Fields came back against Clemson in the playoff semifinal game and roasted the Tigers for 22/28 (78.6%), 385 yards and a whopping 6 touchdowns. And most of that came after a violent hit had all of us convinced his season was over. Fields missed one play, came back and fought through his rib injury to dominate Clemson and advance to the National Championship.

Mac Jones • 6’3” • 214 lbs • RS Senior • Alabama

We won’t look at 2019 for Mac Jones because that was Tua Tagovailoa’s final season at Alabama. But in 2020, PFF graded Jones at 95.8. His overall passing grade was 94.8, his intermediate was 93.9, and his deep grade was 98.9. All similar to Fields, though slightly higher. He boasted a 76.6% completion in 2020 with 4,494 yards that produced 41 touchdowns and only 4 picks. That’s pretty impressive, and we don’t care who you are. What Mac Jones cannot do similar to Fields, however, is move. You won’t see Jones breaking away from many sacks and taking off for 15 yards and a first down. 

Like we said, this assessment of Jones will be lighter because we didn’t watch him with the same scrutiny as we watched Fields. We do know the major knocks on Jones are his limited playing experience and the inflated situation in which he played. Jones only has the 2020 season as starting experience (some in 2019, but that was due to Tua’s injury). Also, Jones played on the best team in college football with NFL-ready offensive linemen, the top running back in the class, and two receivers who will almost certainly be the top receivers for whatever NFL team drafts them.

But let’s not pretend Justin Fields didn’t have a pretty sweet situation in Columbus. His offensive line was stacked, his running back was a monster (except it took until the end of the season to give him playing time), and his top receivers will be high draft picks next season. 

So the “Jones played with the best” argument doesn’t hold as much water as some people think. Trevor Lawrence will be the first name called, and he played on a championship team while in college. It just makes sense that some of the best players played on the best teams.

With all that being said, it might be a closer race than people are saying, despite whether they’re on the side of Fields or the side of Jones. Obviously, we stand on the side of our Buckeye, Justin Fields, as the right pick for the 49ers at number three overall. His blend of size, strength, accuracy, and speed make him an ideal fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense. But now we’ll wait until Thursday when the 49ers will probably render this analysis moot and pick Trey Lance.

Here’s our official evaluation of our selection for the 49ers in the Community Mock Draft:

The San Francisco 49ers have all the pieces of a Super Bowl contender - just look back two seasons ago when they were edged out by Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. The one piece that seem to be missing for significant stretches every season is the most important position on the field - quarterback. Justin Fields fits the mold of the ideal Kyle Shanahan quarterback. He’s a playmaker both with his arm and with his legs.

His athleticism and ball-carrier instinct can propel him to the elite quarterback that Robert Griffin III looked like he was going to be under Shanahan in Washington. Fields’ 6’3”, 230 pound frame is built to handle the dual-threat responsibilities of an NFL quarterback, and his 4.4 40 just validates his exceptional speed. He did show a tendency to fall into poor throwing decisions during the 2020 season, but those moments were far and few between. He boasted a 70.2% completion percentage in 2020 (better than Trevor Lawrence’s 69.2%), and anyone who watched Fields consistently will attest to his superior arm strength and downfield accuracy - something the 49ers have been desperately missing on offense.

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