Sports Illustrated’s Matt Verderame published a revised 2021 NFL Draft, made, of course, with the benefit of hindsight.
Predictably, Trevor Lawrence is still the first overall pick. He’s had some ups and downs in his first two years in the NFL, but most believe he’s on the fast track to joining the ranks of Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes in the elite class of quarterbacks.
What will interest Chicago Bears fans, and will surely come as no surprise, is that Verderame has Justin Fields getting drafted much higher than 11th overall; he goes No. 3 to the San Francisco 49ers.
“Finally, the 49ers can stop wondering who the quarterback is going to be,” Verderame wrote. “Instead of the current situation with Trey Lance, Sam Arnold, and Brock Purdy all trying to impress the staff, Fields is a budding star who last year joined only Michael Vick and Lamar Jackson as quarterbacks to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.”
While Bears fans certainly appreciate hearing praises heaped upon their quarterback, I hope people will soon forget about his 1,143 yards of rushing in 2022 and speak more about his abilities as a passer. In fairness, those explosive 50-plus-yard touchdown runs were unprecedented by a quarterback, so that’s what sticks out in everyone’s minds. And the Bears’ passing game operated at a historically low volume, producing shockingly bad results.
Still, Fields flashed enough as a passer to believe he can take that next step in his development. And with an improved offensive line and more sure-handed receivers on the team, there’s every reason to expect Fields’ passing numbers to resemble a Top 10 quarterback in 2023.
Later in the re-draft, Verderame keeps the Chicago Bears at 11th overall, even though they likely would not have traded up if Fields was no longer on the board, and he has them selecting Rashawn Slater, the left tackle who has been a dominant young player for the Los Angeles Chargers.
That would have been an excellent pick for Chicago, and Bears fans would certainly love to have a left tackle of that caliber on the roster right now, but it likely would not make a difference. Without Justin Fields, the tenor of the Chicago Bears would change drastically, and they would not be remotely as exciting as they are right now.