Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is entering his second season in the league with high expectations. The future of the Bears depends on him, after all. And while that may sound like drama usually reserved for a Marvel movie, the fact is it’s true.
The Bears will only go as far as Fields takes them over the next several years. Hopefully, he’ll be a franchise-changing starting quarterback who logs more than a decade behind center in Chicago. And hopefully, those years will be filled with wins, playoff berths, and perhaps more.
But if a recent ranking of second-year quarterbacks by NFL executives is correct, Fields’ future is murky.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, who polled “a handful of NFL execs,” Fields ranks fourth among the primary six second-year passers. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Fields, Mac Jones, and Davis Mills are those guys.
“God bless him and good luck,” an AFC scout told Fowler. “Good thing he can make things happen on his own. Long road ahead.”
Fields’ ranking is less about his talent and more about the lack of it around him. The criticism directed at general manager Ryan Poles has been steady all offseason. The focal point is Chicago’s failure to sign a media-approved wide receiver. But the addition of offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and the tweaks to Fields’ mechanics matter, and they have Fields’ arrow pointing up.
“I’m told the Bears are happy with Fields’ development this offseason, with better mechanics (quicker release) and some improvement in throwing on the move,” Fowler wrote. “The Bears are excited for offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s system, which should give Fields more space to operate.”
Poles’ decision to remain conservative this offseason will pay dividends next March. The Bears will have the most money to spend in free agency in 2023. And with stars like DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, and Terry McClaurin on expiring deals and in contract disputes, perhaps one of them will hit the open market next year. If they do, Chicago will be the front-runner.
Until then, Justin Fields will use wide receiver Darnell Mooney as his primary target and a cluster of Byron Pringle, rookie Velus Jones Jr., and a yet-to-be-determined veteran as his WR2/3/4. Tight end Cole Kmet will be one of his main targets in the Chicago Bears passing game, too.
If Fields is the player we think he is, he’ll rise preseason rankings like this one next year this time. But he’ll remain underrated until he proves on the field that he can overcome challenges like an underwhelming roster.
Bryan is the founder and managing editor of Bears Talk. His previous stops include Bears coverage for NBC Sports Chicago and USA Today. His NFL Draft and Bears coverage has also been featured on The Draft Network.