New York Jets: Justin Fields isn’t just a consolation prize

The New York Jets shouldn’t lament missing on Trevor Lawrence with Justin Fields.

It seemed as though the New York Jets couldn’t do anything right in the 2020 NFL season. They were ridiculed as an 0-13 team and just as much so when they managed to upset the Los Angeles Rams for their first win.

For Jets fans, it seemed the sky was falling as their hopes of landing Trevor Lawrence had come to a crashing halt. It only got worse when they beat the Browns the following week to solidify themselves with the second selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. But while it seemed like a fatal error at the time, those two wins may have placed the Jets in a perfect position after all.

Justin Fields has been in Lawrence’s shadow dating back to their high school days. While Lawrence was consistently regarded as a top prospect, Fields didn’t get the same type of attention until later in his high school career. It’s led to the stigma that Fields just isn’t comparable to Lawrence.

When the two started college, that unspoken rivalry continued. While Lawrence was raising the National Championship trophy in 2018 (something Fields just missed out on this season), Fields wasn’t even a starting quarterback at Georgia.

When Fields transferred to Ohio State, his career took the turn that it was expected to take. But for some reason, he’s still been unable to shake off the perception that he isn’t as good as Lawrence.

In 2019, Fields was admittedly the second-best quarterback in the nation behind what would eventually be the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL Draft, LSU’s Joe Burrow. If you looked at nearly every statistical category for a quarterback that year, though, you would find Fields’ name near the top of those lists. Yet again he was overlooked, as PFF had ranked him behind Trevor Lawrence.

Fields’ heartbreaking performance in the Fiesta Bowl in 2019 (against Lawrence’s Clemson team) left a bad taste in people’s mouths for the rest of that year, which only seemed to add to the stigma that he was meant to be the second-best prospect.

What people fail to realize, however, was that the Fiesta Bowl was quite literally Fields’ only bad game in the 2019 season. It was also his only multi-interception game of that year.

Meanwhile, Lawrence had three such performances. He was also limited to one or fewer passing touchdowns on four separate occasions. The most disarming of these being in the National Championship Game where he didn’t throw a single passing touchdown and has a less than 50 percent completion rate.

Overall, Lawrence had six games where he’s thrown one or fewer passing touchdowns, something that Fields has done only one time in his career at Ohio State.

Justin Fields has been on par with Lawrence and the New York Jets should be thrilled.

Two mediocre performances against Indiana and Northwestern seemed to negate the incredible start he had to the 2020 college season while Lawrence’s poor performance against Virginia Tech was largely ignored.

When doing a deeper dive on the two prospects, it seems as if something’s being missed. While Trevor Lawrence is still an elite prospect, Justin Fields actually looks like the more pro-ready prospect going forward.

He utilizes multiple reads more often, accumulates more yardage with passes beyond the line of scrimmage and has shown better poise in the pocket. And it seemed as if he was hearing all of the criticisms surrounding him while his Ohio State team found themselves facing Lawrence and Clemson once again.

This time, it was Fields who had the last laugh. By the end of the game, Fields had torched the Clemson defense to the tune of six passing touchdowns, besting Lawrence in every possible statistic outside of total passing yards as he led Ohio State to the National Championship Game.

While Fields came up short against Alabama in the National Championship Game with an admittedly paltry performance, it doesn’t negate the quality of play he’s shown throughout his career.

The New York Jets may have lost out on Lawrence, but fans would be foolish to believe that Justin Fields is only a consolation prize with the second overall selection. In fact, he may just prove he was the better prospect in the end.