Max Thompson

The NFL draft is one of the most exciting events in sports, but it lends itself to a litany of horrible takes. Each year, the months of March and April are home to analysts comparing hand sizes, SAT scores and the haircuts of potential prospects.

We totally understand why they do this, they need something to put on Twitter, on TV and on their draft blogs. Nevertheless, this overanalyzing of prospects leads to some ridiculous takes. One of the players most impacted by this cycle this year is Ohio State’s quarterback Justin Fields. 

Fields is a six-foot-three, 225 pound quarterback with the arm talent of Aaron Rodgers and the mobility of Russell Wilson. He was a five-star recruit out of high school and was ranked as the highest rated dual-threat quarterback in the entire nation.

After a rough experience at Georgia, Fields transferred to Ohio State where he led them to an appearance in the National Championship this past year. 

Despite all of this, Fields’ draft stock is steadily falling. There is one tiny detail that I failed to mention, Justin Fields is not white.

Now, what I am going to say next requires some nuance, so stick with me here. Each year, hundreds of Black athletes enter the NFL, as do hundreds of athletes of every other ethnicity. However, the quarterback position in American football is one of the most controversial jobs for a Black man to hold in the entire world.

This is because of decades full of innate biases against them in that position. Don’t believe me? Pause for a second and think about what Black quarterbacks are currently in the NFL. Think about how they are typically portrayed in the sports media world.

Now, think about how quarterbacks of other ethnic backgrounds are portrayed, still not seeing it? Let’s be a bit more specific now.

When Lamar Jackson came into the NFL, we had to watch as each and every sports talk show host debated whether or not he was able to even play quarterback. There were serious talks of him playing another position, and teams even requested to see him at another spot in the NFL combine. Now, you may be thinking, “Why wouldn’t they? He is a great athlete and struggled with accuracy and multi-level reads in college!” That claim does have some validity.

Jackson, as we all know, is a terrific athlete. Also, he did post completion percentages of 56% and 59% in his final two years in college, respectively. However, he was not the only first round quarterback of 2018 to struggle like this.

Josh Allen was another phenomenal athlete at quarterback who also struggled with accuracy in college. Like Jackson, he managed a completion percentage of only 56% each of his final two years at Wyoming. Like Jackson, he was a first round pick in the 2018 draft. Like Jackson, he is a physical freak. Allen stands at six-foot-five, 240 pounds with a sub 4.8 40-yard. However, for some odd reason, nobody was asking him to go line up at tight end. 

These biases are complex and difficult to identify. Unfortunately, even if you think you lack them, you probably don’t. Heck, I am writing an entire article about Black quarterback bias, and I still used a Black quarterback (Russell Wilson) to describe fantastic mobility.

The point is, we need to make sure that we critically examine storylines when they come out. 

For example, look at Justin Fields. He put up the second highest QBR in the entire NCAA last year, did it against the fifteenth hardest strength of schedule, contains every physical and mental tool you need to succeed and has given zero indication that we should be worried about him as a prospect.

There is no logical reason to expect him to not be a top ten pick and there is very little reason to expect him to not be successful in the league.

So please, the next time you say that Justin Fields is “a one read quarterback,” or “lacks the IQ to really succeed” or “looks like a running back,” please ask yourself a simple question. Are you saying this because you crunched his game tape and saw him miss a corner route on a cover seven match? Are you saying this because he missed a backside blitz and forced a deep post in a cover three? Or are you saying this just because your “gut” tells you to?

Max Thompson is a sophomore majoring in business management and journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at sthomp92@vols.utk.edu. Follow @The_Out_Route on Twitter for high-quality NFL analysis!

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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