Listen, I won’t lie to you. I am a huge fan but trust me, Justin Fields fantasy value is about to explode. If you have seen any of the videos I am in, you will see the custom 16×20 autograph in the background. I have over 100 different rookie cards. So yes, this could be perceived as a homer pick, but if you give me just a few minutes of your time, I think you will agree. At least to some degree.
Matt Nagy is Gone and That is Good For Justin Fields Fantasy Value
One thing that most people agree on when it comes to Justin Fields, is that the departure of Matt Nagy is a good thing. It is also irresponsible to put it all on Nagy, after all, rookie quarterbacks tend to just struggle in general. The one thing you can’t have, is a coach that compounds those mistakes by making many of his own. And Nagy did plenty of that in 2021.
It became evident early in the season that the coach was trying to fit Fields to his offense instead of building the offense to Fields’ strengths. The Cleveland game was the only evidence needed to understand that. With a poor offensive line, he let his rookie quarterback get beaten up by not moving him around. That didn’t change as the season progressed. Get this:
- Justin Fields = 3%
- Andy Dalton = 3%
- Nick Foles = 5%
That is the percentage of plays that each QB ran an RPO per snap played. So basically, Nagy thought that Andy Dalton & Nick Foles were equally equipped for the Run Pass Option offense.
To put that into perspective, here are some numbers that other running QBs utilized the RPO offense.
- Jalen Hurts = 16%
- Lamar Jackson = 15%
- Cam Newton = 13%
- Kyler Murray = 12%
- Josh Allen = 11%
How about some QBs that we don’t look at as elite runners.
- Colt McCoy = 14%
- Tua Tagovailoa = 12%
- Carson Wentz = 8%
Fellow rookie Trey Lance ran 18 RPO plays on his 178 snaps. Justin Fields only ran 22 on his 635.
Nagy Did Not Want Justin Fields to Run the Ball
We saw the same thing happen to Mitchell Trubisky in Nagy’s offense. Not to gas up Trubisky, but before his injury in 2018, he was actually leading all quarterbacks in rushing yards. After that point, it was like Nagy refused to use his mobility. That didn’t change when Fields took over. He would only utilize designed runs for Fields on 4% of all of his snaps. That is the same percentage as Jimmy Garoppolo, Jameis Winston, Nick Foles, and less than Case Keenum (5%).
If Dr. Strange looked at one billion scenarios, only in a universe where Matt Nagy is the head coach, would Justin Fields only be utilized as a runner twice as often as an old Matt Ryan and his 2% designed run rate.
Other premium rushing quarterback designed rush rates:
- Cam Newton = 16%
- Trey Lance = 15%
- Lamar Jackson = 13%
- Jalen Hurts = 9%
Justin Fields’ Fantasy Upside Gets Unlocked With Better Usage
The fun part of Justin Fields’ upside is that he doesn’t have to get all the way up to those guys when it comes to rushing %. The one thing that was evident last year, was that Fields is going to be good on the ground. On his 72 attempts in 2021, he came up with 420 rush yards, which was 5th amongst all quarterbacks. His 5.8 YPC was tied for 2nd amongst QBs and he was only behind Jalen Hurts (784), Lamar Jackson (767), Josh Allen (763), Kyler Murray (423) in total rushing yards. That is despite him being 305 snaps away from Kyler, who had the next fewest.
He did all this without even being used as a runner. So what happens if Luke Getsy is actually building the offense around Fields’ strengths? Could we see an RPO on 10-12% of plays? How about a designed run rate of 7-8%? I think both of these are pretty conservative rates for the Bears to utilize Fields in 2022, but what would that do for Justin Fields fantasy outlook?
First, his .66 rush yards per snap were tied with Josh Allen for 7th amongst quarterbacks in the NFL. Here are the 6 that were ahead of them:
- Lamar Jackson = .95
- Trey Lance = .94
- Cam Newton = .91
- Taysom Hill = .87
- Jalen Hurts = .82
- Tyler Huntley = .79
Again, being conservative, I think he could easily see a jump from that .66 to the .75-.80 range. Which then leads to…
1,000+ Snaps in a Season for QBs With Bad Offenses
This is obviously dependent on health, but quarterbacks that start 17 games will eclipse this mark. For example, Trevor Lawrence saw 1,078 snaps in his rookie season averaging 63.4/game with a low of 46 in week 11. Justin Fields, in his 12 games played, only had 8 with more than 46 snaps. In week 1 he only saw 5 snaps, week 2 he came in after a Dalton injury for 42 snaps, week 3 was the brutal Cleveland game and he only had 45, and week 11 he was injured against Baltimore after only 30.
In the other 8 games, he saw a low of 58 snaps. Those weeks were 4-9, and weeks 14 & 15. Those 8 games saw this rushing output:
- 54 of his 72 attempts
- 351 of his 420 rush yards
- 14.8 FPPG
Those totals project out for 6.75 attempts per game or 115 for the season and 43.9 rush yards per game and 746 on the season. The fantasy points per game weren’t great, but it was better than the 11.4 he averaged for his entire season with the partial games included. If we dig just a tad bit deeper though, we saw him improve drastically in his last 4 completed starts.
- 34 rushing attempts = 8.5/game
- 257 rush yards = 64.25/game
- 20.68 FPPG
We absolutely saw improvement as the season went on, despite Nagy holding him back. Now, I am not going to project out that he averaged 64.25 rush yards per game and rush for over 1,000 yards. But, there is a benchmark that we can look at that I think is attainable by Fields in 2022.
Seven QB Seasons of 750+ Rushing Yards In The Past 4 Seasons (2018-2021)
- 2018: Cam Newton – 754
- 2019: Lamar Jackson – 1,206
- 2020: Lamar Jackson – 1,206, Kyler Murray – 819
- 2021: Jalen Hurts – 784, Lamar Jackson – 767, Josh Allen – 763
Only one of these players didn’t average at least 20 fantasy points per game, Cam Newton in 2018. But, his 18.72 was still good for the 4th best PPG average that season. In 2019, Jackson averaged 28.11 for 1st overall. Then the following season Jackson’s 22.79 was good for 8th overall, while Kyler was 4th overall at 24.42. Last season, Jackson was 7th overall with 21.08, Hurts was 6th overall with 21.41, and Josh Allen was 1st overall with 24.56.
But Can He Throw and Does He Have The Weapons to be a Fantasy Asset?
Listen, this is one thing that I can not stress enough, but the “lack of weapons” argument has been overused as a knock against why Justin Fields fantasy value shouldn’t be higher. Right now, Fantasy Pros ranks the Bears’ schedule the 6th best for fantasy QBs. That starts us off on the right footstep.
Now let’s look at some weapons of running QBs that made huge leaps from year one to year two.
In 2019, Lamar Jackson’s top two receiving threats didn’t even reach 900 yards. That was Mark Andrews (852) in his 2nd NFL season and Marquise Brown (584) in his rookie season. Brown also had 233 of those yards in weeks 1 (147) and 2 (86). The remaining receivers and tight ends were Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst, Seth Roberts, and Miles Boykin. Jackson only threw for 3,305 yards that year.
That same year, Josh Allen was the QB6 on the season. His leading WRs were John Brown (1,060) and Cole Beasley (778) and a then-rookie Dawson Knox chipped in 388. The rest of that roster was Isaiah McKenzie, Robert Foster, Andre Roberts, Tommy Sweeny, Zay Jones, Tyler Kroft, and Lee Smith. Josh Allen would throw for 3,089 yards that season.
I could argue that Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet stack up with the top two receivers on either of those teams, especially since they are both more experienced than Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and Tyler Kroft were at that time.
Tying Up Why Justin Fields Fantasy Outlook is Widely Underrated
We have been talking for multiple years about why guys like Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, and even another second-year quarterback, Trey Lance, are strong QB1s as long as they are on the field, and that is strictly rushing ability. Justin Fields was always regarded as a better passing prospect and he showed in his rookie year that he is at minimum in the conversation as one of the best 4-5 rushing QBs in the league.
I don’t know if it is all the “Bears Have Never Had a Good QB” talk, which is true, I hate that about my team.
But if you want to make some money, DraftKings has Fields’ Rushing line at 500.5 for the 2022 season.
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