He had to wait a little longer than hoped, but Justin Fields is officially an NFL quarterback.
Months of scrutiny and speculation surrounding the former Ohio State quarterback came to an end on Thursday night when the Chicago Bears traded up with the New York Giants to select Fields with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
The Cleveland crowd reacts to Justin Fields going to the Chicago Bears pic.twitter.com/5Ocu1TeBXk— Colin Hass-Hill (@chasshill) April 30, 2021
Blessed https://t.co/Sb2bBy2Y5f— Justin Fields (@justnfields) April 30, 2021
The Bears traded the 20th overall pick, a fifth-round pick and 2022 first- and fourth-round picks to move up nine spots and draft Fields, who now becomes their quarterback of the future.
Fields was the fourth quarterback selected in Thursday's first round after the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, the New York Jets drafted BYU's Zach Wilson and the San Francisco 49ers selected North Dakota State's Trey Lance with the top three picks.
He becomes just the third Ohio State quarterback in the common draft era to be selected in the first round of an NFL draft, joining Art Schlichter (No. 4 overall pick in 1982) and Dwayne Haskins (No. 15 overall pick in 2019).
Fields is the 31st Buckeye to be selected by the Bears, but the first since Marcus Freeman in 2009. He becomes the only Ohio State player on the Bears, where he joins a quarterback roster that also includes Andy Dalton and Nick Foles.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace said Friday morning that Dalton remains the Bears' starting quarterback and that the team is “going to have a really good plan in place to develop Justin, and do what’s best for our organization to win games.”
“It’ll be a daily process, a daily evaluation, but we’re excited to let that play out,” Pace said.
Fields isn’t the first former Ohio State quarterback to play for the Bears: Craig Krenzel was drafted by the Bears in 2004 and spent one season with the team, while Mike Tomczak – arguably Ohio State's most successful NFL quarterback ever – played for the Bears from 1985-90, starting 31 games in his six seasons in Chicago.
The Bears announced early Friday morning that Fields will wear No. 1, the same number he wore at Ohio State.
.@justnfields will officially wear No. 1.— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) April 30, 2021
GET IT NOW.
While it came as a surprise to many that Fields was not a top-10 pick, he told Bears reporters in a Zoom call after being selected that he's “the kind of guy that thinks that everything happens for a reason.”
“I think this is God's plan for me to be a Bear,” Fields said. “So I'm more than excited, and more than ready to get up there.”
Now, Fields will look to change the narrative about Ohio State quarterbacks in the NFL and break a long-standing drought of Buckeye signal-callers struggling at the next level.
Ohio State has never had a star quarterback in the league, but Fields believes he can be the one to change that.
“In all honesty, I think I’m different than those guys,” Fields said after Ohio State's pro day. “I know my work ethic is unmatched, and just my dedication and my passion to wanting to be great is another level.”
Ryan Day will be his biggest supporter back in Columbus.
“Whoever ends up with Justin is gonna get somebody who’s the most competitively tough guy I’ve ever been around,” Day said Thursday on ESPN's College GameDay. “They’re gonna get somebody who’s gonna go to work right away. And what matters in the end is where he goes and getting to work tomorrow. In the end, that’s what matters the most. And I’m just proud of him and I’m excited for his family to go through tonight, because a lot of hard work and sacrifice has happened to get to this point.”
Fields heads to the NFL after two years at Ohio State in which he went 20-2 as a starting quarterback, completed 396 of his 579 passing attempts for 5,373 yards and 63 touchdowns and ran for 867 yards and 15 touchdowns. He earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors after both of his seasons as a Buckeye while leading Ohio State to two Big Ten championships and two College Football Playoff appearances.
Fields is Ohio State's 85th all-time first-round NFL draft pick, increasing the Buckeyes’ record total for the most first-round picks ever.
Ohio State has now had at least one player selected in the first round of six consecutive NFL drafts, but this year's draft was the first time since 2015 that the Buckeyes did not have at least two players selected in the first round.
Buckeyes who could hear their names called during the second and third rounds of the draft on Friday include linebackers Baron Browning and Pete Werner, offensive linemen Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers, defensive tackle Tommy Togiai, defensive back Shaun Wade and running back Trey Sermon.