Good news, Chicago Bears fans. Justin Fields is just like you. Well, at least from the standpoint that he recently has been doing some casual browsing of the wide receiver inventory for this year’s NFL draft.
“Of course,” Fields said Tuesday morning before the team’s minicamp practice at Halas Hall. “There are a lot of guys coming out in this year’s draft who are talented. I’m excited to see who we get.”
He’s obviously not alone.
For what it’s worth, this year’s receiver class is loaded with talent and widely regarded as incredibly deep. There’s predictable buzz that Bears general manager Ryan Poles will pluck at least one new playmaker from that shelf next week to add to their new-look offense.
And as it so happens, Fields has previous experience throwing to three of the most highly-regarded prospects in the class: Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave and Alabama’s Jameson Williams, who played with Fields for two seasons with the Buckeyes before transferring.
Fields was kind enough to offer his informed scouting report on Olave, an assessment he punctuated with three key words: That’s my guy.
“He’s fast, of course,” Fields said. “He has great hands. (He’s a) great route-runner. And he’s probably one of the best deep-ball trackers I’ve ever played with in my life.
“He’s a great player and a great person. And his mindset his and the way he carries himself is awesome.”
That was enough to at least prompt a “What if?” thought bubble with just a little more than a week remaining before the draft begins. Look, April is a time for big dreams, right?
To be clear, the idea that the draft dominoes could detour in a way that gives the Bears an opening to go after Olave likely is far-fetched. The consensus across the league is Olave will almost certainly be selected in the top 20, taking his top-end speed, precise route running and impressive work ethic to some lucky franchise that owns a first-round pick. That will leave Poles and the Bears’ talent evaluation team to consider several other options. And the likelihood is that at least a half-dozen receivers will be gone before the Bears go on the clock for the first time at No. 39.
Still, it’s fair to point out that a year ago a highly-touted Ohio State prospect (Fields) lasted longer than expected in Round 1 and wound up with a team (the Bears) that began that night in the No. 20 slot on the draft board before engineering an aggressive trade up to grab the quarterback they felt was a generational talent.
So, sure, it’s OK for the most hopeful of Bears fans to continue dreaming the biggest of dreams. For a few more days anyway.
Regardless, adding firepower to a passing offense that finished 30th last season in total yards (188.8), last in sacks allowed (58), 27th in yards per pass play (5.9) and 29th in passer rating (75.5) is greatly needed. And with three selections on the draft’s second night — second-rounders at Nos. 39 and 48 and a Round 3 selection at No. 71 — Poles should have an appealing menu to scan through.
For those playing along at home, highlight North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, Georgia’s George Pickens, Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore and Alabama’s John Metchie III as possible options for the Bears on Day 2. And know that Poles was full of purpose in early March when he stressed that he is aiming to find his young quarterback “a dependability piece,” a go-to guy for big moments.
Asked Tuesday what he values in such “a dependability piece,” Fields lit up.
“One, you’ve got to have that connection,” he said. “You both have to be on the same page with what concept you’re running and with what coverage you’re running into. And then the second thing is that ‘it’ factor, that mentality. It’s that dog mentality where no matter what the situation is, what coverage it is, who’s guarding you, your guy’s going to make a play. It’s just that mentality and having that mentality in big moments.”
As part of his offseason training in Georgia, Fields invited Bears receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet down for throwing sessions, a promising step in his bid to build timing and rapport with some of his teammates. The Bears have also added a handful of other new pass catchers via free agency, most notably receivers Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown.
Still, in addition to waiting for his superiors to add firepower to the offense, Fields has also started a climb to learn a new system in his second season, uniting with new coordinator Luke Getsy to begin their trek up the mountain.
That process is still in the tedious introductory phases right now. Some of the adjustments Fields has been asked to make heading into his second season are small but important. In the shotgun, for example, he is now starting with his left foot forward after having his right foot out front in 2021.
“It’s just what they do in their offense,” he explained Tuesday. “It times up better with the routes. So that’s why we do it.”
Following Tuesday’s practice, coach Matt Eberflus acknowledged the confidence Fields seems to be emitting.
“He’s just soaking it in and taking command of the offense,” Eberflus said. “That’s what he’s doing. He’s done a great job with that so far. And I thought he did an excellent job today.”
Fields emphasized that he feels added comfort and energy in beginning his second season as the Bears’ undisputed starter.
“It’s definitely a different mindset than last year,” he said. “I’m ready to roll.”
Of course, he isn’t about to turn down some added help on the field. And like many Bears fans, he will be monitoring next week’s draft with curiosity to see what receiver Poles is able to land.