When high-profile members of this current NFL draft class of quarterbacks were high school juniors, one player in particular stood out for his unique ability to absorb and retain the complexities of a new playbook.
Quincy Avery, the president of Quarterback Takeover, also has worked closely with another quarterback from this draft class he calls “probably the sharpest guy I’ve ever met.”
Yet, Justin Fields’ photographic memory and Trey Lance’s knowledge of football schematics are generally not highlighted when compared to the other top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Other quarterbacks are complimented for intelligence, understanding of the game, ability to quickly process information.
Instead, Ohio State’s Fields and Lance of North Dakota State are discussed in different terms: Athletic, big arms, fast runners. Fields and Lance are Black.
“People just don’t know these guys well enough,” Avery said on 49ers Talk, “so I think we really got to be careful and really take a step back, and ask ourselves, ‘Why do we think this about somebody initially?’ Why don’t people talk about how smart Trey and Justin are?”
Avery was asked on the podcast about the racial stereotyping of quarterbacks and the harmful consequences of lumping players together based on little more than skin color.
Generally, media members will speak to NFL scouts or talent evaluators who request anonymity.
NBC Sports Bay Area recently compiled scouting reports of Fields and Lance, along with Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. The 49ers are considering those three quarterbacks with the No. 3 overall pick in next week’s draft.
Avery suggests media members must take on the burden of recognizing “inherent bias” before relaying those perspectives onto their audiences.
“I think the media has to be careful because they echo a lot of the things that they hear from people who get a short glimpse or small snapshot and echo those messages without necessarily being able to have the conversations and the interaction with these guys to have real opinions based on things they know,” Avery said. “Even though they’re echoing things they hear, they should really be careful.”
Avery’s involvement in the Elite 11 high school quarterback competition provided him with his first exposure to Fields.
Fields has “ability off the charts,” Avery said. But the one area that really stood out from the beginning was Fields' unique mental capabilities.
“We get an NFL style playbook, and Justin is a junior in high school and he memorizes the playbook better than everybody in the class,” Avery said. “He has an amazing memory and has the ability to flip things in his head and make mental pictures.”
Lance’s knowledge and intelligence also are strengths that rarely get discussed.
“He is so advanced,” Avery said. “Probably the sharpest guy I’ve ever met, in terms of X’s and O’s on the board.”
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out in a recent report that Fields was twice asked during his media availability following his pro day about his ability to read defenses, and Lance was asked if he could make “quick decisions” in a West Coast offense.
“We got to really start digging on that and figure out why we’re asking these things about guys and making sure we’re correct when we do so,” Avery said.