Justin Fields is not yet a top-20 quarterback in the eyes of Chris Simms. But he did make a big jump from last season's ranking.
The NBC analyst continued to reveal his "Top 40 QB Countdown" on Thursday, announcing spots No. 21 to No. 25. Fields came in at No. 23, up from the No. 39 spot prior to his rookie season.
"There's a lot of wow with Justin Fields," Simms said. "He made a lot of wow plays, and not just with his legs because his legs are gifted and he's as athletic as anybody in the sport as far as the quarterback is concerned. He's up there with Lamar Jackson as far as the ability to run and the wow factor running the ball. But I think the thing I'm most impressed by, going back and watching, is wow, damn, he makes some wow throws every game. Every game. And I think that's where I went, 'Man, OK, Justin Fields, a little bit more of a polished passer, a little bit more control with some of the down-the-field, wow-type throws than I gave him credit for.' And he didn't have the greatest offense or support system around him, and that's where I give him a lot of credit."
Fields came in behind No. 22 Zach Wilson of the New York Jets and No. 21 Daniel Jones of the New York Giants.
Fields completed 58.9 percent of his passes in 12 games during his rookie season, throwing for 1,870 yards, seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He ran for 420 yards and two touchdowns, but also had 12 fumbles (five lost), which was the fourth most in the NFL despite having started only 10 games.
Ball security, along with the Bears' further utilizing his mobility, will be a key factor in Fields' development as he enters his second season and learns a new system under head coach Matt Eberflus, who recently praised Fields' deep ball and ability to run, and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
"He puts himself in danger a little bit too much," Simms said of Fields. "Sometimes you get tackled for a minus-one in the NFL, Justin Fields. Don't try to break the tackle, break somebody's ankles and now you got seven guys flying at you who are all trying to kill you. Sometimes you just gotta know when to hold them and know when to fold them. And I'd like to see know when to fold them a little bit more."
Jones, like Fields, struggled with turnovers amid poor pass protection. Set to enter his third season, Jones is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he threw for 2,428 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 games. He ran for 298 yards and two touchdowns and had seven fumbles (three lost).
Wilson improved in the second half of his rookie season, going without an interception over his final five games. He finished the season with 2,334 passing yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while adding 185 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Fields was listed ahead of Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars, last year's No. 1 overall pick who is ranked No. 24.
"I honestly thought Justin Fields in the pocket was a little bit better," Simms said. "We know once he gets out of the pocket he's special that way...I think within the consistency in the throwing, if you watch throw for throw, you go, 'Justin Fields controlled the ball throughout the year better than Trevor Lawrence."
Of the four quarterbacks selected along with Fields in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, only Mac Jones of the New England Patriots made the soon-to-be-announced top 20.
Here is the full ranking so far:
40. Drew Lock (SEA)
39. Kenny Pickett (PIT)
38. Teddy Bridgewater (MIA)
37. Gardner Minshew (PHI)
36. Tyrod Taylor (NYG)
35. Davis Mills (HOU)
34. Tyler Huntley (BAL)
33. Geno Smith (SEA)
32. Sam Darnold (CAR)
31. Trey Lance (SF)
30. Jared Goff (DET)
29. Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)
28. Marcus Mariota (ATL)
27. Mitchell Trubisky (PIT)
26. Jameis Winston (NO)
25. Jalen Hurts (PHI)
24. Trevor Lawrence (JAX)
23. Justin Fields (CHI)
22. Zach Wilson (NYJ)
21. Daniel Jones (NYG)