2021 NFL Draft: Why Justin Fields took many sacks, Greg Cosell explains

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Matt Maiocco
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How 49ers' draft option Fields can reduce number of sacks originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields made more than his share of big plays during his college career.

He also had far more negative plays than any of the other quarterbacks the 49ers are considering with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Fields, for all his agility and elusiveness on the run, was sacked an alarming 56 times in his college career while attempting 618 passes — or once every 12.0 pass plays.

NFL Films producer Greg Cosell said on 49ers Talk there’s a simple explanation.

“More often than not, quarterbacks that move get sacked more,” Cosell said. “The offensive line pass protects based on the play call.

“Quarterbacks who have always been able to make plays with their legs tend to move prematurely. And when you move prematurely, you yourself disrupt and blow apart the pass protection call, and you will often get sacked more than quarterbacks who don’t move.”

In comparison, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance was sacked once every 22.2 pass plays during his college career, while Alabama’s Mac Jones was sacked once every 37.8 pass plays.

Cosell said there are two things quarterbacks should never do unless the defense forces it: Move from the designed launching spot, and throw off-platform.

“And, yet, these are two things that we talk about now as if that’s the way to play the position, and it’s not the way to play the position,” Cosell said.

Fields has experienced incredible success at every level with his movement ability. But it figures to be a focus at the NFL level for him to get rid of the ball quicker to avoid unnecessary hits and high sack totals.

“It’s something that you would work on as a coach and you’d try to get him to understand that you don’t want to do that,” Cosell said. “Whether it gets through or not, that’s always hard to know. He’s probably done that his entire life and been successful doing that.”

RELATED: Cosell highlights why Lance could excel in 49ers' offense

Fields is a top-level talent who appears to be a serious contender for the 49ers to select with the No. 3 overall pick. There is clearly a lot to appreciate about the way he plays the game, which Cosell highlighted.

“He has natural ability to drive the ball with velocity at the intermediate and deeper levels,” Cosell said. “He also shows the ability to throw with touch -- what we call ‘firm touch’ -- to feather and layer his throws. He understood how to throw with pace and touch.

“What I really liked about him, too, was that he played under center, so he executed the conventional play-action pass game, where he turned his back to the defense. That’s a learned trait. That’s not just something anybody can do if they’ve never done it.’

Like any rookie quarterback entering the NFL, Fields has a lot to work ahead of him to refine his game. But he also has a head start on most of the other quarterbacks in his draft class due to his physical talents, toughness and knowledge of the game.

“Justin Fields has an awful lot to work with,” Cosell said. “He is a very, very talented guy.”

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