Is Justin Fields the best quarterback from the 2021 NFL draft?

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Is Fields the best quarterback from the 2021 NFL draft? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

For the last two seasons, the loaded 2021 quarterback class has been under the microscope. Each Sunday seemingly sees a different member take the mantle of “best in class,” before passing it on to the next draft mate in line.

Justin Fields’ meteoric rise over the past month has seen him take a stranglehold on the title. But as we enter the home stretch of this group’s critical second season, it’s time to take stock of what they have done and find out if Fields truly does own the title belt.

RELATED: How Fields will determine if he can return to play vs. Packers

Here are the options and where they were taken in the draft:

Trevor Lawrence (1st, Jaguars), Zach Wilson (2nd, Jets) and Trey Lance (3rd, 49ers), Justin Fields (11th, Bears),  Mac Jones (15th, Patriots), Kyle Trask (64th, Buccaneers), Kellen Mond (66th, Vikings) and Davis Mills (67th, Texans).

Who shines the most? Where would they be drafted for today?

First, let’s start by cutting the slack.

Kyle Trask has yet to make his NFL debut. Kellen Mond was cut from the Vikings’ roster and now plays for the Browns’ practice squad. Sam Ehlinger has played in just five games. And Trey Lance’s injury has probably limited him enough to keep him out of the conversation for now.

That leaves us with five quarterbacks who have survived the gauntlet and can be fairly compared to each other, based on the number of games they’ve played as a starter since being drafted.

Lawrence, Wilson, Jones, Mills and Fields.

Trevor Lawrence

Lawrence has gone through ebbs and flows with his supporting cast, similar to most rookie quarterbacks. He started his NFL career with Urban Meyer, which should already tell you his career took two steps backward before it took any forwards.

He started all 17 games for the Jaguars in his first season. They went 3-14, but Lawrence threw for over 3,600 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions – the latter of which led the league.

Now, with head coach Doug Pederson running point on Lawrence’s career, things should improve in Florida. But, despite offseason signings of Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones Jr., Evan Engram and Brandon Scherff, the team is still underwater with a losing record (4-7 as of this writing).

Yet, Lawrence has shined through the darkness. He has the highest passer rating of any other from the 2021 draft class. In the past three weeks, his passer rating has remained above 100 and he’s thrown for over 800 yards and six touchdowns to lead his club to wins over the Raiders and Ravens.

Zach Wilson

Wilson, like most, also faced obstacles in his rookie year, leading the Jets to a 3-10 record when available.

The second-year quarterback started this year missing the first three games due to injury, but returned in Week 4. There hasn’t been much to write home about, except a high-volume performance against the Patriots in Week 8 where he threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort.

The biggest storyline surrounding Wilson this season came against the Patriots in Week 11 when he threw for just 77 yards in a loss to New England. After the game, Wilson said he felt like he didn’t let the defense down in the 10-3 defeat.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh benched Wilson a few days later. He now sits third on the Jets’ depth chart, but Saleh said this was time for Wilson to reset, and not the end of his tenure as the franchise’s quarterback.

Mac Jones

Jones’ story has been weird since the start of this season. He, like Wilson, has missed time due to injury as an ankle injury forced him to miss three games.

When he returned against the Bears in Week 7, he was given a short, three-drive leash (punt, punt, interception) before Bill Belichick yanked him for fourth-round draft pick Bailey Zappe.

However, Jones has responded since that night against the Bears. He led the Patriots to three straight wins over the Jets (twice) and Colts. Those aren’t the most impressive wins, nor was his production, but positive nonetheless behind one of the league’s best defenses.

But in Week 12, Jones looked like the Pro Bowler from 2021, throwing for 382 yards and two touchdowns in a loss against the Vikings.

Jones has the game’s greatest coach (Belichick), one of the league’s best offensive lines and an aforementioned league-leading defense. But, the Patriots sit at the bottom of their division through 12 weeks. He likely has something to do with it.

Davis Mills

Mills stepped in as the starter last season amidst the Deshaun Watson controversy. He has three wins as a quarterback in 21 games, which should tell you enough about his situation and his comparison to the rest of the class.

He has the worst quarterback rating this season of the five in consideration, and also the second-worst passer rating of the bunch.

Last week, Mills was benched in favor of Kyle Allen.

Now, his future is certainly in question. The Texans are staring down the barrel of a nearly guaranteed No. 1 pick, with Bryce Young waiting for someone to call his name.

Justin Fields

This season, Fields has shown impressive, multi-level ability compared to the rest of his class.

He has been a regular one-man show for most of the season, despite a lackluster supporting cast. Fields has led the rebuilding Bears to three wins and operated an offense that scored 29.6 points per game over a five-week span in the middle of the season.

Against the Dolphins earlier this season, Fields became the first quarterback in history to throw for three touchdowns and run for over 140 yards. He also broke Michael Vick’s single-game quarterback rushing record with 178 yards in the loss to Miami.

What Fields has been able to do behind a bad offensive line and with limited playmakers around him speaks to his talent and ceiling. The implementation of more quarterback-designed runs has allowed Fields to showcase his athleticism and get him into a rhythm in the passing game.

RELATED: Fields' rise, injury show size, potential of Bears' rebuild

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So, where would they go in a redraft?

In a total redraft of the 2021 class, it makes sense to go with Lawrence as the first pick. He was the most highly-touted quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck and hasn’t shown any signs of regression.

But after him, it would be wise to go with Fields.

The Jets are likely kicking themselves for taking Wilson with the second overall pick. The 49ers also might have erred in giving up three first-round picks to move up and select Lance instead of Fields.

The Bears appear to have found their franchise quarterback in Fields. Now, all that’s left is to build around him.

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