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Bears Draft Review: When will Justin Fields play?

A day-after look at the Bears’ 2021 draft:

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama
The Bears want Justin Fields to spend his rookie year learning behind starter Andy Dalton.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Grade Ryan Pace’s draft:

Call me in three years … no two years — or better yet, Week 6 of the 2021 season. Justin Fields obviously is the key to this draft. Until we see the results, Pace gets a solid A for attacking the Bears needs as well as he possibly could — a potential Russell Wilson-type of game-changing quarterback in Fields and a Week 1 starter at tackle in Teven Jenkins. Four years ago, Pace’s first two picks were Mitch Trubisky and Adam Shaheen. Enough said.

How many games will Justin Fields start in 2021?

None. The Bears will meander through the 2021 season with Andy Dalton being good enough to keep the job and the offense won’t be near the disaster it was in 2017 when Mike Glennon was benched after four games. The Bears are determined to stick to the Patrick Mahomes/Alex Smith development plan, and as long as Pace’s and Nagy’s jobs are safe, they won’t rush Fields into the lineup.

Best-case scenario for Justin Fields:

He wins the No. 2 job in training camp, replaces Andy Dalton in Week 1 after Dalton leaves with a minor injury, invigorates the offense and sparks the Bears to victory; starts the following week as an intrigued Matt Nagy gives Dalton time to heal, and leads the Bears to another victory that forces Nagy’s hand. Fields has his ups and downs, but learns well and gets a baptism by fire that ultimately proves more valuable than a non-playing apprenticeship behind quarterbacks who aren’t as good as he is.

Worst-case scenario for Justin Fields:

He is unprepared for an earlier-than-expected opportunity after the offense stalls under Andy Dalton in the first four weeks of the season and is overwhelmed by the responsibility of lifting a dead-weight offense on his shoulders; his confidence is shattered, his developmental arc is ruined and his failure confirms that Chicago is a place where quarterbacks go to die.

Their best Day 3 addition was:

North Carolina wide receiver Dazz Newsome in the sixth round. A 5-10 receiver who’s tough enough — mentally and physically — to work the middle of the field has a great chance to succeed in a well-designed offense. And if Justin Fields eventually takes the Bears and Matt Nagy to another level, Newsome is the kind of receiver who takes to coaching and has the skill to ride that wave.

The Bears still need this:

A happy Allen Robinson.

Where do the Bears rank in the NFC North?

Third behind the Packers and Vikings. With Justin Fields slated to sit behind Andy Dalton in 2021, the Bears’ best hope to leapfrog anybody is if Aaron Rodgers sticks to his guns and doesn’t play for the Packers.