Passing on a potential superstar like Fields, who was coming off an incredible season with OSU, seemed unwise. The Broncos' Drew Lock experiment did not yield the results they had hoped for. Moreover, offseason acquisition Teddy Bridgewater has never been anything more than a serviceable backup.
So why did the Broncos pass on Fields? Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm has seemingly unearthed the answer.
Fields' medical history was a concern
A couple of weeks before the 2021 NFL draft, reports emerged that Justin Fields suffered from epilepsy, a neurological disorder that causes seizures. The quarterback later revealed that he was first diagnosed with epilepsy in ninth grade, but it hasn't affected his football career so far.
While Fields, as well as OSU, claim that his epilepsy is manageable, a couple of NFL teams, including the Broncos, felt the risk was too significant. Edholm said the following about his conversation with a Broncos insider on Yahoo Sports' You Pod To Win The Game podcast:
"(The source) said it wasn't the talent, it was the medical. The concern about (the epilepsy) was they kind of got around to the root of it. The amount of risk that is there when the day you draft him versus what's there 10 years down the line, it's the same. It (will) never dissipate.
"He said there's no way to change what the element of risk is, in terms of we are sitting there asking ourselves what happens if we have a season where, God forbid, he has a David Carr-type season, where he gets sacked 90 times. What if he just gets destroyed?
And (the Bears) have a good line. Good depth. I think it was just that they had to go through the worst-case scenarios and they felt like they could not come up with a way in their minds just to mitigate the risk long-term with him."
The revelation that the Broncos were so concerned about Fields' medical condition that they decided to pass on a potential franchise quarterback is certainly intriguing. The team and their president of football operations, John Elway, haven't historically been deterred by a high-risk, high-reward situation.
During the 2012 offseason, the Broncos signed Peyton Manning after he missed the entire 2011 season with a potentially career-ending neck injury. They are also reportedly the front-runners to trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, despite his legal troubles.
For the Broncos to pass up on a potential franchise cornerstone with manageable medical issues certainly seems far-fetched. Perhaps the risk is too significant, hence they decided to pass on Fields.
The Chicago Bears did not believe the hysteria around Fields' medical condition and traded up nine spots in the draft to get the quarterback. Only time will tell whether the Broncos' concerns were justified or whether they made a glaring error in judgment by passing on Fields.