Showdown With 2021 1st Rounders Leads 49ers September Slate

Justin Fields

Getty Justin Fields runs from Marcell Harris of the 49ers in the 2021 meeting won by San Francisco 33-22.

There was a period when Justin Fields was considered the higher-rated NFL Draft prospect compared to Trey Lance.

But then on 2021 draft night, it was Lance landing inside the top three — while Fields fell out of the top 10.

Now, on NFL schedule release day unveiled on the evening of Thursday, May 12, the league has pit Lance’s San Francisco 49ers and Fields’ Chicago Bears against one another to kick off the 2022 season.

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While the official schedule was released after 5 p.m. PT, Chicago based radio show host Danny Parkins of 670 The Score helped leak out the season opener for both teams.

The 49ers Twitter account then verified the season opening matchup at 3 p.m. PT — two hours before the official release of the schedule.


A Look Back at Lance & Fields’ Draft Evaluations

You don’t normally think about a North Dakota State star getting drafted ahead of a standout from Ohio State. The latter university is known for producing an influx of NFL talent — especially between selections one to 32.

Both entered the same draft class with Trevor Lawrence as the odds on favorite to land at No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fields, for most of the draft process, was considered a sure fire No. 2 overall pick.

However, a fast-riser named Zack Wilson shot up to the second overall selection. Why did Fields find himself out of the top two?

Draft experts began to cite what they called “character issues” with Fields. ESPN NFL analyst and former quarterback Dan Orlovsky was one who revealed that Fields had a questionable work ethic, including being a “last guy in, first guy out” type of player.

Meanwhile, Lance Zierlein of nfl.com compared Fields to Dak Prescott in his draft evaluation. Zierlein pointed out Fields’ first strength: His toughness, which also correlated to what the draft expert described as Fields having a “willingness to do what it takes” being “always on display.” However, Zierlein mentioned how Fields didn’t possess strong field vision in facing blitzes and needed to improve his pocket mobility.

As for Lance, he was considered a prospect with a raw upside but was limited in experience. He also faced the scrutiny and criticism of playing in the Football Championship Subdivision — far different competition than what Fields faced in the Big 10.

But Zierlein posted these first nuggets on Lance in his evaluation: Film junkie with high football IQ and an NFL frame. The lack of experience (only 318 pass attempts pointed out by Zierlein) and Lance’s age (entered the league at 20) were the first two flaws the expert pointed out.

Still, with Fields’ flaws being mentioned, Lance skyrocketed to the third overall pick when then 49ers aggressively moved up to nab him.


Meeting Will be the First With Both Quarterbacks on the Field

Fields and Lance have one thing in common: They already have NFL starts on their resume.

However, Lance’s record is an even 1-1. Fields went 2-8 overall as a starter.

And one of those starts was against a 49ers team led by Jimmy Garoppolo in a game that saw Fields break off 103 rushing yards on 10 carries.

Fields, however, got sacked four times in that 33-22 loss…with half of them coming from his fellow Ohio State Buckeye Nick Bosa.

Now, the Lance era is set to start on September 11 with his fellow draft mate Fields on the other sideline. But there’s already this message sent via the 49ers’ Twitter handle directed toward the Bears:

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