Ohio State’s Justin Fields has become the most polarizing top quarterback prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. Fields was long listed as the consensus No. 2 quarterback on the board for Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. But the meteoric rises of BYU’s Zach Wilson, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, and Alabama’s Mac Jones have made that no longer the case.
Poll multiple explorers and draft analysts and you’ll get a wide range of responses. Some have kept Fields behind Lawrence all the way, especially since he beat the latter in the semifinal of the college football playoffs. Others have dropped Fields as low as the fifth-best prospect at the position behind Wilson, Lance and Jones. Chances are high that he will be the third or fourth quarterback picked.
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Fields (6-2, 228 pounds) is a dynamic athlete who has been honed into an excellent pro-style passer by Buckeyes coach Ryan Day in two seasons. His strong arm and body make him a sturdy option that doesn’t lack confidence. Fields tends to save his best play for the big moments, doing it as needed with his arm and legs.
The reason for the fluctuation in Fields’ actions is if a team is comfortable tending their offense to his rare running ability, from throwing runs designed in the playbook for him while allowing him to perform off-script. If a team doesn’t take him by thinking of him as a double threat, they are selling their talent and their impact short.
With all that said, here are the most likely landing spots for Fields on April 29, ranked by how well the situation would work out for him:
Justin Fields’ best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
1. New England Patriots (No. 15 overall)
The Patriots are preparing a trade offense that for now has Cam Newton at the helm, under contract for one more year. Adding two tight ends (Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith) and two versatile wide receivers (Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor), as well as keeping the offensive line strong without Joe Thuney, suggests they want more of an athletic quarterback operating in a short a … intermediate pass scheme.
Fields would fit in nicely with some of the qualities of a young Newton with a big arm and a strong frame. In terms of running ability, Fields is slated to be among the fastest foursome in the league.
Of the five first-round talents, Fields could end up being the surprise slip. If the Patriots feel this, no one will be surprised if they jump to number 7 to get it. They would excel at adapting to Fields’ unique abilities with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels.
2. Chicago Bears (No. 20)
The Bears are selling Andy Dalton as their “QB1” out of desperation, after failing to re-sign Mitchell Trubisky (Bills) and also trying to get out of Nick Foles’ contract. They were also turned away in their search for Russell Wilson and they don’t have Deshaun Watson as an option either.
Chicago may have accepted the fact that it is in the top five quarterbacks in the draft, but like New England, a slight drop at the Fields can change that. Dalton has offense experience from Bill Lazor and is a quarterback of a different style. Coach Matt Nagy brought out the best in Trubisky, however, when his career was a key factor.
Jones might be more realistic to be within range for a trade, but the Bears should also have Fields on their radar. With Wilson or Watson, they would have had a dramatic change in athletics. Fields follows that philosophy of having a high-potential double threat at the position.
3. Carolina Panthers (No. 8)
The Panthers are up for all quarterbacks early. The only question is whether two or three quarterbacks will be off the board before their turn as is. This comes down to whether the Jets take Wilson and the Falcons take Lance, leaving Fields as Carolina’s best option over Jones.
Fields with the original Newton team working with Joe Brady would be fun to watch. Fields’ career would do Christian McCaffrey good, and he has the arm to stretch the field with Robby Anderson and DJ Moore. At this point, it’s 50-50 for the Panthers finishing with either Lance or Fields.
4. Denver Broncos (No. 9)
The Broncos also seem to be jumping on the Panthers’ bandwagon of not sitting in a disappointing quarterback situation. Denver seems to be less convinced of Drew Lock every day, knowing he could have an easy shot at a top-five prospect if he sticks.
The fields can be worked well on Pat Shurmur’s offense with Melvin Gordon in the backfield and two first-round players, tight end Noah Fant and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, as key intermediate targets. The Broncoa should also be willing to showcase their athletic elements in hopes of pushing their QB roof to where the Chiefs are with Patrick Mahoems and where the Chargers can be with Justin Herbert.
5. Washington Soccer Team (No. 19)
Washington hired Ryan Fitzpatrick as a potential bridge starter, but he was also needed as a potential experienced backup with Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen as his two remaining options. The Patriots and Bears will draw attention to a possible power move for a QB, but neither should WFT be ruled out.
The football team won’t be overly concerned about the disappearance of former Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins as their 2019 first round. Fields has a different makeup hailing from Ohio State and has more natural physical tools. Scott Turner and Ron Rivera would make the most of Fields’ talent and intangibles.
6. Atlanta Falcons (No. 4)
Fields was linked to the Falcons early in the process as Matt Ryan’s successor somewhat due to his strong ties to Georgia. But if they hide their future franchise holder, young Lance or Wilson, with higher potential ceilings, it would seem like they are the preferred options. Otherwise, they could go for the best non-wide receiver available, Oregon tackle Penei Sewell or even Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.