Ohio State’s Justin Fields has emerged as the most polarizing top quarterback prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. Fields was tabbed for a long time as the consensus No. 2 QB on the board to 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 a number of scouts and draft analysts, and you will get a wide range of answers. Some have kept Fields behind Lawrence the whole way, especially since he outdueled the latter in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Others have had Fields drop as low as the fifth-best prospect at the position behind Wilson, Lance and Jones. There’s just as good a chance he will be the third or fourth QB taken.
Fields (6-2, 228 pounds) is a dynamic athlete who has been polished into a terrific pro-style passer by Buckeyes coach Ryan Day in two seasons. His strong arm and body make him a sturdy option not lacking in confidence. Fields tends to save his best play for big moments, getting it done however necessary with his arm and legs.
The reason for fluctuation on Fields’ stock is whether a team is comfortable catering its offense to his rare running ability, from throwing in designed runs in the playbook for him while allowing him to perform off-script. If a team doesn’t take him thinking of him as a dual threat, they’re selling his talent and impact short.
With all that said, here’s looking at the most likely landing spots for Fields on April 29, ranked by how well the situation would work for him:
Justin Fields’ best fits in 2021 NFL Draft
1. New England Patriots (No. 15 overall)
The Patriots are cooking up a change-up offense which for now has Cam Newton at the helm, under contract for another year. Adding two tight ends (Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith) and two versatile wide receivers (Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor), along with keeping the offensive line strong without Joe Thuney, suggests they want more from an athletic QB operating in a short-to-intermediate passing scheme.
Fields would fit the bill to a tee with some qualities of a young Newton with a big arm and strong frame. In terms of running ability, Fields is set to be among the league’s fatest quartebacks.
Of the five first-round talents, Fields might end up being the surprise slip. Should the Patriots sense this, no one would be shocked if they make a jump up to No. 7 to land him. They would excel at adjusting to Fields’ unique skills with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels.
2. Chicago Bears (No. 20)
The Bears are selling Andy Dalton as their “QB1” out of desperation, after not re-signing Mitchell Trubisky (Bills) and also trying to get out of Nick Foles’ contract. They also were spurned in their pursuit of Russell Wilson and don’t have Deshaun Watson as an option, either.
Chicago may have come to terms with the fact it is out on top-five QBs in the draft, but like for New England, a slight Fields fall can change that. Dalton has experience in Bill Lazor’s offense and is a different-style QB. Coach Matt Nagy got the best out of Trubisky, however, when his running was a key factor.
Jones might be more realistic to be in range for a trade up, but the Bears should have Fields on their radar, too. With Wilson or Watson, they would have had a dramatic change in athleticism. Fields follows that philosophy of having a high-upside dual threat at the position.
3. Carolina Panthers (No. 8)
The Panthers are in play for all the quarterbacks early. The only question is whether two or three QBs will be off the board before their turn as it stands. This comes down to whether the Jets take Wilson and the Falcons take Lance, leaving Fields as the better choice for Carolina over Jones.
Fields with Newton’s original team working with Joe Brady would be fun to watch. Fields’ running would play well off Christian McCaffrey, and he has the arm to stretch the field with Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore. At this point, it is 50-50 on the Panthers ending up with Lance or Fields.
4. Denver Broncos (No. 9)
The Broncos also seem to getting on the Panthers’ train of not sitting on an underwhelming quarterback stiatuon. Denver seems less sold on Drew Lock by the day, knowing it might have an easy shot at a top-five prospect by staying put.
Fields can be worked well into Pat Shurmur’s offense with Melvin Gordon in the backfield and two first-rounders, tight end Noah Fant and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, as key intermediate targets. The Broncoa also should be willing to feature his athletic elements with the hopes of pushing their QB ceiling toward where the Chiefs are with Patrick Mahoems and where the Chargers can be with Justin Herbert.
5. Washington Football Team (No. 19)
Washington signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as a potential bridge starter, but he also was needed as a potential seasoned backup with Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen as its two remaining options. The Patriots and Bears will get attention for a possible power move for a QB, but WFT shouldn’t be ruled out, either.
The Football Team won’t be too worried about the flameout of former Buckeyes QB Dwayne Haskins as its 2019 first-rounder. Fields has different makeup coming out of Ohio State and has more natural physical tools. Scott Turner and Ron Rivera would get the most out of Fields’ talent and intangibles.
6. Atlanta Falcons (No. 4)
Fields was tied to the Falcons early in the process as a successor to Matt Ryan a little because of his strong Georgia ties. But should they stash their future franchise starter, the younger Lance or Wilson, with potential higher all-around ceilings, look like they’re preferred options. Otherwise, they could go for the best non-wide receiver available, Oregon tackle Penei Sewell or even Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.