In the months leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, Ohio State star Justin Fields has been the quarterback prospect under the most scrutiny. As Alabama quarterback Mac Jones rapidly ascended draft boards, now projected to be the No. 3 pick, Fields became a candidate for a draft-day slide.
Those skeptical of Fields’ skills translating to the NFL have raised concerns about his decision-making, a slower release and suggest he became a one-read quarterback in Ohio State’s offense. He also received anonymous criticism of his work ethic, but multiple reports have since refuted that.
Viewed as the 1b of this year’s quarterback class behind Trevor Lawrence after the season, most expected him to be the No. 2 pick for the New York Jets. But his stock has taken a hit, leading to questions about where Fields will land on April 29.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer wrote that Fields is unlikely to make it past the No. 8 overall pick. The Carolina Panthers, who currently hold that selection, traded for Sam Darnold and would seemingly be set at the position. However, it doesn’t appear the door is closed on Carolina taking a potential franchise quarterback.
The 2021 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away and there is a lot that can happen before then, but there are a few destinations that would be ideal for Justin Fields.
Top destinations for Justin Fields
There’s a reason Fields tailored his second Pro Day to mirror many of the things Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers are looking for in their next quarterback. Not only would being drafted No. 3 overall be better financially for Fields, it could also be the perfect spot for his NFL career to blossom.
Shanahan is one of the brightest coaches in the NFL and his offense, with adaptations of it made throughout the NFL, is extremely beneficial to quarterbacks. The 49ers drafted wide receivers like Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, players who can be moved around and get open in creative ways, to make life easier for the passer.
Fields is the most accurate quarterback in the 2021 draft class. Not only that, the concerns over his ability to progress through reads are overblown. Pro Football Focus marked Fields at a 61.6% on-target rate over the past two seasons, only behind Joe Burrow (66.1%). He was also the highest-graded quarterback when his first option was taken away.
NFL Draft rumors: Justin Fields to 49ers buzz rapidly growing
If the 49ers are truly determined to draft Jones, who is widely viewed as a less-talented quarterback, Fields could be an ideal target for the Atlanta Falcons. He is a Georgia native and Arthur Smith played a huge role in rejuvenating Ryan Tannehill‘s career. However, given the Matt Ryan contract, the Falcons likely won’t be drafting a quarterback.
In the vent Fields slides to the 8th pick, Carolina could jump at the chance to land him. He might not start right away, given the investment made in Darnold, but he offers a significantly higher ceiling and the Panthers’ infrastructure can help maximize his potential.
If the Panthers want to trade down, the focus turns to the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears. The Patriots’ offense and coaching staff are significantly better than what Fields would have in Chicago and the Panthers might prefer moving down to No. 15 overall instead of the 20th pick.