I don’t foresee Atlanta selecting a quarterback with the fourth overall pick, or even using the fourth overall pick as it is. However, you have to assume all options are on the table this early in the process. Miami holds the cards with the third pick, and a quarterback needy team like the Lions or Panthers could look to jump the Falcons.
Justin Fields has had one of the cleanest collegiate careers in recent memory, and as a UGA student — it really stung watching him leave in favor of Jake Fromm. While Fields has some concerns, there’s no doubt that he is supremely talented and physically gifted. If he’s available with the fourth pick, he would be difficult to pass on for a variety of reasons. I’m going to dive into some concerns I have at first, then dig into what I really like about Fields, and why he makes sense for the Falcons.
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- This is no fault of his own, but Fields ran a one-read heavy RPO offense at Ohio State. In the same breath, it’s not that big of a deal if he goes to a team like the Falcons. Looking at a quarterback like Dwayne Haskins in the same offense, throwing one-read quarterbacks into the fire without proper coaching is a recipe for disaster. Fields likely doesn’t have the same maturity issues as Haskins, but that will have to be vetted during interviews. With Matt Ryan and Arthur Smith in the fold, Fields can really marinate under a future Hall of Famer and a quarterback friendly coach. It also helps to have superstar wide receivers like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and possibly a shiny new toy at running back after the 2021 NFL Draft. Learning an NFL route tree is difficult, but I think Fields can handle it.
- The timeline for this fit could possibly be a weird fit. I think Matt Ryan has plenty left in the tank, especially with Arthur Smith statistically turning Ryan Tannehill into a top five quarterback in the NFL. You don’t want a Jimmy G situation on your hands when you could have traded back and acquired extra picks to help the trenches. Nothing to do with Fields personally, but a serious concern is not knowing how Ryan will look in 2021.
- While it isn’t the smallest sample size, Fields has only made 22 career starts. Kevin Warren’s incompetence played into this, but I think he has shown enough on film to dispel this issue.
- His interception rate spiked a lot in 2020. Outside of the Clemson game, the last half of his 2020 season was very rough. His decision making under pressure led to some questionable throws. The biggest concern is pocket presence — can he make that adjustment?
Why he’s a great prospect
- Fields has incredible size and athleticism, and his deep ball has really improved since coming into college. He can make any throw that you ask of him, and he’s fantastic at improvising and moving around the pocket. He ran a 4.51 40 in high school. I think if he reaches his full potential, he’s the next Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson.
- It’s clear that Fields was the leader on Ohio State’s offense, and his teammates have tons of respect for him. That’s a big part of being an NFL quarterback.
- While I mentioned his interception rate spiked, Fields does a good job of making decisions when the play breaks down and generally takes care of the football when rolling out. While he can sometimes panic under pressure, that’s something that can hopefully be coached out of him.
- While his mechanics need some work (as with 99% of quarterback prospects), he does have a smooth throwing motion and can manipulate his arm angle when he is being pressured.
- Absolutely shreds man coverage when using his legs and must be accounted for at all times.
I think Justin Fields can be a great NFL quarterback, but the fit has to be there. If he’s thrown into the fire on a team like the Jets, he may struggle mightily and get a bust label. If he gets two seasons behind Matt Ryan, he has time to develop as a passer, turn into a true dual threat and upper echelon playmaker in this league.
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