The third quarterback taken in the 2021 NFL Draft is up for grabs. Could it be Alabama football star Mac Jones or will it be Ohio State football standout Justin Fields?
Mac Jones and Justin Fields will be two of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round this spring.
With the 2021 NFL Draft commencing at the end of the month, Alabama football fans and Ohio State football diehards should expect to hear the names of many Crimson Tide and Buckeyes players called. Jones and Fields are locks for the first round, possibly duking it out for the third quarterback taken in the draft behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson.
Fields had been the No. 2 quarterback prospect for the better part of the year. However, a so-so junior season by his standards, the climb of Wilson and the meteoric rise of Jones have complicated things. Throw in a phenomenal talent from the FCS level in Trey Lance out of North Dakota State and we could have five quarterbacks being picked inside of the top 10 in 2021.
So with Lawrence and Wilson seen as locks to go to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, we have to wonder who the next quarterback will be taken, possibly by the San Francisco 49ers at No. 3. With that in mind, let’s look at Jones and Field’s pros and cons, what draft experts think of them and who will be coming off the board first and where they could be beginning their NFL careers.
Mac Jones or Justin Fields?: The pros and cons
For Jones, he has several things going for him. He has the most obvious prototype of any quarterback in the draft in Matt Ryan. Jones throws an incredible deep ball, has good pocket presence and throws the ball with anticipation. As for negatives, he played with elite talent, could be seen as a one-year wonder and is by far and away the least athletic of the five quarterbacks.
Regarding Fields, he has great touch on his passes, is able to extend plays with his legs and has ample starting experience at the Power 5 level. If it all pans out for him, he could be the next Steve Young. However, Fields did not have a great junior year. He struggled against the Buckeyes’ best competition. There are also concerns about his delivery, work ethic and facing Big Ten competition.
Mac Jones or Justin Fields?: NFL Draft experts opinions
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN’s Todd McShay and The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah all have different potential landing spots for Jones and Fields in the first round. When looking at their latest mock drafts, keep in mind that Kiper and Jeremiah have not done an official one since the Miami Dolphins made two blockbuster trades with the 49ers and then with the Philadelphia Eagles.
While Kiper’s landing spot of Fields to the Carolina Panthers in a trade up with the Detroit Lions to No. 7 went belly up after the Panthers traded for Sam Darnold, him slotting Jones No. 15 to the New England Patriots is still very much in play. Jeremiah had Fields going to his hometown Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 with Jones falling all the way to the New Orleans Saints picking at No. 28.
As for McShay, he has Jones skyrocketing all the way up to No. 3 with San Francisco. Conversely, he has Fields plummeting to No. 11 with the Patriots moving up from No. 15 to get him. What is interesting with these two prospects is the amount of variance existing in the draft range. Ultimately, it feels like both are going to go in the top half, potentially in the top 10 after trades.
Mac Jones or Justin Fields?: Who is coming off the board first and to where?
While there is an argument to be made that either Fields, Jones or even Lance can go No. 3 to the 49ers, only one of them will. Because Lance is the least pro-ready of the three, he is the least likely to go to San Francisco. Even if Jimmy Garoppolo is capable of leading this team to the Super Bowl again, he is not reliable and it feels like the 49ers will move off him ahead of 2022.
So it’s going to be either Jones or Fields at No. 3 to the 49ers and the other is going to have to wait. If Jones is the pick for San Francisco, Fields could go to his hometown Falcons at No. 4, the Dolphins at No. 6, the Detroit Lions at No. 7, the Denver Broncos at No. 9 or maybe as far as the Eagles at No. 12 or the Patriots picking at No. 15. Many of these teams could pick Jones as well.
So what this really comes down to is if you buy into Kyle Shanahan’s bromance with Jones or not? Again, he does resemble Ryan a great deal, who is the best quarterback Shanahan has ever coached. Unfortunately, I do not really buy into that because the upside is too great to pass on Fields if he falls to you at No. 3. The next Steve Young will be in San Francisco by way of Fields.
As for Jones, somebody is going to trade up to get him, so I think he’s going to go higher than this. Could he go to the Broncos at No. 9? Maybe, but he too closely resembles Drew Lock, and that feels like a really good spot for Lance to go. Since I’m not going to forecast a trade just yet, I think he ends up with Nick Saban’s coaching disciple Bill Belichick with the Patriots at No. 15 for now.
Predictions: Justin Fields No. 3 to 49ers, Mac Jones No. 15 to Patriots