The best NFL landing spots for Ohio State QB Justin Fields
There was a time not too long ago when we knew Justin Fields would be either the No. 1 or No. 2 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Days go by and things change, though.
Now, the former Ohio State starter is one of the more interesting prospects in this year’s draft cycle. He’s viewed anywhere from the second- to fourth-best quarterback available and different draft analysts have Fields being selected by different organizations.
In the weeks since leading Ohio State to a 7-1 season and a national championship appearance, Fields has seen his stock rise and fall quite a bit. But one question hasn’t been asked enough: What are the best landing spots for Fields?
Options are aplenty, as several teams will be in the market for a long-term solution at quarterback this year. And while some of these might seem like longshots because of picking order, there is still the potential for trades if a franchise likes Fields enough.
A few teams come to mind as great landing spots for Fields.
1. Carolina Panthers (No. 8 pick)
Remember what Joe Brady did with Joe Burrow at LSU? Imagine if the Carolina offensive coordinator got an opportunity to work with Fields, who may have an even higher ceiling in the NFL. There’s no guarantee that the results would be the same, but this combination seems like one that would benefit both Brady and Fields (a notion on which SDS columnist Connor O’Gara agrees).
Carolina also has some solid weapons for Fields to work with. Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore are talented, young receivers who eclipsed 1,000 yards during the 2020 season. Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel (if he stays) can also be dangerous, providing a rookie quarterback with multiple reliable options.
Picking at No. 8 after a 5-11 season, Carolina would likely need to trade up in order to ensure it was able to land Fields. But he’s a player with the potential to be a Day 1 starter and franchise quarterback who could immediately make the Panthers a contender in the NFC South.
2. Atlanta Falcons (No. 4 pick)
Speaking of the NFC South, how about a return close to home for Fields? The Kennesaw, GA native would be playing just a few miles from his hometown, which would likely be appealing to the rookie and would also be a huge draw for local fans. But that’s not the only reason this would be a good landing spot.
Atlanta has an outstanding three-man wide receiver unit with Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones and Russell Gage all returning in 2021. That’s a group any quarterback would dram of playing with in the NFL. And with the No. 4 pick in the draft and coming off a 4-12 season, the Falcons might be in the hunt to find a new long-term solution under center and part ways with Matt Ryan, or at least welcome in his successor.
The other thing worth noting is that new Falcons head coach Arthur Smith helped dramatically improved Tennessee’s offensive line play as the offensive coordinator in Nashville from 2019 to 2020. If he can do that with Atlanta and provide Fields with a strong offensive line and an all-star receiving corps, a return home would be a premier destination for Fields.
Multiple NFL Draft analysts believe the Falcons will be the team that selects Fields in the NFL Draft, so it might be the most realistic option on this list.
3. Denver Broncos (No. 9 pick)
Denver is struggling to figure out its quarterback situation, which if it finds an answer could be a legitimate playoff contender. Once again, the Broncos are a team with plenty of weapons with Melvin Gordon III in the backfield and options like Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick at wide receiver. There’s plenty Fields can work with on the roster.
Plus, Fields would be joining a staff that includes Mike Shula as the quarterbacks coach. His forgettable run at Alabama aside, Shula has worked with quarterbacks like Dan Marino, Cam Newton, David Garrard and Eli Manning. There might be a thing or two Fields could learn from a 30-year coaching veteran in Denver.
4. San Francisco 49ers (No. 12 pick)
San Francisco is a team that has recently been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Fields, most notably by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Pro Football Focus. Considering the type of mobility Kyle Shanahan likes to have in his offense, this might be a really good fit for the former Buckeye.
The 49ers seem confident in having Jimmy Garoppolo under center to start the 2021 season, but there are still a few reasons it would make sense for the franchise to find a way to draft Fields. The options behind Garoppolo are limited and his injury concerns would pave the way for San Francisco to look for someone who could replace him, if necessary. Plus, Fields is going to be a better long-term option for the organization.
With a solid starter at QB, San Francisco could be a consistent playoff contender that makes multiple Super Bowl runs. Fields could be the piece that (eventually) brings it all together.
Unlikely but not impossible
Detroit Lions (No. 7 pick)
A team with some talented, young pieces that would benefit from drafting and developing a quarterback. But because the Lions recently landed Jared Goff, they’re probably not going to use that No. 7 pick in the draft to take Fields, or any quarterback for that matter.
Indianapolis Colts (No. 21 pick)
Much like Detroit, Indianapolis is bringing in Carson Wentz to replace the retiring Philip Rivers. Head coach Frank Reich has done a great job finding ways to win with multiple quarterbacks over the last four years and the Colts are a playoff-ready team. Fields could’ve fit right in with this franchise, but again, the addition of Wentz probably means Indy will be filling other needs with this draft class.
New England Patriots (No. 15 pick)
Why not? Seeing Fields play for the guy who helped turn Tom Brady from a backup quarterback into a seven-time Super Bowl champion would be incredibly fun to watch. Plus, the experiment with Newton didn’t seem to work, so the Patriots might be willing to take a look at adding another QB to the roster.