Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. says 'gritty' performance from Justin Fields vs. Clemson will resonate with NFL front offices
There was very little question about Justin Fields’ draft status. Even though the Ohio State quarterback has battled through some issues at times this season, he’s still one of the best players in college football this year.
And, if there was any doubt about Fields’ ability, the junior put those to bed in his incredible performance against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. says Fields has essentially secured his status as a high selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Fields led Ohio State to a 49-28 victory over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl, securing the Buckeyes’ spot in the National Championship Game, where they’ll face top-ranked Alabama. Fields completed 22-of-28 passes for 385 yards and 6 touchdowns, while also rushing for 42 yards on 8 carries.
It wasn’t just the numbers that impressed, though. Fields took a hard hit to the ribs in the 1st half, and it looked as if his day might be done. But he trotted back onto the field and played through the pain — an attribute Kiper says will “resonate” with front offices in the NFL.
“The game we saw him play against Clemson was huge,” Kiper said on SportsCenter. “He’s coming off that injury, the hit, the ribs and the pain and playing through that with grit and determination and the toughness he showed. That’s going to resonate throughout these NFL front offices, personnel departments all the way until the draft day. People know he’s coming into this (national championship) game not 100% against a team, Alabama, that’s going to get after the quarterback. …In the trenches, Ohio State had the advantage against Clemson. They won’t against Alabama. I don’t think it’s critical that Justin Fields played great. He already showed against Clemson just how good he is.”
This season, Fields has thrown for 1,906 yards, 21 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while completing 73.4% of his passes. He’s also rushed for 316 yards and 5 scores, leading the Buckeyes to a perfect 7-0 this season.
While the interception rate is higher than his 2019 season — he threw just 3 picks in 14 games — Fields’ season averages are higher in just about every statistical category.
Fields and the Buckeyes will try to cap off the perfect season with a national title on Monday, Jan. 11 against the Crimson Tide.