Justin Fields or Zach Wilson? ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. breaks down the QB debate entering NFL Draft
The quarterback debate for the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft is no longer between Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. The Clemson QB has essentially secured his status as the No. 1 overall selection in April.
Instead, the debate comes between Fields and BYU’s Zach Wilson as to who will be the next quarterback off the board in a few months. Recently, several experts and analysts have given the nod to Wilson ahead of Fields based on the 2020 season from the two players.
ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. recently explained why the debate rages on between Wilson and Fields.
“It’s a hard one,” Kiper said on the First Draft podcast. “I had Fields (ahead of Zach Wilson) all along. My thing was do I go with a quarterback who was more impressive against cupcakes and can spin it, and is athletic, basketball background in high school with Zach Wilson, or Justin Fields, who was remarkable in 2019. And I don’t want to excuse away not having Chris Olave (in the Big Ten Championship Game) that should not have been enough for the (struggles in the) Northwestern game. But the interrupted season at Ohio State, the COVID issues, not knowing who you’re playing, who’s in who’s out…all the things that went on this year that made it a very difficult season; then to see him play the way they did against Clemson on the same field with Trevor Lawrence. … We talked about Trey Lance having all this pressure on him on Oct. 3. (It was Lance’s) only game of the season, all eyes on him it was kind of like Super Bowl for him right? And he struggled. He struggled, now was it pressure? Was it pressing? Was it rust? I don’t know, but you flip it to Justin Fields he had a same amount of pressure because of the struggles, I call them hiccups, against Indiana, and Northwestern. He had that same amount of pressure on him on that field against Trevor Lawrence. They both came out of high school with similar grades. Here they are semifinal game. He’s not expected to be able to do it, and he did it. And he got hurt, and he still did it. And the guts I think the competitiveness in that game to go out and do what he did I got to give him big kudos.
“And that’s why it’s hard for me with the schedule Wilson played, now I’ve always had Fields ahead of Wilson I haven’t changed things, I’m waiting it out,” Kiper said. “And I haven’t seen pro days yet. Measurables we haven’t gotten yet. Bottom line is, this is kind of like Affirmed and Alydar. I always reference the Triple Crown races because it was that close. It’s that close with these two quarterbacks, I believe, in Justin Fields and Zach Wilson coming down the stretch.”
Fields ended his Ohio State career by leading his team to the national championship, and finishing the 2020 season with a 7-1 record. He threw for 2,100 yards with 22 touchdowns and completed over 70% of his passes. He also rushed for 383 yards and 5 touchdowns on the year.
Wilson threw for 3,692 yards and 33 touchdowns while completing better than 73% of his passes, but BYU’s schedule was significantly worse than Ohio State’s. That seems to be a legitimate concern in this QB debate right now.
It’s going to be an interesting debate for the next few months.