Todd McShay explains why Justin Fields is dropping in his mock draft

Justin Fields, Ohio State Buckeyes. (USA Today)
Justin Fields, Ohio State Buckeyes. (USA Today) /

ESPN’s Todd McShay has Justin Fields plummeting in his latest 2021 NFL mock draft.

Once thought to be the sure-fire No. 2 overall pick, ESPN’s Todd McShay has former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields nosediving all the way to No. 11 to the New England Patriots in a trade with the New York Giants in his latest mock draft.

When asked about why he has Fields falling all the way out of the top 10, he explained on ESPN Thursday morning.

“This is not about where I rank the quarterbacks or any of these players, it’s about what I’m hearing when I talk to NFL teams,” said McShay. “And I struggled. Let’s go back to pick No. 3. Pick No. 3 and pick No. 4 were the two most difficult picks of these two rounds that I had to do. And at three, I initially thought it was going to be (former North Dakota State quarterback) Trey Lance — that was my initial reaction when San Francisco moved up to go get that pick.”

“But, ultimately, I’ve heard so many things from different people in the league about (former Alabama quarterback) Mac Jones being the perfect fit for (San Francisco 49ers head coach) Kyle Shanahan that that might be the pick. So I went with Mac Jones there, even though I rank Mac Jones as the fifth-best quarterback in this class — behind Trey Lance and behind Justin Fields.

It’s not that Fields’ talent level is dropping off, it’s more a case of the 49ers seemingly enamored with Jones, an inferior prospect in McShay’s eyes. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t knocks with Fields that teams are studying, albeit McShary still thinks Fields is the most physically gifted quarterback, even ahead of Trevor Lawrence, in the class.

“It’s not about Fields falling or anything about his skill set. He is probably the most physically gifted quarterback in this class. The only issue when I talk to teams is that he had over 200 passes last year, 200 plus were off his first read and only seven were him sitting in the pocket going from progression one to progression two.”

“So that’s kind of an issue and they also think and I see the same thing on tape, is that he loves to see his receiver come open and he doesn’t anticipate enough throws. So that’s where he needs to improve.”

Justin Fields could go from the second quarterback taken to the fifth selected

While McShay’s critique of Fields being primarily a first-read quarterback could be an issue, that should not allow him to fall any further than the Denver Broncos picking at No. 9. Though the New York Jets are supposedly infatuated with BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, it feels like Fields’ wheelhouse is to go somewhere between No. 3 and No. 9. However, his draft stock is plummeting.

It’s not just McShay’s criticism that is the issue. Other pundits have suggested a work ethic issue, as well as not playing against great athletes in the Big Ten at Ohio State. Against the two best Big Ten teams he faced last year, Indiana and Northwestern, Fields did not look like a certain top-two pick. But with that in mind, it is next to impossible to see 10 NFL teams pass on him this spring.

Even if the San Francisco 49ers are high on Mac Jones out of Alabama, Fields would be an ideal fit in Kyle Shanahan’s system. Though Matt Ryan can still play, maybe Fields goes to his hometown Atlanta Falcons at No. 4? As for other top-10 landing spots, look no further than the Detroit Lions at No. 7, the Carolina Panthers at No. 8 and the Broncos at No. 9. How does he get past Denver?

Fields’ draft stock may be plummeting, but that should not knock him out of the top 10 entirely.

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