With the NFL draft set to begin Thursday, the notion that Ohio State’s Justin Fields, the second-rated quarterback in the draft by some, is falling down draft boards persists.
The Falcons, who have the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, which runs through Saturday, have heavily scouted top available quarterbacks. However, few are associating Fields, the Harrison High product, with the Falcons.
“Justin Fields in the second best quarterback in this draft,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “I can see him going to Denver at nine. I can see somebody trading up to 10 to get him or trading up to seven, ahead of Denver, to force Denver to go from nine to seven with Detroit to get him. So, I think he’s going to be falling.”
Jacksonville is projected to take former Clemson standout Trevor Lawrence, of Cartersville, with the No. 1 overall pick.
“You don’t win as many championships in high school as a true freshman starter in the state of Georgia where football is very good and then win two championships at Clemson if you don’t have something going for you,” said Pro Football Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt.
The New York Jets are projected to take BYU’s Zach Wilson, while San Francisco has not been able to hide Kyle Shanahan’s affection for Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.
“I think (Fields’) is the second best quarterback in the draft, but Mac Jones is the way it’s going,” Kiper said. “I’d heard Mac Jones or Trey Lance early on. I went with Mac Jones (in his latest mock draft) because that’s what you’re hearing. I would go Justin Fields.”
So, that would leave the Falcons with a chance to take Fields or Lance. Also, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and offensive tackles Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater are on the team’s draft radar. They could trade back and get Slater, but they can’t go back too far and get locked out of the top tier talent in the draft.
Here’s a look at the top five players on the Falcons’ draft radar:
Ohio State’s Justin Fields, 6-foot-3, 228 pounds: In addition to his impressive Pro Day outings throwing the football, Fields showed off his speed by clocking a time of 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his first one. To put this time in perspective, the only quarterback to run a faster time at the NFL scouting combine was Robert Griffin, who ran the 40 in 4.41 seconds. The Falcons sent the maximum of three executives to his first and second Pro Days. “I think he’s going to be, even if he’s the fifth quarterback taken, so what,” Kiper said. “The quarterbacks that have dropped over the years have done pretty well. If it’s New England, if it’s Denver, if it’s Washington or Chicago, whoever it is and that depends upon how far those teams want to drop. If you’re Detroit, how far down are you OK dropping to? ... I think there is going to be activity to go up and get Justin Fields.”
Oregon’s Penei Sewell, 6-4, 331: Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, although it did not matter when it came to the offensive lineman’s draft status. Still considered one of the top two tackles in this year’s draft, Sewell’s power in the run game is evident on film. Sewell possesses excellent athletic ability for someone his size, which makes him an ideal candidate to protect the quarterback’s blind side in the NFL. In two years as Oregon’s starting left tackle, Sewell surrendered only one sack. He ready to start in the NFL at all four spots except center, according to one AFC personnel executive.
North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, 6-4, 226: Lance, 20, elected to enter the draft after North Dakota State played only one game in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. He led the Bison to the FCS national championship in 2019. He posted a 17-0 record as a starter. In 2019, he passed for 28 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and had 14 rushing touchdowns. He has been compared to Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair during the pre-draft process.
Florida’s Kyle Pitts, 6-5, 245: Forty-nine years have passed since a tight end was taken in the top five. Pitts has the chance to be the first tight end to be taken this high since the Broncos selected former Houston tight end Riley Odoms fifth overall. For his size, Pitts has speed like a receiver and can line up all over the offensive formation. He has to improve his blocking. With three quarterbacks expected to go with the first three selections, the Falcons could be a potential destination for Pitts at No. 4 overall if they decide to pass on a quarterback themselves.
Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, 6-4, 302 pounds : Like Sewell, Slater also opted out of the 2020 season. And like Sewell, that hasn’t affected his draft standing whatsoever. Slater was the only offensive lineman to contain former Ohio State defensive end Chase Young for an entire game in 2019. What separates Slater from many of his counterparts is his ability to play guard and center in the NFL. However, Slater, known as a highly intelligent lineman, stated at his Pro Day that he views himself as a long-term tackle at the next level. However, he could come in a pull the hole at left guard for the Falcons.
AJC’S POSITION-BY-POSITION NFL DRAFT SERIES
QUARTERBACKS: How far will Justin Fields drop in draft? | Top 10 QBs
RUNNING BACKS: Plenty of prospects to pick from | Top 10 RBs
WIDE RECEIVERS: Draft deep with talent | Top 10 WRs
TIGHT ENDS: Ability to create mismatches is key | Top 10 TEs
OFFENSIVE TACKLES: A ‘nasty’ bunch | Top 10 OTs
OFFENSIVE GUARDS/CENTERS: The men in the middle | Top 10 C/OGs
END RUSHERS: Pass on this draft stock | Top 10 DEs
DEFENSIVE TACKLES: One star among lackluster block | Top 10 DTs
LINEBACKERS: Deep class for position | Top 10 LBs
CORNERBACKS: Plethora of options for first two rounds | Top 10 CBs
SAFETIES: Falcons likely will add position player | Top 10 Safeties
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