Kiper: Fields No. 2 rated quarterback in the draft

5,701: Career passing yards
5,701: Career passing yards

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

In his latest Mock Draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr, has the Falcons trading up to take BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick. However, he has Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields rated as the better player.

During a conference call with the media, Kiper explained his picks and how he has several of the top quarterbacks rated on Monday. The Falcons currently hold the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL draft, which is set to be held April 29 through May 1 in Cleveland.

The Falcons, with only Matt Ryan on the roster, will be in the offseason quarterback market and have an opportunity at the top of the draft to potentially select Ryan’s heir apparent.

The debate over who’s better, Wilson or Fields, will rage over the next several weeks.

“Zach took his game to another level this year, no question about it,” Kiper said. “For Zach Wilson coming back from the shoulder (surgery) in 2019, eliminating the fumbles, eliminating holding the ball too long, (eliminating) some of the bad interceptions that were thrown at times during his career. ... He eliminated all of that this year and became a great college quarterback.”

Fields, who started his career at Georgia and played at Harrison High, has a bigger body of work, but Kiper contends that teams are holding poor showings versus Indiana and Northwestern against him. Kiper had Fields going seventh overall to San Francisco to play for former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

“I’ve seen some ranges all the way down to Pittsburgh at 24,” Kiper said. “I’m not buying that. Everybody has a right to their opinion. I think, from the people that I speak to, he’s going to go top 10.”

Kiper is willing to brush off the two poor showings last season. In the 2020 draft, the Falcons did something similar with cornerback A.J. Terrell out of Clemson.

They didn’t put much stock in his poor perforamance in the national championship game. They liked how he came back after losing battles with the talented LSU receivers.

“Two questionable games, I call (them) hiccups,” Kiper said. “Go back to 2019, he was going through his progressions and picking out his third and fourth options. He wasn’t locking in. He didn’t have to see it to throw it to a guy. There were plenty games where you saw him do what he needed to do from that standpoint. I would say he goes in the top 10. I’m not buying that he drops all the way into the 20s.”

The knock on Ohio State quarterbacks making the jump to the NFL may also hurt Fields’ draft status. The most recent Ohio State quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, was cut by Washington last season. He later signed with Pittsburgh.

“It could,” Kiper admitted. “You look at the quarterback situation with Dwayne Haskins, coming out of that offense and all of that. He’s mobile. Dwayne is a pocket guy. I think you look at Ohio State’s talent around the quarterback, certainly there is always going to be talent. ... If you look at his overall body of work, Justin Fields deserves to the second overall rated quarterback in this draft.”

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence went No. 1 overall to Jacksonville in Kiper’s mock.

After Wilson and Fields, he has Alabama’s Mac Jones going eighth to Carolina and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance going ninth to New England.

“In terms of the feel and the instincts in the pocket and all of that, I think it showed really well in the Ohio State game,” Kiper said of Jones. “They cut that game to a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter and he a third down from his own 35-yard line, he got pressured, he stepped up, moved around and got the ball to (Jahleel) Billingsley for a long run after catch.”

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask is projected to go in the second round by Kiper.

“He’s limited,” Kiper said. “He’s a pocket guy. He went through his progressions pretty well. He did lock on at times. In the Georgia game, there could have been an interception, a pick-six that would have turned that game around.”

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book projects as an NFL backup.

“Ian Book was a really good college quarterback,” Kiper said. “He really improved. (Notre Dame coach) Brian Kelly had nothing but great things to say about his leadership and what he meant to that football team. But as a professional quarterback, an NFL quarterback, I see a backup.”

The Falcons are in the backup quarterback market after Matt Schaub retired and Kurt Benkert was released.

“He’s a guy you could have as a long-time as a career backup type,” Kiper said. “He can maybe get you through a two- or three-game period if your starter got hurt. I don’t see him as a starting quarterback in the NFL.”

Kiper has former Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman rated as a “Day 3″ prospect. He transferred to Georgia, but opted out of the season.

Also, Georgia pass rusher Azeez Ojulari is projected to be the final player taken in Kiper’s mock.

“Azeez Ojulari showed this year off the edge,” Kiper said. “I’d like to see him maybe add five to 10 pounds on that frame. I’d liked to have seen another year, but based on what I saw, he’s worthy of being a late-first or early-second rounder.”

The 6-foot-3, 221-pounder became the third 5-star prospect to sign with the Bulldogs on the first day of the early signing period.

Falcons’ 2021 draft position: Here are the pick’s in D. Led’s Mock Draft 1.0: Top five picks

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)

2. New York Jets: Ja’Marr Chase, (WR, LSU)

3. Dolphins: Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)

4. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Devonta Smith (WR, Alabama)

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