2021 NFL Draft: Justin Fields' scouting report after Ohio State career

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Matt Maiocco
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What scouts say about OSU star QB Fields heading into draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The 49ers had a quarterback in mind when general manager John Lynch made the move on March 26 to trade up to No. 3 overall.

The 49ers paid a big price in their deal with the Miami Dolphins to leap over eight teams to select behind only the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets. In addition to sending the No. 12 overall pick to Miami, they parted with first-round picks in 2022 and '23, and a third-round compensatory selection in 2022.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said the 49ers had to feel comfortable with three quarterbacks in this draft in order to make the move. The first two quarterbacks, Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, appear obvious.

The third remains somewhat of a mystery.

Ohio State's Justin Fields, Alabama's Mac Jones and North Dakota State's Trey Lance are the candidates for the 49ers to select with the third overall pick to eventually replace Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter.

Over the next three days, we will take a look at each of the three quarterbacks the 49ers likely are considering after Lawrence and Wilson. Three longtime NFL scouts provided their opinions of each prospect.

Here's their report on Fields, whose Ohio State Buckeyes went 20-2 the past two seasons with him as the starter.

MEASURABLES

Height: 6-foot-3Weight: 227 pounds

STATISTICS

In eight games in 2020, Fields completed 158 of 225 pass attempts (70.2 percent) for 2,100 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed 81 times for 383 yards and five touchdowns.

DRAFT PROJECTION

First round: Between No. 3 and No. 10

WHY HE FITS WITH 49ERS

Fields is an accomplished thrower, inside or outside the pocket. He has the ability to make big plays with his legs, too. He demonstrated an ability to play within the system at Ohio State.

He has the toughness that Kyle Shanahan values in his players. Before throwing his first of three interceptions against Indiana on Nov. 21, he had completed 21 of 21 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns in the first quarter of games. That shows he was prepared and well-versed with the game plans.

Any knocks about him being a one-read quarterback can be easily dismissed with his 90.6 grade from Pro Football Focus on passes targeting receivers after the first read.

WHY HE DOES NOT FIT WITH 49ERS

Fields can escape a pass rush, all right. But his numbers tumbled dramatically when he was under pressure. His QBR was just 22.6 when pressured, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Two of the reasons the 49ers are moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo are his durability and his reluctance to pull the trigger on throws before the intended target has broken into the clear. He needs to see the receiver open, but by that point, it’s often too late.

Fields’ running ability comes at a price. He puts himself in the line of big hits. He will have to learn to slide or get out of bounds to avoid taking unnecessary risks. That should not be too much of an issue. But “throwing receivers open” is a more difficult skill to acquire.

WHAT SCOUTS ARE SAYING

“Fields has all of the ability in the world.”

“He’s like a ball of clay. He can be molded.”

“I like his physical and mental maturity. He’s a man -- both physically and mentally.”

“I like the fact he’s been a winner since Day 1.”

“He needs to be around football 7/24/365, because I don’t see him as a natural, instinctual quarterback when it comes to timing and chemistry with receivers, tight ends and backs.”

"When they played, it was like the varsity against the JV. His accuracy is not as good as what his completion percentage shows."

"I think he's going to be a really good player."

“He’ll have to learn to turn down hits.”

“I’m not a big Fields guy. Under pressure, he’s OK. But he has a slow release.”

“Kyle (Shanahan) might look at him like he’s too talented to pass up.”

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