Mel Kiper 2021 NFL mock draft: 49ers trade up, pick QB Justin Fields

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Dalton Johnson
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49ers trade up, pick QB Fields in Kiper's latest mock draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

And you thought the 49ers quarterback rumors were over. 

Enter, Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest 2021 NFL mock draft. Kiper released his newest edition Thursday and has the 49ers shaking up the draft by trading up with the Detroit Lions to the No. 7 overall pick to select Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Kiper calls this a move that "raises the 49ers' ceiling" and wrote "I'd love to see Fields play for Shanahan, who could get the best out of him."

Fields feels like someone who is the latest case of the lead-up to the draft taking too damn long. At this point, he has been over-scouted and over-critiqued as a "one-read QB," which appears to be less true by the day. Ever since high school, Fields has been going head-to-head with Trevor Lawrence as the best quarterback in his class, and then outdueled him in the Sugar Bowl. 

After taking a crushing blow to his side, Fields turned it on and was unstoppable against Clemson to lead Ohio State to the national championship game. He completed 22 of 28 pass attempts for 385 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Then, he was highly scrutinized for completing just 51.7 percent of his pass attempts while throwing one touchdown in a blowout loss to an Alabama team that just so happened to be one of the most talented college squads we've ever seen. 

When Fields plays top competition, the best comes out of him. In 19 games against Power Five teams, he had a 92.7 Pro Football Focus grade. That's the exact same as Lawrence. 

Here's your reminder that Fields can make throws like this. 

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And this. 

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Oh, and make plays like this. 

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Here's the problem. Kiper mentions the 49ers could save $25 million by releasing Jimmy Garoppolo after June 1, slightly over a month after the draft. Getting rid of Garoppolo sure doesn't seem likely anymore. General manager John Lynch made his most definitive statement yet on Jimmy G, saying there's "no doubt" in his mind Garoppolo will be the 49ers' starting QB come September. 

RELATED: Fields could be worth 49ers making big trade in 2021 draft

That doesn't mean Fields is out of play, though. If the 49ers restructure Garoppolo's contract, which is almost a sure thing, they could still start him and use him as a bridge to Fields, just like the Kansas City Chiefs did with Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes. 

The 49ers can't make the mistake of passing up the best player available. If they feel Fields can be a star one day, they need to go get him. They need a better QB room overall right now, and Fields would amplify that from Day 1.

Stop looking at what Fields can't do and start understanding what he can do. Now, imagine that in a Shanahan offense with all of the 49ers' weapons. That's a win-win.

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