Mel Kiper Jr. believes Justin Fields is an upgrade from Jimmy Garoppolo.
The long-time ESPN draft expert projected the 49ers moving up to select the Ohio State quarterback at No. 7 in his latest mock draft. Kiper Jr. explained why he believes this is in the team’s best interest on a Monday conference call with NFL reporters.
“The overall skillset of Justin Fields surpasses Jimmy Garoppolo,” Kiper Jr. said. “So if you want to get better than Jimmy G, Justin Fields, in time, with more experience, transitioning to the NFL, with his speed, his mobility, his arm strength, put it all together and you get what you want in a quarterback, once he settles into a pro offense.”
Pro Football Focus has Fields currently graded as the third-highest quarterback eligible for this season’s draft and is projected as the No. 3 best player on their NFL Draft Big Board. In 2020, the 6-foot-3 Buckeye completed 158 of his 226 attempts for 2,098 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions.
This was a slight step down from Fields' 2019 campaign, where he completed 238 of his 356 passes for 3,272 yards, 41 touchdowns and three interceptions. PFF has graded Fields 90.1 or higher for three consecutive seasons.
“I think when you look at him, the mobility, he’s going to run,” Kiper Jr. said. “Athletically and from a speed standpoint, he’s going to test incredibly well. He’s probably going to run in the 4.4s [in the 40-yard dash]. His arm strength, his competitiveness, his passion for the game.
“He loves to study the game. He will be the first on in and the last one out of your building.”
Kiper Jr. believes that the Ohio State quarterback definitely will be selected within the top 10 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. While other draft pundits believe that Fields could drop as low as No. 24 and go to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kiper Jr. doesn’t agree.
“I’m not buying that,” Kiper said. “Everyone has a right to their opinion, but from people I speak to, he’s going to go top 10. I don’t understand some of the criticism. He had two rough games and in the championship game, he was banged up coming off the Clemson game where he got hurt.”
Ohio State’s Pro Day will not be the first time that Kyle Shanahan will get to see Fields up close. The 49ers coach worked with the quarterback in 2017 at the Quarterback Collective in Los Angeles before he attended Ohio State (h/t Cam Inman from the Bay Area News Group).
If the 49ers do not move up to select Fields, Kiper Jr. believes the 49ers will fill their need at cornerback with Alabama’s Patrick Surtain or Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech.