National Football League

New England has its eyes on Justin Fields, with potential to trade up in NFL Draft

April 15

The Pats are still on the hunt.

Despite inking quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year deal earlier this offseason, the New England Patriots seem to be in the mix to potentially draft a signal-caller in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The 2021 class is loaded with QBs, and the one that looks to have caught Bill Belichick's attention is Ohio State's Justin Fields.

The Patriots hold the No. 15 pick, but the Heisman finalist Fields is projected to go off the board before that, so now the question is will New England trade up to draft its future starter under center?

ESPN Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s most recent mock draft has the Pats on the move, snagging Fields at No. 10, which Kiper called "the steal of the draft" on "First Take."

"I think he's the second-best quarterback in this draft ... That's why I have New England jumping up to No. 10 to get Justin Fields in a division where now you have Tua [Tagovailoa], Zach Wilson and the great Josh Allen. All of sudden, now you are a team that has to close that gap or even things up in terms of your quarterback in a division you dominated with Tom Brady for 20 years."

Fields hosted his second pro day on Tuesday. It was off-limits to media, but several NFL teams were in attendance, including the Patriots.

At his first pro day, the 6-foot-3, 228-pound Fields ran a 4.44 in his 40-yard dash, impressing scouts, as Robert Griffin III is the only quarterback to record a faster time at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.41 in 2012).

The past two seasons, Fields racked up 5,373 yards, 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions with the Buckeyes, after beginning his career at Georgia. He finished 2020 ranked top-10 in the nation in completion percentage (70.2) and quarterback rating (175.6).

Still, despite Fields' impressive numbers, Shannon Sharpe isn't sold on New England mortgaging its draft future to move up and get Fields. 

"There are a couple of teams that in order to draft a Justin Fields, you're going to have to move up, and when you move up, you add pressure," he said on "Undisputed." "Considering what [the Patriots] spent in free agency, you are going to sacrifice next year's first-round pick and maybe even a third to move up into the selection. ... You got to be right. ... I like these guys, [but] I don't know if I'm in love with any of them."

The Patriots took a surprising approach to free agency this year, going against their norm and breaking the NFL record for most guaranteed money spent.

New England handed big contracts to tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, along with wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor, paying to cover up prior draft flubs. 

For the team to now trade up in this year's draft would likely require a first-round pick in 2022 or a package of picks next season, according to Sharpe. After New England shelled out major money for players in the offseason, a trade would mean another gamble for a franchise that doesn't have the best track record with it comes to the draft.

That said, the option might not even be available to the Patriots. Nick Wright believes the San Francisco 49ers will select Fields with the No. 3 pick, which, as it just so happens, the club traded up to acquire.

"I want him to go to San Francisco," Wright said on "First Things First." "I think it would work for him. I think it would work for the team. I think it would skyrocket [the 49ers] back to near the top of the list of contenders in the NFC."

The 49ers were also in attendance at Fields' second pro day, sending QB coach Rich Scangarello, head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch to the event.

In addition, the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos were all watching.

It looks like New England will have to wait and see where Fields falls come April 29.

Or, they might need to take a leap to grab him.

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