Editor’s note: This is the first of 10 prospect profiles on players who could be the Falcons’ first-round pick.
The Falcons own the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft and what coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot will do with the pick remains one of the most intriguing questions heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.
One of the prospects Atlanta could select is quarterback Justin Fields, a player who created a lot of buzz following his pro day last week where Fontenot and Smith were both in attendance. If Fields, a Kennesaw, Ga. native, is the pick, that means Fontenot and Smith believe he’s the best player available on their board. The Falcons’ new general manager has said he’ll be implementing an approach of taking the best player available.
Fields was one of the most electric players to watch in college football over the last two seasons. His mobility, athleticism and arm strength at the quarterback position are traits that will likely set him up for success at the next level.
In two seasons as the starting quarterback at Ohio State, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound dual-threat quarterback threw 396 passes for 5,373 and 63 touchdowns. He also added 867 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.
Fields began his collegiate career at Georgia in 2018 before transferring to Ohio State where he was voted Offensive Player of the Year two years in a row (2019-20). Fields also helped lead the Buckeyes to an appearance in the College Football Playoff National Championship game in 2020.
Why he fits with the Falcons
Smith will be implementing his wide-zone scheme in Atlanta in his first year as head coach where he will call plays on offense. Based off what we saw in the system he ran in Tennessee when he the offensive coordinator for two seasons, play-action will be a big part of the offense.
Fields excels in a play-action heavy offense as he went 57 of 77 on play-action passes for 907 yards and nine touchdowns with one interception last season.
If Fields were to be selected by Atlanta in the first round, he’d also get the luxury of sitting behind and learning from one of the NFL’s best play-action quarterbacks in Matt Ryan. When Ryan was the league’s MVP in 2016, he was playing in an offensive system centered around play-action with a balanced rushing attack. Expect Smith’s offense to resemble parts of what the Falcons ran in 2015-16.
Given Fields’ ability to make plays out of the pocket and his speed, Smith would be able to implement even more wrinkles to his offense. A main reason Smith was one of the most coveted coaches on the head coaching circuit this year was his work with the Titans’ rushing offense. Marrying Smith’s vision for the run game with a quarterback who can make plays on the ground would make a ton of sense. Fields clocked a 4.44 40-yard dash time during his pro day.
“Like Dak Prescott before him, Fields enters the league with dual-threat capabilities but is more of a pocket passer with the ability to extend plays or win with his legs when needed. He was up and down in 2020, but a bounce-back performance against Clemson — including an impressive second half after suffering an injury — said a lot about his toughness and leadership. He sees the field fairly well inside the Buckeyes’ quarterback-friendly offense but needs to become a full-field reader and prevent his eyes from becoming transfixed on primary targets. He sticks open throws with accuracy and velocity thanks to a sturdy platform and good drive mechanics. He’s also comfortable throwing into intermediate holes of a zone. A slower operation time and a lack of a twitchy trigger will require him to work with better anticipation and pressure recognition pre- and post-snap. He takes more sacks than coaches will be comfortable with but he also digs his way out of holes and creates explosive plays. Fields operates with a quiet confidence and has experience overcoming adversity. He should continue to improve and become a solid NFL starter within a couple of seasons.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
Up Next Videos Fixing the Falcons through the 2021 draft ‘Move the Sticks’ Videos Chad Reuter projects every Falcons pick in 2021 NFL Draft Videos Frelund break down her picks for Jets, Falcons in her Mock Draft 2.0 Videos Fabian Moreau excited to join Atlanta Falcons Videos Breaking down the new coaching staff | Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Arthur Smith Videos Free agent signing Mike Davis talks to media about ‘coming home’ to Atlanta Videos Free agent signing Barkevious Mingo speaks to the media for the first time Videos Creating lasting and impactful change | Coach of the Year Derrick Avery Videos Free agent signing Lee Smith speaks to the media for the first time Videos Filling the needs in free agency to draft the best players on the board | GM Terry Fontenot Videos Bucky Brooks: Zach Wilson makes sense for Falcons No. 4 pick Videos Free agent signing Erik Harris speaks to the media for the first time Videos Mock Drafts, Free Agency moves, a special message, and Ryan Wilson’s bold predictions | Bird Noises Podcast Videos We thank you, Drew Brees | New Orleans Saints rival retires Videos Jason La Canfora has bold predictions, discusses Smith & Fontenot, NFC South, NFL Draft | Bird Noises Podcast Videos Nick Shook: Three ideal free agency pairings in the NFC Videos From South Korea, to the NFL and the Premier League | Younghoe Koo & Heung-Min Son talk about their paths to professional sports Videos Inspire Change: Arthur Blank and the Falcons reflect on Rep. John Lewis Videos The impact of HBCUs on & off the field Videos Scott Pioli lays out dream offseason for the Atlanta Falcons Videos Game Theory: Cynthia Frelund shares her WR corps rankings with Steve Smith Sr. Videos Matt Ryan and Terry Fontenot tour new Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center at Flowery Branch Videos Terry Fontenot, Arthur Smith discuss free agency, college pro days and the upcoming draft Videos NFL Roundtable: Michael Vick details his journey as a black quarterback Videos The salary cap situation and what it means for Falcons, Saints and NFL – Joel Corry helps explain | Bird Noises Podcast Videos NFC South rookies make an impact | Grading the 2020 rookies Videos A New Regime | The story on how Arthur Smith & Terry Fontenot were hired by the Atlanta Falcons Videos Spread the love | Freddie Falcon’s Valentine’s Day Freddie-Grams Videos Arthur Smith calls into the Scott Van Pelt Show Videos Matt Miller on new life directions, Smith & Fontenot reactions, Free Agency & NFL Draft, and looking back | Bird Noises Podcast Videos Smith, Fontenot, and McKay tour Mercedes-Benz Stadium Videos By sharing his story, he has enabled others to share theirs | Thank you, Hayden Videos Freddie Falcon’s Super Bowl Blitz Videos Arthur Blank discusses new football staff, future of Matt Ryan & Julio Jones, and Super Bowl LV Videos Gurley: ‘I definitely have to reach out to’ Arthur Smith on returning to Falcons Videos Girls flag football: Growing the game in Georgia Videos Roger Goodell surprises Steve Cannon with NFL Salute to Service award Videos New Falcons DC Dean Pees speaks to the media for the first time Videos Special Teams Coordinator Marquice Williams addresses the media for the first time Videos Case for Canton? William Andrews and why he’s the GOAT of Falcons fullbacks | Bird Noises Podcast