With the 2021 NFL Draft roughly two months away in Cleveland, there are many players that experts have already atop their proverbial draft boards. In what some call arguably the most talent-loaded draft in recent memory, who is the biggest x-factor that can shake everything up?
Thanks to the recent blockbuster trades involving Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, in addition to disgruntled Houston Texans franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson demanding a trade and the seemingly ongoing contract drama down in Dallas between Jerry Jones and Dak Prescott, a quarterback in this year’s draft class could shake and shift the balance of power in the entire NFL going forward, but who?
Yes, while an offensive lineman, edge rusher or defensive back could also be a potential wildcard, as evidenced by how the newly-crowned Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hunted, harried and forced Patrick Mahomes to run for his life all night down at Raymond James during Tampa’s 31-9 romp in Super Bowl LV, the position that comes at a premium is quarterback.
So, which one?
While it may be easy to peg the likes of non-Power Five stars such as North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and BYU’s Zach Wilson, SEC gunslingers such as Kyle Trask of Florida and Mac Jones of Alabama, athletic freaks such as Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts, arguably the one player who could single-handily shake up the draft is Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback, Justin Fields.
Fields, whom has been projected as high as No.2 overall to the New York Jets to possibly the New England Patriots at No.15
Teams such as his home-state Atlanta Falcons at No.4, Carolina at No.8, Denver at No.9, the forementioned Patriots at No.15. Washington Football Team at No.19, Chicago at No.20 and Pittsburgh all the way down to No.24 could be considered possible sleepers to grab Fields, if he somehow makes it past New England.
Now this may not be possible, and Fields goes way higher, there has been some serious chatter amongst NFL circles about his lack of game tape—thanks to the Big Ten playing only six games—whether or not he is a project or a franchise QB and his maturity, both on and off the field.
Honestly, in my opinion, if the Jets pass on Fields at No.2, then the Falcons, whom need a successor to the aging former NFL MVP in Matt Ryan, would score major PR points in drafting a homegrown product—via Kennesaw, Georgia—in the de facto capital of Black America in the age of Black Lives Matter, would go a long way in a city that has one the NFL’s highest percentages of African-American season ticket holders.
Aside from re-energizing what has always been a relatively lax fan base down in the ATL, Fields would bring a new level of excitement not seen since the early days of Michael Vick. But with a better arm and slightly more built.
Wherever he lands, Fields would either step in immediately as the heir apparent and Week One starter or sitting on the bench and learning from an entrenched veteran. And that, only with his combination of NFL quality arm strength and elite mobility, will make him the very definition of a wildcard on draft day.