CLEVELAND, OH – With the 2021 NFL Draft roughly one month away in Cleveland, one team to watch who might in the market for a franchise quarterback is the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina (5-11), who finished third in the top-heavy NFC South under journeyman veteran, Teddy Bridgewater, are currently set to pick seventh, with a glaring need for a potential franchise signal-caller under second-year head coach Matt Rhule.
With arguably the NFL’s best all-purpose weapon in RB Christian McCaffery and WR D.J. Moore, Carolina is bereft of offensive weapons other than CMC and need playmakers—as well as a QB—who can properly optimize second-year offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s system.
With arguably the top two QB prospects in Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson likely gone by the time they pick at seven, and former Alabama QB Mac Jones rising up draft boards, and rumored to be in play for the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina may have to “settle” for either Trey Lance or Justin Fields.
It’s not a knock or criticism against either one of them, as both QB’s project to be a good fit for Brady’s offense, the best one between the two is Fields, due to his combination of size, athleticism, arm strgeth and intangibles.
While Lance could—or be even better—Fields has the advantage in playing more NFL-level competition at both Georgia and Ohio State than Lance who only played one full year—and one showcase game up in Fargo for the Bison.
It may not be fair to knock a prospect during COVID-19 in playing one game and having only one season of tape from 2019, but they say that tape never lies, and from what I’ve seen is that Lance is far from a finished product and would best be served in sitting behind a veteran for year until he is ready to get real-time game action.
In the case of Fields, while there has been some questions and concerns about his decision-making and questionable leadership, he is still a better player and prospect than lance and could very well start Week 1 down in Carolina, if he were to be drafted. A Fields-McCaffrey backfield alone would be enough to keep defenses honest, as the former Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Sugar Bowl MVP is lethal both on the ground as a runner and as a passer.
There is still time between now and then for Carolina to reveal their cards. If I were a betting man, I’d wager on the more proven product in Fields over Lance any day.