The Chicago Bears became the toast of the 2021 NFL Draft because they started at pick No. 20 and engineered a trade to move up nine spots to land Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Parting with a 2022 first-round selection to make the deal, it looks like a bargain compared to the multiple first-round selections that the San Francisco 49ers gave up to move from No. 12 to No. 3 to select North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance.
As Bears fans and brass rejoice in landing Fields, it begs the question: “should other teams have ultimately picked Fields before he was in play for Chicago?” Time will ultimately tell, but it’s fair to speculate if these three teams, in particular, made a mistake by passing on Fields.
Entering Scott Fitterer’s first draft as general manager and the second year of a seven-year contract for Matt Rhule, the pressure to win has yet to fully arrive in Carolina. With that said, the pressure will soon mount and Carolina is committed to Sam Darnold for this season and (probably) next. That’s not to say that if Darnold flops in 2021 that the Panthers can’t or won’t seek an upgrade because that’s exactly what happened with Teddy Bridgewater.
I like Darnold’s chances to succeed in Carolina. Between offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s spread offense and the best supporting cast that Darnold has had at his disposal since entering the NFL, the talent that made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft can be on full display.
While Jaycee Horn is an exciting and much-needed addition to the Panthers’ secondary, Carolina won’t get over the hump until they find their answer at quarterback. How Darnold and Horn fare in Carolina will be measured against Fields’ development in Chicago.
If the Broncos ultimately land Aaron Rodgers, then this blurb never happened. But as Denver prepares to enter the 2021 season with a loaded roster everywhere but the quarterback position, it’s fair to question the Broncos’ choice to pass on Fields.
I expect Patrick Surtain II to be an outstanding starter for a long time in the NFL. He is athletic, physical, and technically refined. In a division that features the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, having a deep and talented secondary is a must. With that said, Denver’s corner situation wasn’t in that bad of shape entering the draft after securing Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency to go with Bryce Callahan and Michael Ojemudia, who showed promise as a third-round pick in last year’s draft.
My expectations for Drew Lock and Bridgewater are low. This team is literally a quarterback away from making noise in the AFC and passed on Fields. With a talented young group of weapons in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, KJ Hamler, and Javonte Williams, I don’t anticipate Lock or Bridgewater maximizing that talent like Fields could have.
Vic Fangio is 62 years old and waited a long time for his opportunity to be an NFL head coach. I worry that Denver’s inability to secure a legitimate franchise quarterback will spoil his chance. If Denver landed Fields, the same praise Chicago has received would be directed toward the Broncos and the perception of the team would be drastically different.
The Eagles are likely to own three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, which probably played into their decision to not participate in this year’s quarterback class—in addition to allowing Jalen Hurts to prove himself or not in 2021. With that said, Hurts struggled as a rookie and isn’t the same caliber of prospect that Fields is.
As the saying goes, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Not pulling the trigger on Fields because of what the options could be in 2022 or counting on Hurts to become a legitimate franchise quarterback is a decision that I question, especially if Philadelphia has the part with assets to move up for a desired quarterback next year. Fields was staring them in the face and was passed over in favor of wide receiver DeVonta Smith who will be a total outlier and exception based on size thresholds should he meet expectations as a top-10 pick.
General manager Howie Roseman better hope he played his cards right this time given his resume making draft picks. He does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.
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