As we enter the phase of pre-draft mania where every rumor is amplified, so will every mock draft be scrutinized. With all the conversation about this unique quarterback class, some of the biggest noise comes from a mock draft that includes a surprising fall one of them might make.
ESPN's Todd McShay hit on that on Thursday when he unveiled his newest mock draft, which included Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields falling out of the top 10. The Broncos simply passed on him, opting to still draft Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II at No. 9.
"Depending on what GM George Paton thinks of QB Drew Lock, Justin Fields could be in play — as could a trade back with another QB-needy franchise," McShay wrote. "But Surtain is instinctive and a natural playmaker, and the Broncos' 2020 opponents had an 86.3 QBR when targeting receivers."
Two picks later, the Patriots pick up Fields, who "can develop into a top-tier starter for a team searching for stability at the position," McShay wrote.
Whether McShay's strategy for the Broncos is based on his understanding of what Paton's thinking may be about Lock of Fields or his own evaluation of Lock or Fields isn't quite clear, but if Paton agrees with McShay in Fields' potential to be a "top-tier starter," it's hard to picture Fields falling past the Broncos.
"From gathering the information I was able to get, I don't have Justin Fields falling as far as down as Todd McShay does," Dianna Russini said on ESPN. "But Todd always has something behind it. But that being said, this is what's interesting. In terms of the valuation, coaches, GMs, scouts, they all point it out — he is so talented. He's got a strong arm, all that natural athleticism is there. But here's a little bit of the question marks: It's his ability to progress after the first read, seeing those defenses. And when you watch Ohio State, you see that offense, sometimes he's just not asked to do that. So, some of this is coaching, but the coaches in the NFL, they want to be able to see that he can do that and he can get rid of the ball, that he won't hold the ball too long. So that's really an area right now that I hear GMs and coaches are focused on, in terms of making comparisons of a Justin Fields to, for example, say a Mac Jones, who's been considered a really progressive reader of defenses."
After his recent pro day, Fields told reporters how he answers questions about that particular concern about the mental part of the game.
Below the Fold
Then again, it's possible that the only way the Broncos have the ability to draft a top quarterback at No. 9 is if they trade up. NFL.com's Adam Rank has all of the top five quarterbacks selected in the first eight picks of his mock draft. "
In an article for ESPN, Matt Bowen breaks down each quarterback prospect's elite skill. For Fields, it was that accuracy downfield, as Bowen highlighted a particular play from a game against Clemson that shows off his arm and also the ability to go through his reads. "Yes, the arm talent is on display here, but so is the ability to process and navigate inside pocket," Bowen writes. "It's a perfect throw. And with that deep-ball accuracy, Fields can be schemed up as a pro on vertical shot plays in a system that caters to his dual-threat traits at the position."