On Tuesday, longtime ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper revealed his first 2021 NFL mock draft, which included a surprising pick for the Atlanta Falcons at pick No. 4.
Naturally, Kiper has the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall. However, while many pundits believe the next quarterback off the board will be Ohio State’s Justin Fields, likely at No. 2 overall to the New York Jets, Kiper currently sees it being BYU’s Zach Wilson to the Falcons.
This scenario came as a surprise to some considering Atlanta would have their preferred choice between Fields and Wilson. While another quarterback-needy club would almost certainly step in if the Jets opted to trade the No. 2 pick, Kiper explained his thinking, citing conversations with sources around the league.
“Depends who you talk to in the NFL,” Kiper said on ESPN’s Get Up on Tuesday. “I’ve changed that about six times when I was doing that mock with Fields and Wilson flip-flopping, but Wilson had such a great year. I had one guy who said Fields, but he also said Wilson was spectacular all year. Fields had some…hiccups. Go to the Indiana game, the Northwestern game in particular there. Now, in the Northwestern game, he didn’t have Chris Olave, but still, Wilson didn’t have that hiccup. You go Coastal Carolina, he was good — wasn’t great but he was good. So, he didn’t have that subpar game.
“[Wilson] can spin it like no other. Arm strength, release, athletic ability, got bigger, got stronger after having that shoulder surgery a couple of years ago. So, Zach Wilson, right now, I think has just a slight, slight edge over Justin Fields to become the number two quarterback coming off the board.”
ESPN’s David Pollack Compares Wilson to 2 NFL Greats
During a January 8 appearance on Get Up, ESPN College Gameday’s David Pollack was asked which NFL quarterback Wilson reminds him of. A former NFL defender himself, Pollack surprised many when he named two future Hall of Famers as close comparisons for Wilson’s playstyle.
“He scares the crap out of me because my comparisons that keep coming to mind when I watch him are too good,” Pollack said, via Sports Illustrated. “I keep looking at him and he’s got such a smooth, natural ability. He just floats off his back foot and flips it like Aaron Rodgers. He just runs to his left and throws it 60 yards downfield like Patrick Mahomes.
“Last year I did not get in the Jordan Love comparison with Patrick Mahomes. This guy [Zach Wilson] reminds me of them. His deep ball accuracy is second to none.”
The highly touted junior quarterback ended the 2020 season throwing for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions in 12 games. He also added 254 rushing yards and another 10 scores on the ground, further proving exactly how much of a duel threat he is.
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Fields Could Bring Georgia Roots to Falcons
The Falcons opting for Fields over Wilson certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing either, especially since the two are not far off from each other in terms of physical talent. Fields in a Falcons uniform would mark a homecoming for the Ohio State star who is a native of Georgia and played his high school ball at Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.
In eight games this season, Fields finished with 2,100 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 70.2% of his passes. Like Wilson, Fields can extend plays with his feet and even create opportunities of his own, as evidenced by his 383 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Prior to an embarrassing 33-17 loss to Nick Saban and Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship, Fields had a solid first-round appearance against Clemson, outplaying Lawrence with a six-touchdown performance despite a rib injury.
All in all, Atlanta really can’t go wrong in this scenario. Whichever signal-caller they pick will have extraordinary mentorship under 13-year veteran Matt Ryan and new head coach Arthur Smith, who is credited with helping turn Ryan Tannehill’s career around in Tennessee.