Justin Fields has been on the draft radar for a while now, seeing that he was the No. 2 overall recruit in the same high school class as Trevor Lawrence, and he looked like a future top 5 selection in his debut season at Ohio State in 2019. In the national title game, he'll look to build on a spectacular performance in the Sugar Bowl beatdown of Clemson to further boost his stock heading into the pre-draft process.
As for Alabama's passer, Mac Jones, he was forced onto the field after Tua Tagovailoa's injury last season, looked like the inexperienced quarterback he was but finished the year strong. After a full offseason as the Crimson Tide starter, Jones erupted in 2020 with impossible-to-ignore stats that have certainly made him a legitimate draft prospect -- 77% completion, 11.3 yards per attempt, 36 touchdowns, four picks.
Before Fields and Jones square off in the national title game, we got the three CBS Sports NFL Draft analysts together -- myself, Ryan Wilson, and Josh Edwards -- for a roundtable discussion on these two quarterbacks as draft prospects.
Who is the second-best QB in this draft class? Who do you think will be the second QB drafted?
Josh Edwards: For me, it is tight between Justin Fields and Zach Wilson. Coming off a sensational performance in the College Football Playoff semifinal, everyone wants to believe that Fields is the runaway choice but evaluations are made over a much longer period of time. Wilson is the No. 2 quarterback prospect for me right now because I want the player I select to have at least one elite trait that he can hang his hat on and, for Wilson, that is arm strength. We have seen some crazy throws from him -- stationary and on the move -- this season and we know that will translate to the next level.
Ryan Wilson: I'm going to mix things up here. Mac Jones is my No. 2 quarterback ahead of Justin Fields, Zach Wilson or Trey Lance. Is Jones perfect? Nope, but he's putting up the same numbers as Tua did last year and he's doing it with more pre-snap and post-snap awareness, a better arm, and just as many tight-window throws. Don't misunderstand, Trevor Lawrence is the best QB in this class by a large margin but there are plenty of questions about the next tier, which includes Jones, Fields, Wilson and Lance. Put another way: If I need a QB to come in and play sooner than later, I like Jones ahead of the other options not named Lawrence.
Chris Trapasso: For as ridiculous as this sounds because we only have the national title left on the college football schedule, it is "early" in the pre-draft process. And following my first run-through of film for the top quarterback prospects, Fields finished slightly ahead of Wilson in my grading system. While both were spectacular long-ball throwers in 2020, I think Wilson is a better fit in a West Coast type offense that focuses on the quarterback getting out quickly to a variety of targets -- think "point guard" style. Fields and his big arm -- and long delivery -- are best-suited for a hyper-aggressive, vertical-based system that actually wants him to hold the football a little longer for deep routes to develop.
Who would you compare Justin Fields to and what does he need to succeed?
Josh Edwards: I haven't come up with a perfect comparison for Fields yet. I know Russell Wilson has been a popular choice but I don't think Fields throws as pretty of a deep ball. He is mobile enough to get chunk yardage but he is a pocket passer first and foremost. I don't think Fields has the strongest arm. A comparison is a work in progress. Honestly, I would like to see him land somewhere that will use him on more designed runs. I think his versatility and up tempo play will make it tougher to scheme against him. Right now, you just play him inside out.
Ryan Wilson: Fields is a smaller Cam Newton in a lot of ways. He doesn't have Newton's arm strength (or, at least, what Newton's arm strength was before all the injuries) but he's a more polished passer at this point in his career. There are still issues with Fields' game -- he holds the ball too long in the pocket, he struggles to come off reads, he takes too many sacks -- but there's also a lot to love. The athleticism jumps off the screen. He shows uncanny accuracy at times on downfield throws. He's incredibly tough and his teammates seem to love him. Fields' best chance of success in the NFL could be with him sitting for a year behind a veteran QB. Whether that happens is another matter but there should be no rush to get him on the field.
Chris Trapasso: I legitimately get Deshaun Watson vibes when watching Fields. High praise, I know. Hear me out. Watson has always been a phenomenal -- and willing -- deep-ball passer. Early in his NFL career, he held the ball, and held it, and held it. Took a lot of sacks. That's basically the biggest strength and greatest weakness in Fields' game right now. Watson is best when he's pumping it down the field frequently, and it really wasn't until 2020 that he tightened his accuracy. I don't think Fields is quite as creative when improvising, but he's a very good athlete for the quarterback spot, just like Watson.
What makes Mac Jones different from past Alabama QBs and what should NFL teams expect from him?
Josh Edwards: I think Mac Jones is an accurate quarterback that puts his players in a position to make plays. He takes care of the football and the trajectory on his deep balls is closer to Russell Wilson than Justin Fields. I have issues with his mobility and, for that reason, I think he needs to be in a situation where there is talent already in place. New Orleans jumps out. He needs to clean up his footwork in the pocket though.
Ryan Wilson: Jones is a traditional drop-back passer who would've probably been a top 10 pick two decades ago, and is something of an afterthought because he's not Russell Wilson or Josh Allen or Kyler Murray. But he is incredibly accurate to all levels, knows where to go with the ball and gets it there quickly, takes very few sacks and makes very few mistakes. And you might say, 'Yeah, he doesn't take a lot of sacks because he's playing behind five future NFL offensive linemen. Joe Burrow, who is a much better athlete, for sue, played behind what amounted to an NFL o-line with LSU in 2019 and he took a ton of sacks. Jones knows his limitations and minimizes them; he knows he's not going to buy time in the pocket with his athleticism and instead relies on making good decisions before and after the snap.
Chris Trapasso: He reminds me a lot of... Tua Tagovailoa. Now, is that good, or bad based on what we saw from the Dolphins quarterback in his rookie season? The pocket presence is there -- in fact, I think Jones might even be further ahead of where Tagovailoa was in that regard -- he loves taking deep shots, and his downfield ball placement has been superb this season. But he's probably an average athlete for the quarterback spot on his very best day and doesn't have high-caliber arm talent. When everything is squeaky clean inside the pocket, Jones can let it fly 50-plus yards into the bucket or rifle it through a small window at the intermediate level. If he's moved off his spot whatsoever, the ball simply doesn't have the necessary juice as it's arriving on anything longer than a 10 or 15 yard pass.