Justin Fields

West Notes: M. Jones, Seahawks, Clinton-Dix

It has been looking increasingly likely that the 49ers will draft Alabama passer Mac Jones with the No. 3 overall pick of this year’s draft, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter said just yesterday that Jones would be the Niners’ pick. But Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network isn’t as convinced. On a recent PFN Draft Insiders podcast (link), Pauline said he is hearing that whether San Francisco goes with Jones or one of Justin Fields or Trey Lance is a 50-50 proposition.

Of course, this time of year is notorious for false leaks and misinformation, but the Niners are at least doing their due diligence on Fields. The Ohio State QB will hold a second pro day, and 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch are expected to attend.

Now for a few more West-related items:

  • The 49ers have hosted DL Ronald Blair on a visit, as ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. Blair, whom the Niners selected in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, was a useful piece of the team’s pass rush rotation during his first few years in the league, but he suffered a torn ACL in November 2019, and it was later revealed that the ensuing surgery was not successful. Though he re-upped with San Francisco on a one-year deal last March, he did not play in a single game in 2020.
  • Cornerback Quinton Dunbar recently signed with the Lions, but the Seahawks wanted to retain him, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Seattle has lost both Dunbar and Shaquill Griffin in free agency, and though the club did bring Ahkello Witherspoon aboard, CB is still an area of need.
  • The Seahawks continue to seek offensive line depth. According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, Seattle visited with guard Cody Wichmann today (Twitter link). Wichmann, a sixth-round pick of the Rams in 2015, has managed to land a couple of reserve/futures contracts and a spot on the Cowboys’ practice squad in 2018, but he hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2016. He has 18 career starts to his credit.
  • After the first few weeks of the new league year, the Raiders still have a glaring need at safety, but they don’t seem too worried about it. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, the only FA safety Vegas was in on early was Rayshawn Jenkins, who inked a four-year, $35MM deal with the Jaguars. Players like Kenny Vaccaro, Duron Harmon, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix remain available, and the Raiders actually had Clinton-Dix in for a visit in March. Tafur suggests that the 28-year-old may have an offer in hand from Vegas and could be waiting for the market to pick back up before agreeing to a deal.

Justin Fields To Throw At Second Pro Day; 49ers Expected To Attend

After considering the prospect of throwing for teams again, Justin Fields has decided to do so. The high-end draft target will throw for teams again April 14 on the Ohio State campus, Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets.

49ers staffers are expected to attend the session, according to Barrows. This comes after Fields’ previous pro day, March 30, overlapped with a Mac Jones throwing session at Alabama. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch opted to watch Jones throw, while 49ers assistant GM Adam Peters observed Fields’ workout. This time, it should be expected the top two 49ers power brokers will watch Fields in Columbus.

The 49ers shook up the draft by acquiring the Dolphins’ No. 3 overall pick. They made no secret of the fact the move was for a quarterback. Shanahan said late last month he was already comfortable that three QBs in this year’s draft could be the 49ers’ long-term answer. While it is uncertain if Fields is one of them, the talented passer agreeing to another pro day would point to him believing that is not the case.

Three-plus weeks ahead of the draft, the 49ers have been linked most closely to Jones. Fields will attempt to boost his stock with the 49ers and with other QB-needy teams next week. The two-year Buckeyes starter was once believed to be the 1A option behind only Trevor Lawrence, but Zach Wilson has likely surpassed him — being the favorite to go to the Jets at No. 2. Fields could be waiting a bit come draft night, though considering his talent and several teams’ need for a long-term quarterback solution, the 22-year-old talent’s floor likely remains high.

It is uncertain if Trey Lance, who was also believed to be considering another showcase, will follow Fields and throw for teams a second time. No private workouts are allowed this year, marking the second straight offseason that is the case. Shanahan and Lynch admitted they stayed away from North Dakota State’s pro day in order to avoid tipping their hands. Lance’s workout took place before the 49ers acquired the No. 3 pick.

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Justin Fields, Trey Lance Considering Holding Second Pro Days?

In moving up to No. 3 overall, the 49ers shook up the draft late last month. They revealed the move was for a quarterback, and Kyle Shanahan added that he is already comfortable with three passers in this draft. The fifth-year San Francisco HC added that he could get there with the other two top QB prospects as well.

It is not known which members of this draft’s quarterback quintet fall into which category, but two prospects are considering adjusting their offseason itineraries as a result of the 49ers’ trade. Justin Fields and Trey Lance are considering staging second pro days in order to throw in front of top 49ers brass, Albert Breer of SI.com notes.

Neither Shanahan nor 49ers GM John Lynch attended North Dakota State’s pro day March 12, with the team’s top two power brokers not wanting to tip their hands ahead of the trade. Ohio State’s pro day occurred on Tuesday, overlapping with Alabama’s second pro day. Shanahan and Lynch opted to trek to Tuscaloosa for Mac Jones‘ workout, though it was expected Shanahan would meet with Fields at some point as well. Shanahan confirmed Jones is under consideration for the No. 3 pick, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (video link).

With the COVID-19 pandemic nixing private workouts for a second straight year, any additional throwing sessions would need to be on campus and would be open for all teams to attend. It would certainly be interesting if Fields and Lance conducting additional pro days with the purpose of auditioning for one franchise, but the Jaguars and Jets have been heavily connected to Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. The 49ers’ direction is less certain, though Jones has recently been linked by multiple experts to go third overall. ESPN.com’s Todd McShay now mocks Jones to the 49ers. Prior to the trade, Mel Kiper Jr. had Jones falling to No. 15.

Should the 49ers draft Jones, Fields and Lance could fall out of the top five. But neither should be expected to drop too far, with several teams — both in and out of the top 10 — in need of a hopeful franchise quarterback.

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Shanahan: 49ers Comfortable With 3 Quarterbacks In Draft

The 49ers spent the past three weeks trying to trade up in the draft, finally securing a deal with the Dolphins to climb to No. 3 overall. Kyle Shanahan addressed the trade, confirming it was indeed to draft a quarterback.

We looked at how our four years have gone and we looked at how we want the next four years to go and we looked at where we’re at in the draft and the options that are there,’ Shanahan said, via NFL.com. “And that’s why sitting there looking at this stuff since January and going all the way through the process, we felt pretty strongly we were gonna be left at the altar sitting there at 12.”

This move comes despite the Jets’ plans not being fully known. While Urban Meyer essentially confirmed the Jaguars will draft Trevor Lawrence first overall, the Jets will either trade the pick or trade Sam Darnold. Increased noise on option B, with the Jets then taking BYU’s Zach Wilson, has emerged in recent days.

[RELATED: Who will 49ers draft at No. 3 overall?]

The 49ers appear to be fine with selecting the third quarterback in this draft. Shanahan said the team is comfortable with three of the quarterback prospects being the long-term answer, adding that the Nos. 4 and 5 options would also have potential to elevate the team (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner). Shanahan expects the draft’s top five QBs to be drafted earlier than most currently anticipate. No draft has begun with four straight passers being chosen, but that possibility is live this year. Picking in the top five for the first time since they drafted Matt Ryan, the Falcons have a chance to select the 35-year-old’s heir apparent at No. 4.

With Lawrence and Wilson expected to be gone by the time the 49ers pick, they are likely going to draft either Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones. Interestingly, Jones and Fields’ pro days are both Tuesday. Shanahan and John Lynch will attend Jones’, with the 49ers sending other staffers to Fields’, Peter King of NBC Sports notes. Assistant GM Adam Peters will be in Columbus for Fields’ pro day, per Wagoner, who adds that Shanahan plans to meet with the ex-Buckeyes standout at some point. Shanahan and Lynch did not attend Wilson’s or Lance’s, with the 49ers not wanting to arouse suspicion of their plans (Twitter link via SI.com’s Albert Breer). Shanahan also plans to meet with Lance.

While Shanahan said anyone on the 49ers could be traded, the team thus far wants to keep Jimmy Garoppolo around this season. The 49ers have become the latest team to mention the Chiefs’ Alex Smith-to-Patrick Mahomes transition. Shanahan said it will be difficult for the 49ers to find a quarterback better equipped to lead the team to wins this season, per Wagoner (on Twitter).

We went to ownership and said, ‘Hey, things are looking good. We’d like to make this move, but we also don’t want to say goodbye to Jimmy,” Lynch said. “We’ve shown we can get to a Super Bowl with him. We can play at a high level and we don’t think those two things have to be mutually exclusive.”

Two years remain on Garoppolo’s contract. He is set to count $26.4MM against San Francisco’s cap this season. The 49ers could trade their incumbent starter and incur less than $3MM in dead money. The Patriots, who sent Garoppolo to the 49ers in 2017, may be interested.

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Poll: Who Will 49ers Draft At No. 3?

Trevor Lawrence has been expected to lead off the draft for a while now, while the Jets’ connection to BYU’s Zach Wilson continues to gain steam. Although the Jets are not a lock to move on from Sam Darnold and take Wilson, they appear to be on the doorstep of such a consensus. The draft suspense may, then, begin with the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have each endorsed Jimmy Garoppolo as the planned 2021 starter, and the 49ers are sending out signals they do not expect to trade their incumbent passer. But the team parted with tremendous future draft capital to climb nine spots to No. 3 overall. The 49ers should be widely expected to draft a quarterback in the first round for the first time since they chose Alex Smith first overall in 2005. Which one will they select?

Only two drafts — 1971 and 1999 — have begun with three consecutive teams taking quarterbacks. With the Falcons connected to choosing a Matt Ryan heir apparent, this draft could be the first to start with four straight QBs. Should Lawrence and Wilson head to the Jaguars and Jets, the 49ers will have their pick of seemingly Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones. With a Garoppolo trade seemingly now in play, one of these three could have the keys to the San Francisco’s offense as soon as this coming season.

Fields has resided on this tier the longest, being the 1B option to Lawrence going into the 2020 season. Dwayne Haskins‘ Ohio State successor did not do too much to ding his stock, even though multiple choppy performances did occur this past season. Fields boasted a 41-3 TD-INT ratio in 2019 and dominated in the Buckeyes’ rout of Clemson in the College Football Playoff this past season. That said, Hall of Fame scout Gil Brandt does not expect the 49ers to go with Fields, whom some teams have well outside the top 10 on their respective boards.

Fields’ final college QB opponent, Jones has received glowing endorsements from soon-to-be first-round picks DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. The ex-Crimson Tide pass catchers preferred Jones to the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, and the former completed a stunning 77% of his passes, averaged 11.2 yards per attempt and finished a 13-game season with 41 touchdown passes. Scouts Inc., however, has the less mobile Jones well below Fields and Lance, slotting the one-year Alabama starter 28th overall.

Scouts Inc. rates Lance as this draft’s third-best QB prospect, placing him 12th (to Fields’ 13th position). The North Dakota State prodigy profiles as one of the strangest prospects to ever land on the top-10 radar. Division I-FCS players typically do not enter drafts early; Lance put his name in this year’s draft after one full season as the Bison’s starter. While that season featured eye-popping production (28 TD passes, no INTs, 1,100 rushing yards) and resulted in North Dakota State’s latest title, a team using a top-five pick on an FCS prospect with one season of experience and no Scouting Combine to further judge him would be a historic move.

Where will the 49ers go at No. 3? How will they proceed with Garoppolo and his $26.4MM cap number? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

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QB Notes: Goff, Rams, Lions, Fields, Hawks

Had John Wolford made it through the Rams‘ wild-card win over the Seahawks healthy, Sean McVay was prepared to start him over Jared Goff against the Packers (assuming the Rams would have won in Round 1 with their backup), Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com notes. Wolford suffered a first-quarter neck injury that brought Goff back into action. McVay decided shortly after the Rams’ Week 17 game that Wolford would start over Goff in Seattle, despite not yet gauging Goff’s progress after thumb surgery. Considering the disparity between Goff and Wolford’s contracts and the nature of their arrivals — the former a No. 1 overall pick and the latter a UDFA who played in the Alliance of American Football — the gap between them narrowing to this degree is striking.

McVay and Goff’s relationship deteriorated over the course of the 2020 season, and the Los Angeles HC openly pondered if the Rams could return to a Super Bowl with Goff at the controls, Thiry adds. While Matthew Stafford will provide the Rams with a considerable upgrade in arm strength, Thiry notes McVay’s issues with Goff did not stem from his arm talent. But Goff’s inconsistency resulted in him dropping from 10th in QBR in 2018 to 22nd in ’19 and 23rd last season. The former No. 1 overall pick will receive a fresh start in Detroit.

Here is the latest from the quarterback world:

  • A month away from the draft, teams are not in agreement on Justin Fields‘ stock, according to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt. The Ohio State passer may well be a top-five pick, and Brandt has him ranked seventh in this class. But some teams have placed the two-year Buckeyes starter well below that level, the Hall of Fame scout adds (Twitter links). In Brandt’s view, the 49ers likely did not trade up to No. 3 overall to select Fields. Trey Lance and Mac Jones loom as the other high-end quarterback prospects expected to be available for the 49ers.
  • The 2021 third-round draft choice the Rams are sending the Lions in the Goff-Stafford trade landed at No. 101 overall, according to the NFL transaction wire. The Rams will retain their original third-round pick (88th overall) and also still hold the No. 103 pick, obtained from the league after the Lions hired former Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes as GM.
  • A man has accused Seahawks quarterback Alex McGough of punching him in the face on St. Patrick’s Day, TMZ reports. McGough, 25, allegedly punched Anthony Albino at a bar last week in a dispute related to McGough’s girlfriend. Albino intends to press charges, according to TMZ. The Seahawks drafted McGough in the 2018 seventh round, but he has bounced around the league. Seattle reacquired McGough in December of last year.

Ohio State’s Justin Fields Declares For NFL Draft

No surprise here. On Monday morning, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.

[RELATED: Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II, Jaylen Waddle, Mac Jones To Enter Draft]

Growing up, my dream was to one day play the game that I love at the highest level,” Fields said. “Now thanks to God’s grace and mercy, along with the help of you all, I am in a position to turn that dream into reality.”

Fields began his college career at Georgia before transferring to Ohio State in 2019. In just two short years, he cemented himself as one of the most accomplished Buckeyes inn program history. The dual-threat QB threw for 5,373 yards, 63 touchdowns, and nine interceptions across 22 starts. Now, the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is on track to be an early pick in the spring.

The Jaguars are expected to select Clemson star Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall, though Urban Meyer has indicated that Fields will also be considered. Most analysts have Fields as one of this year’s top three QBs — at minimum — along with BYU’s Zack Wilson.

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Extra Points: 2021 Cap, Glennon, Fields

When the NFL and NFLPA reached an agreement earlier this year to play the 2021 season under unprecedented circumstances, it was settled that the 2021 salary cap would be no lower than $175MM. That still would’ve been a steep drop from the $198.2MM figure for 2020. Fortunately for the players, it looks like the NFLPA could avoid that doomsday scenario and then some, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. A source told Florio that the prospect of stadiums full of fans looking better for 2021 has the league office feeling a little more generous.

Florio writes that the “potential of a return to something normal or close to it” for 2021 could end up having the league keep the cap “in the range” of $195MM, which would mean practically no drop at all. Of course, with the ever-changing nature of COVID-19 and the current environment, there’s still a lot left to be determined. As Florio notes, the league won’t make its final decision until late February or early March, so there’s still plenty of time for things to change. This will be an interesting storyline to monitor as the offseason approaches.

Here’s more from around the league as Week 13 winds down:

  • Mike Glennon and the Jaguars came up just short of a huge upset when they lost in overtime to the Vikings, but he apparently did enough to keep the job for another week. Glennon will start for Jacksonville in Week 14, head coach Doug Marrone said after the game. Glennon moved the ball decently against Minnesota, but turned the ball over three times. That still wasn’t enough for Marrone to turn back to Gardner Minshew. “I think he still gives us the best chance to win as of right now so I’m going to stick with him right now for this week,” Marrone said, per John Oehser of the team’s official site. As you can see, Marrone certainly didn’t commit to him for the rest of the season and it wouldn’t be surprising if Minshew gets the call at any time. The 1-11 Jags have lost 11 in a row, although four of their last five losses have been by four points or fewer. Glennon, Minshew, and sixth-round rookie Jake Luton have all started multiple games in this disastrous campaign.
  • Speaking of the Jags, they are one of several teams likely to be looking for a quarterback in the first-round of this coming April’s draft. It’s looking like an excellent class of passers, with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields clearly at the top. While they’re considered by many to be the top two picks in the draft, Lawrence will be “graded significantly higher” by scouts than Fields, Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com writes. That probably won’t surprise you, but what Pauline said next might. The long-time draft insider writes that Fields will grade higher on teams’ boards than 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow. The only reason Lawrence will be clearly ahead of Fields is since Lawrence is viewed as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. If Fields is going to be considered a better pro prospect than the highly touted Burrow, getting the second overall pick instead of first might not be that bad for Jacksonville or whoever else.

Latest On Panthers, Cam Newton

Set to be without longtime cornerstones Luke Kuechly and Greg Olsen next season, the Panthers will soon need to make a decision on their quarterback. Some parts of that equation are forming.

Cam Newton is recovering from foot surgery and has yet to resume football activities. But the former MVP went through a meeting with Matt Rhule, David Tepper and GM Marty Hurney recently and “absolutely” expects to be a Panther next season, he said during an interview on CBS Sports’ Brandon Tierney and Tiki Barber (video link).

While Newton admitted he is disappointed by Ron Rivera being out of the picture but is moving forward with the new regime. One season, at an affordable $18.6MM salary, remains on Newton’s deal. The Panthers could save $19.1MM and potentially accelerate a rebuild by moving on from the 30-year-old passer, but they have not ruled out the prospect of allowing him to play out his contract. They were, however, non-committal about the injured quarterback last month.

The Panthers want to see Newton resume football work in March before making a decision, Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com report. Hurney and his new power structure partners would prefer to give Newton a shot and assess the situation at that point. Picking at No. 7, the Panthers are an unrealistic Joe Burrow destination. The Panthers are higher on potential 2021 early-first-round quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields than the non-Burrow 2020 quarterback contingent, per Fowler and Graziano. The Clemson and Ohio State passers, respectively, will generate immense buzz over the next year. It will almost certainly take premium draft position to land either.

Given the early developments in Carolina’s offseason, it would not be especially surprising to see the team trade Newton. However, the former Pro Bowler has a manageable salary thanks to his extension being signed back in 2015. Regardless, Newton represents a key domino in an offseason that will feature several significant quarterback decisions.

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