2021 NFL Draft Rumors: Latest Buzz on Trey Lance, Justin Fields and More

Martin FennFeatured Columnist IApril 19, 2021

2021 NFL Draft Rumors: Latest Buzz on Trey Lance, Justin Fields and More

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    The 2021 NFL draft is just a little more than a week away, with teams around the league attempting to finalize their draft boards and scout players one final time before making selections.

    This is especially important for the San Francisco 49ers, the team owning the No. 3 overall pick with the opportunity to possibly select its next franchise quarterback. 

    It seems increasingly likely Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson will be the first two players off the board. That would give the Niners their choice of quarterback prospects with the third overall pick. How might general manager John Lynch and Co. be approaching their top choice?

    Here is the latest on two of the top signal-callers in this year's class, Trey Lance and Justin Fields, as well as the potential for the Cincinnati Bengals to use the No. 5 pick on a pass-catcher instead of an offensive lineman.

Niners to Be 'Extremely Involved' in Lance's Workout

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    There has been a lot of buzz to suggest the Niners will use the third overall pick on Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.

    Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN reported last week the Niners traded up because they "covet" Jones, likely because the team believes he could be an ideal fit in head coach Kyle Shanahan's offensive system.

    However, San Francisco appears to be fairly keen on North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, as well.

    Dan Graziano of ESPN reported the Niners are expected to be "extremely involved" in Lance's workout on Monday. Graziano added Lance spent time working with quarterback coach John Beck at Shanahan's request. The Niners have also given Beck a set of drills to administer during the workout, per Graziano. 

    Lance opted out of a spring season to focus on the draft. He dazzled as a sophomore, completing 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns against zero interceptions. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 scores.

    It is entirely possible Shanahan and Co. still feel Jones is the best option even after Monday's workout. But Lance could also blow San Francisco away. 

    Graziano also reported the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Football Team are each expected to attend Monday's workout. 

Justin Fields Not Going No. 3

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    Is it possible Lance's workout could be the final determinant regarding which quarterback goes No. 3?

    Ohio State star Justin Fields impressed at his pro day and would also appear to be in the mix as the third overall pick. Only, the Niners are reportedly more focused on Jones and Lance.

    Michael Lombardi of The Athletic (h/t VSiN) would not say whether the Niners were leaning toward Jones or Lance at No. 3. But he did tell listeners Fields would not be the pick.

    Maybe this isn't much of a surprise. Mel Kiper Jr. previously gave Fields a five percent chance of going to San Francisco, as compared to 80 percent for Jones and 15 percent for Lance.

    Still, one would think Fields has at least as much upside as Lance.

    The former Buckeyes star is a dual-threat quarterback who isn't afraid to run downhill and churn out tough yards on the ground. Fields also had one of the better deep balls in college football, something he showed off during his pro day.

    Fields has experience playing in one of the toughest conferences in the country. Moreover, he had one of the finest individual performances of the season when he threw for 385 yards and six touchdowns in a win over Clemson in the semifinal of the College Football Playoff.

    Even if Fields does not go No. 3, he could go No. 4 if the Atlanta Falcons opt to draft Matt Ryan's successor. In fact, teams further down the board might grow even more aggressive in trading up if Fields begins to fall a bit. 

Bengals Could Draft Kyle Pitts at No. 5

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    There is a distinct possibility each of the first four picks in the upcoming draft will be quarterbacks. In that case, the Cincinnati Bengals will have their pick of the litter at No. 5. 

    The Bengals have long been tabbed as a team likely to take a top offensive lineman, such as Oregon's Penei Sewell, as they continue to build on the foundation in quarterback Joe Burrow.

    However, Cincy could take one of the top pass-catching stars available in the class, notably Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.

    League personnel told Ben Standig of The Athletic the Bengals will draft Pitts with the fifth overall pick if the Falcons pass on him at No. 4. One noted the Bengals have more of a need at offensive guard, which could make Pitts slightly more appealing over Sewell (a tackle). 

    Pitts is a tight end in position only. He ran a 4.44 40-yard dash and has exceptional athleticism for someone with his size. 

    The Gators star had 770 yards on 17.9 yards per reception and 12 touchdown catches in 2020. He has tremendous upside as a guy who can line up anywhere on the field and exploit matchups with linebackers or nickel corners.

    Burrow likely wouldn't turn down having a weapon like Pitts joining the receiving corps. Perhaps he heads to Cincy if the Falcons opt for a quarterback.

          

    All stats obtained via Sports Reference, unless otherwise noted.