Carolina Panthers draft: Did Justin Fields tip the scales at pro day?
By Dean Jones
Will the Carolina Panthers draft Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields if he is there at No. 8 following an eye-catching pro-day performance?
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields did nothing to hurt his stock with a polished display at his pro day on Tuesday. There was a big presence from the Carolina Panthers draft team in attendance, who will have been impressed by what they saw from a prospect that comes with a significant amount of potential.
Now it’s hard for a signal-caller entering the NFL to look bad showcasing their talents in a structured environment. The only one would probably be Teddy Bridgewater coming out of Louisville, who decided to throw without gloves having played in them his entire college career.
As fate would have it, Bridgewater is now on the Panthers and his time as a starter is hanging by a thread. The free-agent signing came into the organization with limitations and little in the way of starting experience since 2015, which all played a leading role in his inconsistent production and failure to lead his team to victory with the game on the line.
Fields is projected to be a top-six pick who might not make it to Carolina. But if they saw enough at his pro day to convince them he is the man to lead them moving forward, a trade up to acquire him is not out of the realm of possibility.
Will the Carolina Panthers draft Justin Fields?
There is an obvious problem with this.
The San Francisco 49ers now hold all the cards after trading with the Miami Dolphins and into No. 3. But there is growing speculation linking them with Alabama star Mac Jones that would completely shift the landscape of the draft.
The Panthers would be wise to wait and see. It would be a huge shock if the Atlanta Falcons contemplated a deal with an NFC South rival so they could land a franchise quarterback and whether the Cincinnati Bengals want to give up a stud left tackle in Penei Sewell or an LSU reunion between Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase is up for debate.
They might be forced to wait at No. 8 and hope for the best, which could leave things very dicey if they want to take a quarterback with plenty of other teams behind them candidates for moving up. Fields has a lot going for him despite the obvious struggles Buckeye players at the position have encountered at the next level in recent years, so he might be gone by the time Carolina is on the clock.
There is almost no chance of the Panthers moving Bridgewater on thanks to their decision to give him a three-year, $63 million deal with a $15 million signing bonus and $33 million guaranteed. This might work in the favor of someone like Fields, who can develop at his own pace during the initial stages of his transition before assuming command of the starting role.
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The Carolina Panthers might be in a position to take one of the top tackle prospects entering the 2021 NFL Draft this year, with two high on the shortlist.
Carolina’s pursuit of Deshaun Watson – if it happens at all – will have to wait. But owner David Tepper wants to start seeing some return on his investment sooner rather than later and this might force the Panthers’ hand to gamble on Fields in the hope he can bring his outstanding college form to the pro ranks.