John Lynch says the 49ers are excited about Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback in 2021. The question is, are they excited enough to not trade up for someone like Justin Fields if the opportunity presents itself?
ESPN NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper believes that’s exactly what they will do on April 29, packaging the No. 12 overall pick with their second rounder and at least another pick to trade into Detroit’s spot at No. 7.
“The overall skillset of Justin Fields surpasses Jimmy Garoppolo,” Kiper Jr. said in a conference call with NFL reporters on Monday. “So if you want to get better than Jimmy G, Justin Fields, in time, with more experience, transitioning to the NFL, with his speed, his mobility, his arm strength, put it all together and you get what you want in a quarterback, once he settles into a pro offense.
“I think when you look at him, the mobility, he’s going to run. Athletically and from a speed standpoint, he’s going to test incredibly well. He’s probably going to run in the 4.4s [in the 40-yard dash]. His arm strength, his competitiveness, his passion for the game.
“He loves to study the game. He will be the first on in and the last one out of your building.”
Kyle Shanahan hasn’t had a mobile quarterback since coaching Robert Griffin III during his rookie year in Washington. Ultimately it was his mobility that contributed to career altering injuries. The league is moving toward mobile quarterbacks becoming the norm, however, and Kiper believes that Shanahan’s offense could really be improved by a signal caller that is more dynamic than Garoppolo.
It’s one of the reasons that Kiper doesn’t think the 49ers will have a chance to draft Fields if they stand pat at No. 12.
“I’m not buying that,” Kiper said. “Everyone has a right to their opinion, but from people I speak to, he’s going to go top 10. I don’t understand some of the criticism. He had two rough games and in the championship game, he was banged up coming off the Clemson game where he got hurt.”
Shanahan last worked with Fields at a Quarterback Collective in Los Angeles in 2017, and will likely attend his Ohio State pro day in the coming weeks. Fields, who stands at 6-foot-3, threw for over 2,000 yards and completed over 70 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions in eight games last season. Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019.