Denver Broncos: George Paton getting close look at Justin Fields

Denver Broncos 2021 NFL Draft: Justin Fields. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Denver Broncos 2021 NFL Draft: Justin Fields. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Denver Broncos have a “plan” at the quarterback position, at least that is the message that has been conveyed by general manager George Paton.

Does that “plan” include Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields? It just might.

The Denver Broncos’ new GM is going to get an up-close look at Fields at the Ohio State pro day, which will also feature several other possibilities for the team in the top 100 picks or even the top four rounds, maybe deeper.

Fields, however, will be the focus as it will be Paton along with quarterbacks coach Mike Shula attending the Buckeyes’ pro day on Tuesday, March 30.

With the San Francisco 49ers making a blockbuster trade to get up to the third overall pick, it’s clear at this point that the top three selections in the 2021 NFL Draft will be quarterbacks. In my latest two-round mock draft projection, I actually had the Denver Broncos trading up for Fields.

Now that the 49ers are in that third overall slot, the Broncos can expect Trevor Lawrence to the Jaguars, Zach Wilson to the Jets, and a third of the top five quarterbacks to the 49ers.

How does that impact Paton’s pre-draft agenda?

It’s very possible that it significantly impacts it. If Paton wants any one of the top five quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft, he’s likely going to have to trade into the top five picks to ensure getting them.

Right now, the spot to be selecting would have to be fourth overall where the Atlanta Falcons (who crushed the Denver Broncos in their 2020 matchup) are selecting. The Falcons could be taking a quarterback, but after pushing a bunch of Matt Ryan’s dead money into the future, they might be more inclined to roll with Ryan and revisit the QB position at a later time (as in, 2023 or later).

The Bengals with the fifth overall pick are definitely not taking a quarterback, so if the Falcons are wanting maximum value for their pick, it’s probably been up for sale for weeks at this point, and the price has only gone up since the 49ers struck their deal with the Dolphins.

What we’re going to find out in the next couple of weeks (maybe even days) is how badly the Broncos want to draft a quarterback in 2021. If they want one, they are going to have to be aggressive and move up before the draft even kicks off.

If they are willing to miss out on the top five guys in this class, we won’t see any trades happening between now and the start of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The 49ers’ aggressiveness to move up and get in position will undoubtedly be a prompting for some other team (or teams) to do the same, but your coaching staff and front office have to be in agreement.

If the Denver Broncos want Fields (or Trey Lance or Mac Jones) as their next franchise quarterback, then they need to move into a position to do it ASAP.

What makes Fields a special type of prospect?

In addition to his spectacular all-around athletic ability, Fields has a very good arm and made some jaw-dropping throws in his couple of seasons at Ohio State. A former five-star prospect, Fields has given NFL talent evaluators a little bit of everything when it comes to the ability to push the ball to all levels of the field, make plays off-schedule and outside the pocket, and he showed in the College Football Playoff this past season just how tough he is playing through injury.

Fields is a dynamic talent who will need some adjustment to the NFL game just like every other QB prospect coming in, but he has a chance to be special. George Paton has to decide if he’s going to reach that “special” level sooner rather than later as he has a roster poised to compete in 2021.