With just hours to go before the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, multiple sportsbooks view the New England Patriots as the favorites to land Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
Michael Lombardi still can’t see that happening.
Lombardi, who worked under Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in New England and Cleveland, has pooh-poohed the rampant Fields-to-Pats rumors in recent weeks, saying the highly touted QB prospect isn’t a fit for the Patriots’ system.
He did so again Thursday on his “GM Shuffle” podcast, calling the speculation linking Fields to the Patriots “one of the great smokescreens … of all time.”
“This is one of the great narratives that have gone on,” Lombardi said. “I’m not sure how. It’s just the steamroller effect of the draft, right? ‘The Patriots are trying to get to (pick No.) 8. The Patriots want Justin Fields.’ I would say this: by this time (Friday), I don’t think Justin Fields will be a Patriot.
“Now, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I don’t know a goddamn thing. But these things are just out of control. It’s one of the great smokescreens I’ve seen of all time, and you’ve got everybody buying it. You’ve got everybody from the Worldwide Leader — everybody. It just piles on, one after the other after the other, and there’s no fact to it. Seriously, who’s talked to Belichick? Who’s talked to Belichick to find this is fact?
“So you put it out there — Fields. OK, we’ll see. I’ll place a bet that maybe it won’t happen and see who wins.”
Fields completed 70.2 percent of his passes in 2020, threw for 63 touchdowns with nine interceptions in his two seasons as Ohio State’s starter, ran a blazing 4.46-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and until recently was considered the second-best quarterback prospect in this year’s draft behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.
BYU’s Zach Wilson, Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance seem to have leapfrogged him in that pecking order, however, and Lombardi believes the mechanics of Fields’ throwing motion will dissuade the Patriots from drafting him.
“Because I watch Fields play and I watch the Patriots’ offense, and I don’t think those two things go hand in hand,” Lombardi said when asked why he doesn’t view Fields as a fit for New England. “I think if you watch Fields’ mechanics — and nobody wants to hear this, because people only look at the completed passes; they don’t look at the quarterback’s mechanics — he’s a long strider in the pocket. He’s got a really long delivery. The ball’s going to be very difficult to control for him. It’s typically not something that (the Patriots) like. They like a more mechanically sound player.”
Though there’s a chance Fields, Jones or Lance could fall to the Patriots at No. 15, Belichick’s club likely would need to trade up if it hopes to land one of the five premier signal-callers. New England also could choose to target a second-tier QB like Stanford’s Davis Mills, Florida’s Kyle Trask or Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond.
The Patriots’ QB depth chart currently consists of Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala. Team owner Robert Kraft recently stressed the need for a long-term solution at the position.
“I’m not suggesting they’re not going to take a quarterback,” Lombardi said. “I’m not suggesting that. What I am suggesting (is) it’s got to be the right fit.”
Round 1 of the draft begins at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday.
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