Fiesta Bowl Football

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is near the top of the first big board from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. for the 2021 NFL Draft. Kiper said the former Harrison High School standout has a chance to be the first quarterback selected.

With the 2020 NFL draft in the rear-view mirror, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has turned his attention to 2021, releasing his “way too early big board.”

Sitting near the top of Kiper’s top 25 players is Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

The former Harrison High School standout and one-time Georgia Bulldog had a breakout season in 2019, leading the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff. He finished the season with 3,273 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Fields became the first player in Division I history to have a season with more than 40 touchdowns and three or fewer interceptions. He also ran for 484 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Kiper’s first look has Fields as the potential No. 3 pick in next year’s draft, behind only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell.

“You see the athleticism, which, in today’s NFL, give you that dual versatility,” Kiper said on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” “Justin Fields will be right there challenging to be the No. 1 pick overall.”

Lawrence and Fields have been connected since they developed into the Nos. 1 and 2 prospects in the country in the high school class of 2018. Lawrence also got the best of Fields last winter when Clemson held off Ohio State in the CFP semifinals.

Both quarterbacks are favorites to win this year’s Heisman Trophy. Fields finished third in the Heisman voting last season, and Kiper said he is looking forward to seeing his continued growth.

“He was incredibly efficient last season, and he made it look easy,” Kiper said. “Fields has room to improve, though, in how he sees the field and progresses through his reads. Two of his three picks came in the College Football Playoff game against Clemson, including one in which he stared down his receiver. There’s a lot to like here about Fields as prospect, and I’m looking forward to seeing another full season from him.”

If Kiper is correct and Fields is selected No. 3, he would become the highest draft pick in Cobb County history. It would be two spots better than the No. 5 overall selection of former Hillgrove standout Bradley Chubb by the Denver Broncos in the 2018 draft.

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