49ers NFL Draft shakeup: What if Jets take Justin Fields?

Justin Fields #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Justin Fields #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Signs point to the Jets taking Zach Wilson in the NFL Draft, leaving the 49ers with a major choice at No. 3 overall. Unless Gang Green takes Justin Fields.

It’s just a suggestive wrinkle. But the San Francisco 49ers have to be wondering exactly what the New York Jets will do with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

No one is questioning what the Jacksonville Jaguars will do at No. 1 overall. Doing anything other than selecting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence would be a franchise-devastating travesty.

And yet the general feeling is Gang Green is all but locked in on BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, leaving the Niners to decide between other quarterbacks like Ohio State’s Justin Fields, NDSU’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones.

Except, what if the Jets toss a curveball?

While totally different in context, the speculation around New York’s pick is a lot like what San Francisco is currently experiencing with Jones.

Just that: speculative.

The context is different because Wilson is widely viewed as the second-best prospect behind Lawrence, while Fields is ranked third, yet Jones’ apparent fit in San Francisco’s offense has led to him being the seemingly favorited pick of head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Yet the 49ers have been tight-lipped about their intentions. The similarity? So have the Jets.

Why Jets could take Justin Fields over Zach Wilson

Wilson to New York isn’t unlike the Jones-to-49ers buzz emanating in recent weeks, although the drop between Wilson and Jones is notable.

But as Sports Illustrated’s Jordy Lee-Platt pointed out, there’s a good reason why the Jets may be inclined to prefer Fields over Wilson anyway:

"After two seasons as a starter in Columbus, Fields has now competed in three College Football Playoff games and two conference title games. Even after playing in the Big Ten, widely considered one of the strongest conferences in the country, Fields leaves college with a 20-2 record.Wilson simply does not have this kind of experience, racking up numbers against largely lesser opponents with BYU. In his last two seasons, he’s faced six ranked opponents combined. Fields has faced 12."

OK, scout the player. Not necessarily the school. But for those thinking Fields would be an amazing fit in the Niners offense, remember, the Jets will run one awfully similar with San Francisco’s former passing-game coordinator, Mike LaFleur, New York’s new offensive coordinator under head coach Robert Saleh.

Plus, when thinking about what a player like Fields could do with a currently sub-par supporting cast he might experience on day one with the Jets, it’s more than feasible to assume he’d manage to stay a playmaker as he was down the stretch for Ohio State.

The moral of the story? Don’t count the Jets out of the race for Fields just yet.

So, what do the 49ers do if the Jets draft Justin Fields?

The easy, quick answer, of course, would be San Francisco’s representatives rushing forward with their draft card to put in Wilson’s name.

Granted, if Shanahan is all-in on Jones no matter what, whatever the Jets wind up doing (outside of reaching for Jones, of course), doesn’t count for anything.

Still, that’s a tough argument to sell. The clear differences between Wilson, Fields and Jones are notably apparent with the first two names being bona fide top-five prospects, while Jones generally was seen as a late first-round pick until the inevitable quarterback draft-stock value rose in recent weeks.

Yet even if Shanahan was all but sold on Jones, one has to reason his big board would rank Wilson higher.

So, with the possible case of New York wanting Fields, one has to consider Shanahan and the 49ers wouldn’t hesitate to quickly change their minds from Jones to Wilson instead.

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