There’s a whole lot to get to, with Tuesday becoming a very big day on the pro day circuit, and Justin Fields and Mac Jones taking center stage. So let’s dive right in …
Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports (Jones); Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports (Fournette); Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports (Fields)
• Fun twist to all this—the architect of Justin Fields’s workout tomorrow is ex-NFL quarterback John Beck, the guy who also drew up Zach Wilson’s workout. Fields will start with four quick throws from under center and then the gun to show how fast he can get rid of the ball, and that’ll give way to a 65-throw script. There’ll be under-center throws that mirror what is typically done at the combine, staple throws from Ohio State’s offense, throws with NFL play-action concepts, and some movement throws. Then, there’ll be a few where space is shut down around him, and he has to plant his feet and throw out of a “crowded” area. The idea here is to showcase how capable he is of throwing out of any situation, which of course will highlight his high-end natural gifts. (If he runs a 40 in the low 4.4s, as the Ohio State staff thinks he will, that’d do that too.)
And as for who will be there, those in the top 10 will be well-represented. Jets GM Joe Douglas, assistant GM Rex Hogan and OC Mike LaFleur; 49ers assistant GM Adam Peters, college scouting director Ethan Waugh and QBs coach Rich Scangarello; Falcons GM Terry Fontenot, coach Arthur Smith and OC Dave Ragone; Eagles QBs coach Brian Johnson, Panthers GM Scott Fitterer, coach Matt Rhule, and director of player personnel Pat Stewart; and Broncos GM George Paton are all expected to be in attendance. The Patriots, who’ve been linked to Fields, are sending exec Eliot Wolf and their area scout.
• As for Mac Jones’s second pro day, it was scripted, again, by his throwing coach David Morris. He threw about 53 balls last week. The plan calls for 58 throws this week, and is similar stylistically but with more aggressive throws downfield. The plan that Morris and Jones put together is built to show that Jones is a talented, creative and resourceful thrower. With more guys he’s used to throwing with working out this week, Jones will be throwing off-platform and off-balance, and within “congested” pockets. He said he wanted to throw at both pro days to show he has nothing to hide, and also establish to scouts what’s always been a strength of his—consistency. Another thing that I thought was interesting when it comes to the decision to throw twice was that he viewed it as his responsibility as the quarterback there to throw for all the prospects, this week and last, who wanted to work out, which I’m sure NFL teams will like.
• One player who will take the field with Jones this week who wasn’t out there last week is tailback Najee Harris. I’m told he’ll be in there for Jones’s throwing session, catching the ball from his quarterback, and will also take part in position drills. Harris has battled a sprained ankle through parts of this offseason, and plans to rest it ahead of the draft after the workout so he’ll be 100% when he reports to the team that drafts him.
• One weird twist to this big Tuesday of pro days: With so much focus on Alabama, it’ll be interesting to see who shows up at Washington. The Huskies don’t have a Fields or a Jones, but they do have three players—DT Levi Onwuzurike, edge rusher Joe Tryon and CB Elijah Molden—who are likely to be drafted inside the top 50. Two of those three, Onwukurike and Tyron, opted out of the 2020 season, which makes seeing them, at least on paper, even more important for NFL teams.
• In the MMQB column we took a good look at the three-way trade that shook the NFL last week, and I think it’s at least worth noting all three of those teams have been connected to the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. And it’s also worth noting that the Dolphins staying inside the top quarter of the first round, when all was said and done, meant maintaining the capital to make a run at Watson, should he become available—with a pick higher than any Carolina or Denver can offer. A tenet of how GM Chris Grier has built the last two years has been his ability to keep the franchise flexible, and having the flexibility to take a big swing could be important. Read our Jenny Vrentas's report from Monday for the latest on Watson's sexual misconduct allegations.
• As for the Eagles, with the dust settled, Philly is now sitting on a warchest of 20 picks over the next two years, and will have added financial flexibility in 2022 after eating a bunch of dead money this year. It’s no secret that Howie Roseman needs a more youthful roster as the team transitions with a new coaching staff. He should have all the tools he needs to do it, and be a player on draft day, in free agency next year, and on the trade market.
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• The expectation now is that Super Bowl LVI in Inglewood will be held on Feb. 13. The city’s planners held three Sundays in February (the original date of Feb. 6, and Feb. 20 too), as the NFL dictates Super Bowl–bid cities do. And there was some discussion that the league might move the game, and season, back a week to put the big game on President’s Day weekend. But it doesn’t look like that’s happening now, with the season to start, as it usually does, the week after Labor Day. Organizers in L.A. are still awaiting final word so they can book events around the game, like NFL Honors.
• You may have noticed that USC’s Kedon Slovis and North Carolina’s Sam Howell threw at their schools’ respective pro days. I couldn’t remember having seen that happen in the past, and could’ve sworn it was against the rules. Turns out, it was, and now it’s not. Over the last couple years, a new rule was introduced by the NFL, in conjunction with the AFCA, that allowed each school to designate five underclassmen still in the program who pro teams can come evaluate during the year. Those players can also participate in pro day. So NFL teams got an early look at Slovis and Howell, who could be early picks in 2022, and the quarterbacks got a taste of what they’ll be going through next year (should they declare). Seems to me to be a win-win.
• This quote from Hue Jackson on ESPN 850 in Cleveland got my attention: "There is no doubt I was lied to by ownership and the executive team. … They were going to be football plus analytics, but they intentionally made it football versus analytics. They were going to take two years and they were going to find a way to use us as an experiment to make sure that they got the data that they needed for it to get better—at the expense of whoever—and that's not right. That's not the way it should be.” And to me, it really shows the folly in trying to middle something like this, where mismatch people serve different masters. The Browns were asking for what they got. The good news is it looks like ownership has learned, with GM Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski having come in with a preexisting relationship, and a cohesive set of beliefs.
• Leonard Fournette’s contract is a good example of where the tailback was all offseason. He got a $2.25 million roster bonus, a guaranteed $1 million base, and $750,000 in incentives. And this was after he helped to key a Super Bowl title, and restored a reputation that was in tatters after Jacksonville dumped him. The lesson? If you’ve got a 6-foot, 200-pound freak athlete for a son, make him a receiver or a corner. Or even a safety. But not a running back.|0|https://www.si.com/nfl/2021/03/29/monday-afternoon-quarterback-justin-fields-mac-jones-pro-day|1|https://www.si.com/.image/t_share/MTc5OTUyMzEzMDUyNTA1NDMy/justin-fields-mac-jones-leonard-fournette-maqb.jpg|2|www.si.com|E|