NFL Draft 2021: Why Bears Could Land Fields, Lance Or Jones

New QB prospect grades, tiers from Todd McShay originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

There aren’t many givens in football, but one thing that seems certain is that Ryan Pace and the Bears will take another swing at a quarterback in the upcoming NFL Draft. The only questions are when will they take their shot, and who will they land?

According to new draft grades and tiers released by Todd McShay, one of the five top quarterback prospects identified by experts (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Field, Trey Lance and Mac Jones) could fall to the latter half of the first round, giving the Bears a shot to draft them. In fact, McShay only grades Lawrence and Wilson as prospects worthy of a top-15 pick.

“It's Lawrence all alone at the top,” McShay said. “Then a step down to this tier is Wilson, and then a drop to the next three Day 1-level QBs. Wilson excels when the play breaks down, extending with his legs, instinctively creating on second-reaction throws and adjusting his arm angle to hit windows. And his arm strength and accuracy are high-end skills. For context, I had two quarterbacks last year who met or exceeded Wilson's grade (93): Joe Burrow (94) and Tua Tagovailoa (93).”

That’s not to say McShay doesn’t believe Lance, Fields or Jones will be good NFL starters. He just doesn’t think they belong in that elite category. In his rankings, McShay gave Lance a 91 grade, and both Fields and Jones a 90. Per his tier listings that projects as a good NFL starter “considered strong values in the bottom half of Round 1 in any given draft class.”

“Lance leads the trio, and I love his big-time arm, the way he reads the field and his ability to run for big chunks of yardage,” McShay said. “Those are key areas in today's NFL offenses. Fields is accurate and can hit the deep ball really well, and I like the way the ball jumps out of his hand with zip. Jones doesn't have the same mobility traits as the four previously mentioned QBs, but he shows high-end touch, anticipation and ball placement. En route to a national title with Alabama, he led the nation in many statistical categories, including Total QBR and completion percentage.

“In all, this is an extremely good quarterback class.”

While it might sound crazy given all the hype surrounding these five quarterbacks, it’s not unreasonable to think at least one of them drops on draft night. It happens every year. In 2020, CeeDee Lamb fell to the Cowboys at No. 15 after being widely viewed as one of the top wide receivers on the board. In 2019, many thought Dwayne Haskins could be a top-10 pick, with Drew Lock coming off the board in the first round too. But Haskins slid to Washington at No. 15, and Lock fell all the way to No. 42 overall on Day 2. In 2018, many draft experts pegged Heisman winner Lamar Jackson as a mid-first-round pick, but he dropped to No. 32 where the Ravens traded back in to snag him.

On the other hand, it’s not unreasonable to think there could be an early run on the five QBs either. After the 49ers traded up to the No. 3 slot, and the Jets traded away Sam Darnold, we can pretty much lock in QBs going 1, 2, 3 when the draft begins on April 29. If the Falcons select Matt Ryan’s successor at No. 4, and Broncos choose a quarterback, all five of the aforementioned quarterbacks could be gone before the 10th-overall pick rolls around. If that’s the case, the Bears may miss out on a top-tier QB, or will have to give up a king’s ransom to trade into striking range. For context, San Francisco sent the No. 12 pick in this year’s draft, a first- and third-round pick in 2022, and another first-round pick in 2023 to move up to No. 3.

As things stand now, the Bears have the No. 20 overall pick, but as we know Pace is not shy about moving up to grab his guy. With just under a month before the draft begins, there’s still plenty of time for more moves and for the draft order to change yet again.

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