Four Verts: Justin Fields can be Steelers’ starting QB next year, and Vikings are about to take a big risk

Four Verts: Justin Fields can be Steelers' starting QB next year, and Vikings are about to take a big risk

The offseason is churning with a little over a month until the 2024 NFL Draft. While the draft will be the focus for the next few weeks, how the draft is viewed has been changed by free agency as some teams were able to fill holes in the lead up to the draft. First, we start with a young, highly drafted quarterback who is looking to get his career back on track against a longtime veteran.

Don’t count out Justin Fields

Justin Fields is officially on to the next chapter of his NFL career, joining the Pittsburgh Steelers via trade. The Steelers have completely overhauled their quarterbacks room by signing veteran Russell Wilson and, for now, having Fields be the backup. It gives them the chance for some stability that can turn into a long-term answer if they’re able to develop Fields into a more consistent quarterback. However, Fields' ability to compete with Wilson in the present shouldn’t be discounted.

The reason Fields should be taken seriously as a starting candidate this upcoming season is because Wilson isn’t the player he used to be. This isn’t the same Wilson who made dazzling plays with the Seahawks — this isn’t even the same Wilson the Broncos thought they were acquiring a couple years ago. This version of Wilson is not the same guy who looked like a potential Hall of Famer during the 2010s. If the Steelers are willing to make it a real competition, Fields might be able to push Wilson.

Of course, Fields doesn’t have a flawless skill set himself, or he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in now and would still be with the Bears. Fields has all the physical talent in the world and may legitimately be the best running quarterback in the league, but he hasn’t shown a consistent enough ability as a high-level passer to stay entrenched as a starter. Still, he’s not so far off from Wilson where he can’t be in the discussion for the Steelers’ top quarterback spot.

Justin Fields may yet win the Steelers’ starting quarterback job in 2024. (Photo by Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

The wild card here in the Steelers’ quarterback equation is their fit with new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who arrives after an up-and-down tenure as head coach of the Falcons. Smith is a coach who loves to target the middle of the field, which is not really something either quarterback does. Smith should get things going with the quarterback run game, which would make Fields an enticing option as the starter. Either way, neither quarterback has the cleanest fit with Smith — that will certainly make for an interesting dynamic once training camp starts.

The Steelers have a promising yet fragile quarterback situation. Wilson and Fields are both somewhat unknown as they make this move to a new team, which may open the door for Fields to resume his role as an NFL starter. Either way, it can’t hurt his development getting to at least compete with a veteran like Russell Wilson as he takes the next journey in his career.

Hollywood Brown is a real difference-maker for the Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes, welcome back to society. The Chiefs won their third Super Bowl in five years on the strength of a stifling defense while Mahomes made just enough plays to drag an inconsistent Chiefs offense to another Super Bowl victory. Mahomes dealt with some boneheaded wide receiver play all season, but won a Super Bowl with those players regardless. Even with the ultimate goal being achieved, the Chiefs went out and tried to find a quick remedy to some of their receiving woes by signing Marquise "Hollywood" Brown in free agency.

Brown might not be the best wide receiver out there, but in an offense that has Mahomes slinging the rock, he becomes a legitimate floor-raiser just because he’s that much better than the Chiefs' other wideouts. He’s a much better player than Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore and even Marquez Valdes-Scantling — and now he will have the best quarterback in the league throwing him the ball. This is the exact kind of tweak the Chiefs needed in their offense heading into the draft.

Wide receiver becomes less of a need, but it certainly could still be addressed in the first round if they choose. Rashee Rice is the only young, promising wide receiver the Chiefs have on a long-term deal. Brown gives them the flexibility to go elsewhere in Round 1 if they so choose. They can dip into a talented offensive tackle class or add someone to the defensive backfield. This is the type of short-term signing that breathes long-term options to life.

There’s also the very real possibility that Brown is a great fit with Mahomes, helps open the deeper portions of the field and becomes a fixture in Kansas City over the next few years. No matter how it works out for them, this is the kind of process the Chiefs needed to follow to give themselves a chance to three-peat next season.

Vikings are about to do something incredibly risky

The Vikings have made something very clear: They’re going to get a quarterback in this year’s draft. After losing Kirk Cousins to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, the Vikings quickly made a move to position themselves for a quarterback. They traded with the Texans to acquire the 23rd pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, to pair with the 11th pick they already own. That plus a future first-round pick should be enough ammunition to get the Vikings in range to get a quarterback either before the draft or during it.

The problem is, they won’t exactly have their full selection of who they can take with whichever pick they end up trading to. The Bears are just about guaranteed to pick USC quarterback Caleb Williams at No. 1 overall, with the Commanders taking their own quarterback with the second pick. That means the Vikings are likely to be paying the price of moving up in the draft twice for what will be the third quarterback selected.

It’s an understandable risk, but a heavy risk nonetheless. Looking out to the 2025 quarterback class, it’s easy to see why the Vikings would prefer to get a player this year compared to what is currently projected as a weak crop next year. J.J. McCarthy and Jayden Daniels would have a much stronger claim to QB1 in 2025 compared to this year. So, the desire to get this done now does make some sense, especially with a long-term deal coming for Justin Jefferson.

There’s a recent example of this failing in a spectacular manner with the 49ers trading three first-round picks for the right to draft Trey Lance, who never got going before suffering an injury and being traded to the Cowboys. That’s an extreme example of how it can go poorly, but it shows precedent for this becoming an asset dump for a team.

The third quarterback drafted has been a mixed bag in recent years. Justin Herbert and Josh Allen carry that title, as do Paxton Lynch and Blaine Gabbert. It mostly depends on the actual quarterback — Anthony Richardson was the third quarterback drafted in 2023 and he looked incredibly promising before getting hurt. The Vikings must have a strong level of conviction that whoever gets past the Commanders will be a quality-level quarterback.

Opinions on quarterbacks will vary from team to team, but what isn’t questionable is that the Vikings are about to capital P pay for one. This will be a fascinating case study once the final compensation is announced and the selection is made. They could immediately stay afloat in a suddenly strong NFC North with the right guy, and they could also cost themselves jobs with the wrong selection.

Marvin Harrison is really testing the limits of the pre-draft process

As the great wordsmith Future once said, “You do what you want when you poppin’.” No one is living that phrase out harder than former Ohio State wide receiver and projected top-five pick Marvin Harrison Jr., who has essentially opted out of the pre-draft process.

Harrison weighed in at the scouting combine and has met with teams, but has not participated in a workout or drill of any kind this spring. He skipped the testing and on-field drills at the combine before doing it again at Ohio State's pro day, and will be going into the draft with nothing but the film doing the talking on his behalf.

The thing is, it just might work. Harrison is seen as the best wide receiver prospect in this class and one of the more complete wide receiver prospects in years. Even with him passing on the on-field portion of the draft process, no one actually seems to think that this will legitimately negatively affect his lofty draft status. He’s still being projected as high as the third pick in many mock drafts, and there hasn’t been much noise on teams preferring Washington’s Rome Odunze or LSU’s Malik Nabers over him. This very well may work and set precedent for future prospects who are deemed “no brainers” on how they should approach the draft process.

If Harrison still gets drafted in the top five despite doing nothing but measuring in at the combine, that validates this process for him. How he performs as a rookie will influence how applicable his strategy is for future top prospects because he’s on the cusp of showing that the draft process is really not that crucial for players atop of the draft. The quarterbacks have already figured out how much fluff is involved in the process — Harrison is just taking it one further step.

As teams watch Harrison dismantle and embarrass defensive backs on film, the biggest thing they need to ask themselves is how much they actually care about the work he didn’t do this offseason. The answer will most likely be that they don’t care as much as they would have you believe. Harrison’s status as a draft prospect is already solidified and there isn’t much he can do to help himself at this point.

What happens next will be fascinating, but the one thing that’s undoubtedly true is the fact that Harrison is in a rare space as a prospect that’s eschewing the draft process. If he continues to be one of the best wide receivers in football, it will open the door for larger portions of the draft process to be optional for players at the top.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button