Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


Cynthia Frelund sees Justin Fields as the best draft fit for the 49ers

Apr 15, 2021 at 6:40 AM--


NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund recently used her context-based data models to determine the best team fits for the top draft-eligible quarterbacks. What are the ideal landing spots for the incoming group of rookie passers?

"The goal for each pairing: maximizing the draftee's 2021 win share," wrote Frelund, "factoring in what we know about each team's personnel, coaches and strategy right now. And of course, I'm aiming to present realistic matches, ones that could actually come to fruition on draft day."

Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Zach Wilson to the New York Jets seem like the most likely scenarios for April 29's annual rookie selection event. That's what Frelund envisions, and the two scenarios are actually a win-win for player and team based on her data.

Who is the best fit for the San Francisco 49ers? Frelund believes that to be Justin Fields of Ohio State and uses the analytics data to explain why.

"Over the past three seasons, Fields was PFF's top-performing FBS quarterback from a clean pocket, recording a 54:4 TD-to-INT ratio in that scenario," wrote Frelund. "I like to measure clean-pocket performance because it helps approximate a ceiling. (When a QB isn't facing pressure, his body mechanics -- hips, legs, shoulders, arm alignment -- should be optimal, thus presenting a quarterback's theoretical best.) The clean-pocket performance also provides a baseline from which to compare throws that are made under pressure, on the run and in other circumstances that aren't ideal.

"Fields' ability to hit deep passes (50 percent completions on throws of 20-plus yards since 2019, per PFF, ranking sixth-best in the FBS), produce off play-action (146.4 passer rating in 2020, per PFF, third-best in the FBS) and connect on attempts of 10-plus air yards when his base is not set (55.5 percent since 2019, per my computer vision) is extremely promising for his NFL projection, particularly if he goes to a team like San Francisco with a strong offensive line.

"Also, the Ohio State product's 630 rushing yards on scrambles since 2019 (with five TDs) create even more upside when paired with the playbook and personnel potential of the Niners. With Kyle Shanahan's disguised rushing concepts, pre-snap motions and consistent fullback usage, San Francisco feels like a perfect landing spot for Fields."

Come April 29, another option for San Francisco could be Trey Lance of North Dakota State. With Fields seen as the best fit for the Niners, Frelund would send the former Bison to the Washington Football Team.

What about Mac Jones, the player most mock drafts see going to the 49ers? Frelund can envision him being an ideal fit for the Denver Broncos.





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