2017 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Devonte Fields
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: It seems like Fields has been in college football for a long time, and that is because he's been a high-profile player since his true freshman season. Playing for TCU in 2012, Fields took the Big XII by storm as a First-Team All-Big XII pick and the Big XII Freshman of the Year. Fields broke out with 10 sacks, 53 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, four passes batted, two forced fumbles and an interception. In speaking to current Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson at the Senior Bowl in 2013, he said Fields was one of the best players he went against and was among the hardest he ever had to block.
After that season, things went off the rails for Fields. He as suspended for the 2013 opener against LSU. The sophomore then injured his foot after only playing in two games and needed season-ending surgery. While injured, more off-the-field issues came up, and those led to Fields leaving TCU. He sat out the 2014 season before landing with Louisville in 2015.
Fields started his debut season slowly at Louisville, but midway through the year the switch was flipped and he went on a tear to close out the season with 10.5 sacks in the final seven games. He totaled 64 tackles with 22.5 for a loss, 11 sacks, two forced fumbles and three passes batted in 2015. Fields wasn't as good as a senior. He totaled 45 tackles with nine for a loss, six sacks and three passes batted in 2016.
In the passing-driven NFL, edge rushers who can get after the quarterback are always in demand. Fields is a fast quarterback hunter who presents a lot of problems for blockers off the edge. He has years of tape showing that he has the ability to get to the signal-caller and make a difference in pass defense.
There is no doubt that Fields is very quick off the edge. He has a good first-step and gets upfield in a hurry. He uses that speed and agility to turn the corner and get pointed to the quarterback. Fields' closing speed is tremendous as once he is free he eats up ground in an instant to get to quarterbacks in the pocket or running backs in the ground game. With how fast Fields is in pursuit, he can make plays in the pass rush and ground game that other edge rushers are incapable of making.
Fields shows some variety in where he lines up and how he gets after the quarterback. Fields also flashed some hand-slapping skills to help finish off blockers once his speed gave him a leverage advantage.
There are a number of areas for improvement though for the NFL. Fields definitely has to get stronger. He can get pushed around in the ground game. When offensive linemen engage him, he can struggle to maintain his gap and shed blocks. Fields is in trouble when runs come downhill straight at him, too. Adding strength would also help his pass rush as he could use that power to help get blockers hands off of him.
Fields definitely needs to develop more pass-rushing moves for the next level. He got by on his speed and athleticism in college, but he will need more than that as a pro. He should develop his arsenal to contain a spin move and a rip move to go along with his speed to the outside or inside.
Aside from his off-the-field issues, Fields has an inconsistent motor, and some teams question whether he loves football. His work ethic and motivation are big question marks.
The best fit for Fields in the NFL definitely would be as a 3-4 outside linebacker. In the 2017 NFL Draft, Fields could get selected on Day 3, although he could easily go undrafted.
Player Comparison: Bruce Irvin. Fields reminds me of Irvin when he was at West Virginia. Both are fast, undersized edge rushers. Irvin had to make the transition to outside linebacker in the NFL, and Fields will have to do the same.
NFL Matches: Detroit, Miami, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, New York Jets, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Washington
There are a lot of potential fits for Fields in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Cowboys are in search of edge-rushing talent. Fields' speed and stature are similar to other edge rushers they drafted recently in, plus they have taken edge rushers with off-the-field issues.
Among the playoff teams, Fields could have a few landing spots. The Lions could use defensive line help, and Fields could improve their edge rush across from Ziggy Ansah. Miami also needs could use a young edge rusher. The team retained the aging Cameron Wake, but cut Mario Williams. Atlanta needs an edge rusher to go on the other side from Vic Beasley.
San Francisco needs an edge rusher for its defense. Fields could maybe be the the team's Leo rush linebacker. The Jets could use an edge rusher, too. Cincinnati is another possible fit for Fields. The Bengals need a rusher opposite Carlos Dunlap as Michael Johnson is a limited player. They also have had success with talented, but troubled, prospects.
The Saints have to upgrade their defense, particularly against the pass. They need an edge rusher across from Cam Jordan, for one. Fields could get consideration as depth on Day 3.
Indianapolis needs help all over its defense, and Fields would upgrade the team's speed rush immediately. The Ravens need more pass rush after cutting Elvis Dumervil. Fields could make sense for them on Day 3.
The Redskins want to get younger and more athletic up front. Fields would be able to play rush linebacker across from Ryan Kerrigan.
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