FanPost

Tony Fields draft scouting report

Brian Powers-USA TODAY Sports

The Thriller in Mobile

Yes, I know it's not pronounced "mo-billa". I have to work with what I've got. Tony Fields (no relation to the linebacker from West Virginia, just happens to have the same name) was an accomplished professional dancer who appeared in the Michael Jackson music videos "Beat It" and "Thriller".

Fields the linebacker had a great week at the Senior Bowl down in Mobile. The players voted him the best linebacker on the National Team, an impressive accomplishment considering that the other LBs on that squad included Baron Browning, Chazz Surratt and Justin Hilliard. Sports Illustrated and Pro Football Network also had high praise for Fields at the Senior Bowl, saying that he was a draft riser who boosted his stock.

Zack Patraw of The Sports Bible, writing for SI, said that Fields played his way into being a 3rd round prospect. A mock draft by Draftblaster has Fields as pick 82, higher than Dylan Moses (87), Baron Browning (92) and Pete Werner (93). PFN says that Fields has fluid hips, solid instincts and plays bigger than his size. His coach at WVU called Fields a "train stopper".

Even before his 2020 graduate transfer season at WVU from Arizona, experts were pushing Fields as a draft sleeper. Jim Nagy last summer said that he was shocked that Fields wasn't getting more draft buzz. Nagy said that Fields had great eyes, played with a natural feel and could beat blocks.

My comp for Fields is David Long. No, not the CB for the Rams. I'm talking about the LB for the Titans. This is mostly just a lazy comparison since both players played at West Virginia and both are undersized linebackers. You get what you pay for in these fanposts. Long started 5 games last season, due to an injury to Jayon Brown.

If you aren't familiar with Jayon Brown, you probably should be. When KA mentioned him as a potential FA for the Rams a month ago, it barely drew a ripple of reaction on TST. According to PFF, these are the LBs with the top composite grades over the last 3 seasons:

1. Lavonte David 84.9

2. Eric Kendricks 78.8

3. Fred Warner 78.0

4. Jayon Brown 77.1

Brown is scheduled to hit free agency and people predict that he will cash in big. Brown was a 5th round pick in 2017 out of UCLA. So, if you're wondering if the Rams could get a very good LB in the middle rounds of this year's draft, it is a reasonable hope and far from unprecedented. Over the years, there have been many high quality LBs who were selected in the middle of the draft.

I have no recollection of Brown from his draft class. It might be that I didn't think he was a good player. Could be that since he wasn't one of the top LB prospects, I never even looked at him, because he wasn't on the radar. I can't remember.

Brown is considered to be one of the best pass coverage LBs in the NFL. He was 6 feet tall and 231 pounds at the Combine, with 31 3/8'' arms, making him an undersized WILL type LB. His testing numbers weren't anything special. He ran 4.7 in the 40, and a vertical jump of 31.5 inches. Lance Zierlein gave Brown an "end of roster or practice squad" draft grade. LZ said that Brown's ST ability gave him a fighting chance to make a roster, but that his lack of strength meant that Brown would never become more than a sub-package cover LB. LZ said that Brown was "very small", "built like a strong safety", too weak, got bounced around by blocks, unable to hold leverage on his gaps against blocks, got taken for rides by RBs, lacked instincts against the run, and never forced a single fumble in college. LZ quoted a scout from an NFC West team (which for all we know might have been the Rams) saying that Brown was too small and that he'd just get engulfed by blocks.

If I wanted to be lazy, I could just copy and paste Zierlein's draft profile about Brown and slap Tony Fields's name on it. Would have saved me a bunch of time. Could Tony Fields be the next Jayon Brown for the Rams? Should his name be circled on the draft board? Is he the biggest draft sleeper in this linebacker class?

Background

6'1'' tall, 222 pounds, 76'' wingspan, 30.75'' arms, 9'' hands (Senior Bowl measurements)

Started every game in 4 year college career, except when he opted out of bowl game to prepare for draft. Total of 46 games started, 3 years at Arizona and one at WVU. I was not able to find any info of him having a major injury.

True senior. Grad transfer to WVU in 2020. Played WILL linebacker at Arizona, then MLB in 2020 for WVU. Degree in literacy, learning and leadership. Was WR and LB in high school, 3 star recruit.

Ejected for targeting early in one 2020 game, so effectively played about 8 games.

2020 (9 starts): 88 tackles (34 solo), sack, 4 TFLs, 3 PD, INT

2019 (12 starts): 94 tackles (58 solo), 1.5 sacks, 5 TFLs, 3 PD, INT, FF

Career (46 starts): 375 Tkls (215 solo), 3 INTs, one FF, 9.5 sacks

Notice that he only has one career forced fumble even though he has nearly 400 career tackles. Paddy Fisher has just a few more tackles than Fields and had 10 FFs in college.

As the MLB at WVU, Fields was responsible for relaying the defensive call from the sideline to the defense and getting the defense lined up.

ESPN 160th overall, 13th ILB (5th round)

CBSSports not ranked in top 150

PFF 230th overall (7th round)

Drafttek 232nd overall, listed as OLB (7th round)

Strengths

Showed balance and agility getting around block by RB to sack QB.

Does matador jump around block by LT, then submarine tackles the RB.

Quick shoves to chests of OL occasionally lets him disengage before they can grab him, then he can uses his small size and quickness to go around them.

Bench presses RG at 2nd level and sheds block.

Dips shoulder under OL blocks and his small size makes it difficult for them to block him at 2nd level. Ducks by OL and trips up RB on draw. Spins off of blocks to disengage.

He's like a safety playing LB, which creates an awkward challenge for linemen not used to blocking defenders his size inside the box.

Pass rushing experience off the edge against OTs.

Speed to pursue to the sideline.

Inexperienced at inside LB. Could have room to grow with more games and with NFL level coaching.

Durable. To my knowledge, he never missed a game in college due to injury.

Weaknesses

Of all the LBs we've looked at so far, I thought that Fields had the worst game tape. Since some boards have him as a 7th round prospect, maybe this isn't really a surprise. Fields puts on a clinic of different ways not to properly play the linebacker position.

Lapses in pass coverage

Short 3rd down. He is lined up with inside technique over a slot WR. After the snap, Fields takes a step to the outside, to a neutral stance to the WR. Basic slant route with simple turn by the WR. Fields is caught flat footed, doesn't move his feet, just weakly reaches with his inside arm, trying to grab the WR, but misses and is cleanly beaten to the inside. QB's pass is poor, to the wrong shoulder, causing the WR to stumble as he catches the ball. WR regains his balance and runs up the field. Results in nearly 25 yard gain.

RPO fake to RB, then basic dump pass to TE coming across the formation to flat, near LOS. Fields takes 2 false steps forward looking at play fake when he should be moving laterally to pick up the TE. This causes him to be late to the flat and not get a good angle to close down the TE. If his footwork had been right, he should have hit the TE right at the LOS and been square to him so that he could deliver a solid blow. Instead, he makes contact 3 yards past the LOS and from the side, where the TE stiff arms him. Fields tries to grab him, but his arms are so short, they slip down, to the elbow of the TE's extended arm. He's just along for the ride and the TE rumbles out of bounds for a 1st down and an 11 yard gain.

Got an INT that was thrown right to him.

RB circles out of the backfield, just past the LOS and is standing directly in front of Fields. The QB extends the play by rolling out to the right. MLB doesn't even look at the RB. He leaves, completely fixated on the QB and starts flowing with him to the side, leaving the RB all alone. The RB realizes he's by himself, holds up his hand, catches an easy pass from the QB and gains 20 yards.

RB fly pattern down the middle of the field. When QB steps up in the pocket away from pressure, Fields runs towards the QB. He ignores the RB and makes no effort to reroute, carry the route or cover the RB. Could have been a TD, but bad pass by the QB. The opponent must have noticed this, because they do exactly the same route later in the game. The same thing happens, Fields doesn't cover the RB. Should be an easy TD, but once again a bad pass by the QB ruins it. Fields and his coaches didn't fix it or make an adjustment on their end. I think this is poor awareness during the game.

His eyes are glued to the QB when he's in zone coverage. Doesn't scan with his eyes or adjust his positioning to match receivers who come into his area of the zone. This causes him to give up short receptions on very simple passes that he should have been able to challenge if he had positioned himself better.

Doesn't get good depth in zone after play fakes. Poor footwork trying to get depth. Aimlessly shuffles backwards with small steps.

Slow to read keys and see WR bubble screen. Late to trigger and start moving towards the WR.

RB fakes like he's staying in to block. Fields relaxes and takes step backwards. When the RB heads out to the flat, LB is now out of position to cut off the angle to prevent a first down.

FB sneaks out of backfield for pass. Fields never sees it.

Not dangerous as a pass rusher. Too small, doesn't threaten OT with angle or enough speed, lacks hand usage and pass rush moves. Used so much as pass rusher, had very few man coverage snaps.

Either delivered a dirty cheap shot hit on a WR or had very poor vision and didn't see him. My guess is it was the former.

Tackling and run defense issues

Doesn't have enough acceleration and small area burst. When he is free to the QB or RB and pursuing them, on some plays he can't close the gap and get to the ball.

Too many missed tackles. Unblocked in the hole against RB, misses simple tackle. Slid off RB on very easy tackle, his arms too short and not enough strength. Short arms are a big problem for him trying to tackle. Completely whiffs tackle in space on RB. Overruns tackles.

Looks like Jeff Van Gundy clinging to Alonzo Mourning's leg on some tackles, with about the same level of effectiveness.

Not enough size against RBs in short yardage situations to stop their momentum and progress. Even if he gets inside and tries to crease the blocker at the line, his body isn't big enough to plug the gap effectively and create a wall to stop the RB.

Poor anticipating and reading the hole. Isn't properly reading it with the RB, so when the RB cuts to the hole, Fields is reacting to it, instead of already being prepared to fill and meet the RB. A run he should stuff right at the LOS becomes a 16 yard gain, because he can only approach the RB at a weak angle and misses an ankle tackle. A good LB would be in position to deliver a firm hit with his shoulder and try to wrap up the RB.

It is concerning to me that he can't anticipate the hole on a wide variety of different runs. Not just one type of run that gives him trouble. Should anticipate cutback to C gap, but he's too far to the inside and gets caught flat footed. He loses edge containment, drags down the RB from behind after an 11 yard gain instead of limiting it to a short gain.

Very slow reading hole in B gap. This messes up ability by the safety coming up behind him to fill properly, because instead of the LB being where he's supposed to be, it looks from his POV like the LB is going to stay inside, then suddenly at the last instant the LB jumps over and tries to get to a different gap.

Run near goalline. He doesn't read the hole and isn't anywhere near the proper landmark to try to stop the run.

Saw that RB had the ball, had open lane, but didn't attack. Has on cement shoes at times. Doesn't move his feet, just stands still when he should trigger.

Center pulls as RB heads out wide. MLB goes backdoor and is way out of position, no chance of making this play. Jet sweep, similar deal. He goes under the block even though he has no chance whatsoever to make the tackle in this fashion and ends up way out of position.

Delay finding the ball after play action fake. Completely fooled by play fake, doesn't see that QB still has the ball and gets way out of position. Multiple plays, seems like he lost sight of the ball, because he's too short to see over the offensive linemen.

QB hands the ball off to the RB, then sprints out wide. Fields doesn't see the ball. He chases the QB, vacating the gap the the RB runs through up the middle for about a 50 yard TD. There used to be a vintage electric toy football game where the players on the field would move in seemingly random directions. That's what Fields makes me think of some plays.

Opponent ran same toss play multiple times. Each time, Fields takes step forward, getting out of position and allowing himself to be easily blocked. He never figured out what he was doing wrong and didn't make the necessarily adjustment.

Completely blows his gap assignment and leverage too often. Force multiplier for the opposing offense. In other words, sometimes he creates 2 for one (even 3 for one) blocks by not leveraging his gap and getting pushed into unblocked defenders. He should be forcing the RB to the help, but doesn't do his job properly.

Long yardage situation. Taking on TE block as RB cuts back. Another defender just to his side is unblocked. Fields has completely the wrong leverage. The RB cuts inside, Fields essentially blocks his own teammate and the RB runs for a TD. Horrible.

Counter run, he's against a TE. Again, completely wrong leverage on his block. It messes up the ability of the DBs to fill correctly and leads to a gigantic run by the RB. Different play, again 100% the exact opposite of what he should be doing, wrong leverage, so instead of forcing the RB back to the help, he opens the door and rolls out a red carpet for the RB.

Way too small. Very basic run right up the middle. RG climbs to him and Fields just stands still, doesn't do anything and gets swallowed up and overpowered by the guard. The opponent could call a basic dive play up the middle and I'd be worried that Fields wouldn't be able to stop hit. He might get devoured by the guard.

Slow to disengage from TE block. Some of the linemen he beat on blocks, they looked like garbage players.

Raw technique shedding blocks. Too basic, takes on blocks too square. On draw, attacks the middle of the center's block, no chance at all to beat it. Poor technique, no plan, not enough size and strength.

Gets driven out of his gap easily.

On long 3rd down, takes poor angle against option, going too far upfield, getting himself out of position.

When he is running near full speed, he can't turn sharply and redirect to the runner. His turn radius is too big for a player his size.

Pro Comparison and Grade

David Long (West Virginia, 6th round 2019, Titans). UDFA grade.

Long was 5'11'' tall, 227 pounds with 30.75'' arms, 75'' wingspan and 10'' hands. Matt Miller compared Long to Mark Barron and gave him a 3rd round grade. Daniel Jeremiah was another draft expert who was a big fan of David Long that year. So apparently, Mark Barron, Jayon Brown and Barney Rubble would all would have been suitable draft comparisons for Fields.

Long and Fields are nearly identical in size. Long played WILL linebacker at WVU. I think Long is the better prospect of the two and he was a 6th round draft pick.

Matt Miller's profile on Long says that he is aggressive, a 3 down player, has smooth hips and is quick to trigger. He said that Long's aggression sometimes caused him to get out of position, that he was built more like a strong safety, his eyes needed to be better in zone coverage and that he sometimes preferred to deliver a big hit instead of wrapping up on tackles.

In 2020, Long had a 54.1 PFF grade, ranking 42nd out of 83 LBs. He played 34% of his team's defensive snaps. He surrendered 29 completions on 34 targets, for an 85.3% completion rate and 8.2 yards per target. He missed 10 tackles with an 15.6% missed tackle rate. For his career, Long has a 15.9% missed tackle rate. Those are really bad stats. Makes me wonder why PFF didn't give him a lower grade.

There is another undersized LB from TCU named Garret Wallow who was unable to participate at the Senior Bowl, because he tested positive for covid. Is Fields really a better player than Wallow or is this buzz and draft momentum surrounding Fields just because Wallow wasn't able to practice that week? I have no idea, I haven't studied Wallow's tape yet.

Lance Zierlein has a 5.63 draft grade on Fields, barely higher than the 5.58 grade given to Grant Stuard. Wallow has a 5.80 grade (still a backup and ST player.) LZ gave Brown a 5.50 grade, which is the lowest of all 4 of these LBs. Per LZ's eye, Wallow is supposed to be the best of the four.

Instead of landing on the practice squad, Jayon Brown is poised to land a lucrative 2nd contract. How many people predicted that? When it comes to the NFL draft, none of us are experts.