Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) rushes upfield ahead of Northwestern Wildcats linebacker Blake Gallagher (51) during the first quarter of the Big Ten Championship football game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020.

Big Ten Championship Ohio State Northwestern

Report: Patriots talking to Falcons about the No. 4 overall pick

The New England Patriots may be strongly considering paying up for trading up in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Athletic reported the Patriots are interested in the Atlanta Falcons’ fourth overall selection in Thursday’s first round, likely targeting a quarterback.

With Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Zach Wilson (Jets) and either Mac Jones or Trey Lance (49ers) likely gone by that point, the Patriots could be targeting Ohio State’s Justin Fields.

The cost would figure to be prohibitive, given the 49ers gave up plenty to move from No. 12 into their current No. 3 position. San Francisco traded the No. 12 overall pick this year, its third-round pick next year and first-rounders in 2022 and 2023.

The Patriots hold the No. 15 overall pick.

–Field Level Media

Nov 29, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan watches from the sidelines during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Rams 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

49ers to take QB at No. 3, defer on Jimmy Garoppolo’s future

The San Francisco 49ers plan to select a quarterback with the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed Monday.

Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, speaking at their pre-draft press conference, each alluded to the fact that they had the quarterback position in mind when they made a trade with the Miami Dolphins to move up from No. 12 overall to No. 3.

“What I’m proud of with what we’ve done is we could have sat there at 12 and waited to see which one came to us, and I think whichever one did, if one did … I think that could have looked really good,” Shanahan said.

“But we made a decision in this process that we felt we needed to get a starting quarterback this year and add that to our team. And when we sit there at 12 way back in the day, we wanted to dictate it. We also were worried: Maybe the one we end up wanting doesn’t fall to 12.”

After San Francisco traded the No. 12 pick, its next two first-rounders and a 2022 third-rounder to Miami to move up to No. 3, NFL Network reported that the 49ers told quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo he was “still in (their) plans.” But Garoppolo’s future with the team is now in doubt following Shanahan’s comments about drafting a “starting” quarterback, and he could be an attractive trade target for another team.

Shanahan effectively dodged the question when asked if he was certain if Garoppolo would be on the 49ers’ roster by the end of the week.

“I can’t guarantee that anybody in the world will be alive Sunday, so I can’t guarantee who will be on our roster on Sunday. So that goes for all of us,” he said.

Since arriving in San Francisco via trade from the New England Patriots in 2017, Garoppolo has started 30 games; the 49ers went 22-8 in those starts. He quarterbacked the team to Super Bowl LIV, a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. But multiple injuries caused him to miss most of the 2018 and 2020 seasons.

Shanahan said he feels good about five different quarterback prospects for the third pick. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson are widely expected to go with the first two picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, respectively. San Francisco then would have its pick among the next three options: Justin Fields of Ohio State, Mac Jones of Alabama and Trey Lance of North Dakota State.

ESPN’s Todd McShay reported Monday that Shanahan wants to select Jones, but others in the front office are pushing for Lance.

Lynch said he “will always defer to” Shanahan on the topic of quarterbacks. Shanahan is the 49ers’ offensive play-caller and has a track record as an offensive coordinator in Houston, Washington, Cleveland and Atlanta.

But the decision at No. 3 will be made jointly by Lynch and Shanahan, Lynch added.

–Field Level Media

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) gets ready to throw the ball against Indiana Hoosiers during the third quarter in their NCAA Division I football game on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

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Report: Justin Fields tells teams he has epilepsy

Feb 4, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; NFL football commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference ahead of Super Bowl 55, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.  Mandatory Credit: Perry Knotts/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Former Ohio State quarterback and projected first-round pick Justin Fields has told NFL teams that he is managing epilepsy, NFL Network reported Wednesday.

Other members of Fields’ family have outgrown the neurological condition, and doctors believe he will, too, per the report. Diagnosed years ago, Fields has not had any epileptic seizures recently and takes medication, per the report.

Alan Faneca, Tiki Barber, Samari Rolle and Jason Snelling also dealt with epilepsy during their NFL careers.

Fields passed for 5,373 yards and 63 touchdowns in 22 games over two seasons with Ohio State. He transferred there after one season at Georgia, in which he played in 12 games in a backup role and threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns.

He was intercepted nine times in college and had a completion percentage of 68.4.

Fields could be selected as high as No. 3 by the San Francisco 49ers in the draft, which begins April 29.

–Field Level Media

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) reacts against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 CFP National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In big odds shift, Ohio State QB Justin Fields favorite for third pick

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields jumped ahead of Alabama’s Mac Jones and is the heavy favorite to be the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

The San Francisco 49ers hold the No. 3 pick after a trade with the Miami Dolphins and had previously been connected to Jones, the quarterback who led the Alabama Crimson Tide to the 2020 national championship.

But DraftKings Sportsbook pulled a 180 on Thursday and Fields is now the favorite to be picked third at -121.

Fields was +175 to go third overall with Jones favored at -150 on Wednesday before he held his second pro day workout. The 49ers were in attendance and a photo of Fields laughing with San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan was widely circulation on social media.

Jones is the second favorite for the third pick. His odds are now +100, ahead of North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance (+300).

FanDuel made a similar move Thursday, slotting Fields at -125 and in the favorite’s role with Jones +105 and Lance +650.

–Field Level Media

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) reacts as he walks off the field after losing to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 CFP National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State QB Justin Fields declares for NFL draft

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Monday, a move that was expected.

Fields is projected to be one of the first two quarterbacks taken on Day 1 of the draft, scheduled for April 29 in Cleveland.

“Growing up, my dream was to one day play the game that I love at the highest level,” Fields wrote in a lengthy post on Twitter. “… I am in a position to turn that dream into reality. And for that reason, I am foregoing my senior year and declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft.”

Fields finishes his career with 5,701 yards passing and 67 touchdowns against nine interceptions. He also rushed for 1,133 yards and 19 touchdowns in 34 games with the Buckeyes and Georgia Bulldogs (2018).

Fields led Ohio State to the CFP playoffs in his two years at OSU. The Buckeyes lost to the Clemson Tigers in the semifinals in 2019 and lost to Alabama in the title game in 2020.

Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2019, compiling one of the greatest statistical seasons in Ohio State history. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 3,273 yards while accounting for 51 touchdowns (41 passing, 10 rushing). He became the first quarterback in Big Ten history with 40 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs in the same season.

Fields was named the Big Ten offensive player of the year for 2019 and 2020.

Ohio State running back Trey Sermon declared for the draft on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) throws the ball against Clemson Tigers in the third quarter during the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021.  Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State’s Day ‘definitely’ expects Fields to play in CFP title game

Ohio State coach Ryan Day is confident quarterback Justin Fields will be healthy and ready to play in the College Football Playoff championship game against Alabama.

“Yeah, I definitely expect to him to play, but you know we don’t get into specifics on injuries … that’s always been our policy,” Day said during a video conference on Monday.

The No. 3 Buckeyes (7-0) and No. 1 Crimson Tide (12-0) will meet Jan. 11 in Miami Gardens, Fla. for the national title.

Fields sustained an injury to his torso Friday in the second quarter of the Buckeyes’ 49-28 win over No. 2 Clemson in the CFP semifinals. The hit by Tigers linebacker James Skalski with the crown of his helmet was so egregious it got Skalski ejected for targeting.

After leaving the game for one play, Fields returned and threw a 9-yard touchdown pass on his first play back. He finished the game 22 of 28 passing for 385 yards and six touchdowns, including four touchdowns after he was injured.

Fields did not speak to the media Monday.

But Day said Fields told him Saturday he “felt better waking up in the morning than he expected.”

This season, Fields completed 141 of 192 passes for 1,906 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has been intercepted just six times.

–Field Level Media

Nov 30, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin leads his team out of the tunnel prior to taking the field against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State’s Franklin calls postponement ‘gut-wrenching’

Penn State coach James Franklin said Wednesday that telling his players the 2020 season was postponed was “gut-wrenching” and that he is bothered by the way the Big Ten made the decision.

Franklin described his feelings in a call with the media about a lost fall season in which his Nittany Lions were ranked No. 7 in the preseason coaches poll.

“Witnessing the confusion on our guys’ faces when I shared the news of [the] postponement last week was gut-wrenching. It is my responsibility to help our guys chase their dreams, and delivering the news felt like I was doing the opposite. It felt like I was taking away their dream to play at Penn State, even if for some it’s only temporary,” Franklin said as he opened the call with a lengthy statement, his first since the Big Ten announced on Aug. 11 that fall sports were postponed.

“We as a coaching staff and administration fought as hard as we could to fulfill the desires of our student-athletes and their parents to play this fall. While I appreciate the complexities and difficulties of this decision for the leaders of our conference, I am extremely frustrated because we still have very few answers to communicate to our young men and their families about their futures and very little understanding of the factors contributing to the decisions.”

And families remain frustrated, too.

Parents of players from Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State wrote to conference commissioner Kevin Warren, asking him to explain the league’s decision to postpone the season until the spring. Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields launched a petition drive asking for reconsideration. And on Friday, Randy Wade — the father of Ohio State defensive back Shaun Wade — will visit the Big Ten’s headquarters in Illinois to get some answers and expects other parents to join him, he told ESPN.

Franklin said Penn State had protocols in place to keep student-athletes safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our student-athletes have matched our institution’s diligence by following the recommended health and safety protocols with the intent to play this fall,” he said. “Our most recent COVID-19 test of our entire program — student-athletes, coaches, trainers, strength and conditioning and equipment staffs — yielded zero positive results after our first week of practices.”

Franklin continued: “That is attributed to the steadfast efforts of our medical professionals, student-athletes and staff. We’re heartbroken for our student-athletes because of how much they have sacrificed to put themselves in position to compete at the highest level, but now they are left frustrated and unsure of what the future holds.”

The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced plans to move their football seasons to the spring, while the SEC, ACC and Big 12 are continuing to plan for a fall season. The SEC is slated to begin play Sept. 26, while the Big 12 has a full slate of nonconference games on Sept. 12 and the ACC has 10 games slated for Sept. 10-12, including five league contests.

One SEC coach, Lane Kiffin of Mississippi, called on the NCAA to allow players in conferences without a fall season to transfer immediately.

“Kids are having their schools or their conferences deciding to shut down, so they can’t play, and a lot of them have a lot of money on the line with the next level, or they just want to play their last year,” Kiffin said in an interview with the SEC Network on Tuesday. “So it’s really unfortunate that the NCAA is not allowing them to transfer and be eligible immediately. We’re being told that won’t even go into a waiver process, so I feel really bad for those kids. It’s not their fault. Why can’t they come play somewhere? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 30, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin leads his team out of the tunnel prior to taking the field against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State’s Franklin calls postponement ‘gut-wrenching’

Penn State coach James Franklin said Wednesday that telling his players the 2020 season was postponed was “gut-wrenching” and that he is bothered by the way the Big Ten made the decision.

Franklin described his feelings in a call with the media about a lost fall season in which his Nittany Lions were ranked No. 7 in the preseason coaches poll.

“Witnessing the confusion on our guys’ faces when I shared the news of [the] postponement last week was gut-wrenching. It is my responsibility to help our guys chase their dreams, and delivering the news felt like I was doing the opposite. It felt like I was taking away their dream to play at Penn State, even if for some it’s only temporary,” Franklin said as he opened the call with a lengthy statement, his first since the Big Ten announced on Aug. 11 that fall sports were postponed.

“We as a coaching staff and administration fought as hard as we could to fulfill the desires of our student-athletes and their parents to play this fall. While I appreciate the complexities and difficulties of this decision for the leaders of our conference, I am extremely frustrated because we still have very few answers to communicate to our young men and their families about their futures and very little understanding of the factors contributing to the decisions.”

And families remain frustrated, too.

Parents of players from Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio State wrote to conference commissioner Kevin Warren, asking him to explain the league’s decision to postpone the season until the spring. Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields launched a petition drive asking for reconsideration. And on Friday, Randy Wade — the father of Ohio State defensive back Shaun Wade — will visit the Big Ten’s headquarters in Illinois to get some answers and expects other parents to join him, he told ESPN.

Franklin said Penn State had protocols in place to keep student-athletes safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our student-athletes have matched our institution’s diligence by following the recommended health and safety protocols with the intent to play this fall,” he said. “Our most recent COVID-19 test of our entire program — student-athletes, coaches, trainers, strength and conditioning and equipment staffs — yielded zero positive results after our first week of practices.”

Franklin continued: “That is attributed to the steadfast efforts of our medical professionals, student-athletes and staff. We’re heartbroken for our student-athletes because of how much they have sacrificed to put themselves in position to compete at the highest level, but now they are left frustrated and unsure of what the future holds.”

The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced plans to move their football seasons to the spring, while the SEC, ACC and Big 12 are continuing to plan for a fall season. The SEC is slated to begin play Sept. 26, while the Big 12 has a full slate of nonconference games on Sept. 12 and the ACC has 10 games slated for Sept. 10-12, including five league contests.

One SEC coach, Lane Kiffin of Mississippi, called on the NCAA to allow players in conferences without a fall season to transfer immediately.

“Kids are having their schools or their conferences deciding to shut down, so they can’t play, and a lot of them have a lot of money on the line with the next level, or they just want to play their last year,” Kiffin said in an interview with the SEC Network on Tuesday. “So it’s really unfortunate that the NCAA is not allowing them to transfer and be eligible immediately. We’re being told that won’t even go into a waiver process, so I feel really bad for those kids. It’s not their fault. Why can’t they come play somewhere? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

–Field Level Media