Mel Kiper pegs this quarterback as Matthew Stafford replacement in latest mock draft

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

The cat is out of the bag: The Detroit Lions are going to have a new quarterback next season. And with a top-10 pick and a decent crop of quarterbacks in the upcoming draft, the likeliest option is the Lions will find Matthew Stafford's replacement at that spot. 

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper agrees. In his latest mock draft, published Tuesday, Kiper slotted Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields to the Lions with the team's top choice. 

Ohio State's Justin Fields could be the next young piece added to the Lions' offense, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper.

"Before the news on Saturday that the Lions were going to trade quarterback Matthew Stafford this offseason, I would have said that they should keep Stafford and try to help him with a wide receiver in this draft," Kiper wrote. "Alabama's Jaylen Waddle would have fit here. But instead it appears that new general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell will go all-in on a rebuild, and so Fields could be the face of it.

"He had an up-and-down season, but we saw the flashes of his talent, particularly in his six-touchdown performance against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Fields has superstar potential, but he'll need help around him. Detroit will need to figure out what it's doing with free-agent wideouts Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. and make sure Fields has a chance to succeed in Year 1."

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Fields, who began his college career at the University of Georgia, will be looking to become the first Ohio State quarterback to have long-term success as an NFL starter at the position. Dwayne Haskins, taken No. 15 overall in 2019, is the only Buckeyes QB who has been selected earlier than the fourth round. He was benched and eventually cut before the end of last season. 

In 22 games for the Buckeyes, Fields completed 68.4% of his passes for 5,373 yards, 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions. A Heisman finalist in 2020 and second-team All-American in 2019, he also rushed for 867 yards and 15 touchdowns during his two seasons at the school. 

The Lions have reportedly agreed to terms with Anthony Lynn to serve as the team's new offensive coordinator. He has experience with dual-threat quarterbacks at his previous two coaching stops, working with Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo and Los Angeles and, most recently, rookie Justin Herbert. 

Adding Fields to the mix would give the Lions a solid, young core on offense, along with center Frank Ragnow, guard Jonah Jackson, tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back D'Andre Swift. 

But Kiper correctly points out the Lions are lacking at receiver. Danny Amendola, Golladay and Jones are all scheduled to become free agents in March, with only Golladay in play to return, assuming the Lions are interested in meeting the going rate for the league leader in receiving touchdowns in 2019.

In the mock draft, Fields was the third quarterback selected, behind Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, who is expected to go No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and BYU's Zach Wilson, who Kiper has the Atlanta Falcons taking at No. 4.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers