Even before he transferred to the West Virginia Mountaineers, linebacker Tony Fields II was a rising NFL Draft prospect. Now, the issue is simply where his valuation lies. Fields has been one of the nations’ top producers at the linebacker position. However, in his projection to the NFL, other more nuanced factors come into play.
Tony Fields II NFL Draft Profile & Senior Bowl Measurements
- Position: Linebacker
- School: West Virginia
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 222 pounds
- Wingspan: 76″
- Arm: 30 3/4″
- Hand: 9″
Opportunistic prospects always have fans in the NFL Draft scouting process, and Tony Fields is no different. He produced quickly at the collegiate level, despite not being rated as a top prospect. In the 2017 recruiting class, Fields was a three-star recruit out of Las Vegas, Nevada. In his final season, he was a team captain and played both wide receiver and linebacker.
Despite his success, Fields was outside the Top 500 on 247 Sports’ board, and he was also barely inside the top ten in his own state. Nevertheless, Fields received a good amount of interest in the western region. He had offers from BYU, Oregon State, Washington State, Missouri, and San Diego State. However, an early offer from Arizona carried the most precedence, and Fields ended up committing to the Wildcats.
Tony Fields’ journey to becoming a West Virginia linebacker
Normally, it takes prospects time to develop. Fields, however, had his most statistically dominant season in his first year. As a true freshman in 2017, Fields put up 104 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, an interception, and a pass deflection. For his early explosion, Fields earned freshman All-American honors and put himself on the map right away as a future NFL Draft standout.
Through the next two seasons, Fields maintained his role as an impact starter for Kevin Sumlin’s squad. Over that span, Fields amassed 183 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception, three pass deflections, and a forced fumble. Fields’ career set him up for an illustrious conclusion as a senior in 2020. But the three-year starter instead chose to enter the transfer portal as a graduate transfer, seeking a change of scenery for his final campaign.
Fields’ lone season with the West Virginia Mountaineers
After careful consideration, Fields, now a coveted linebacker, chose to transfer to West Virginia for his senior year. He filled an immediate need for the Mountaineers and flourished amidst uncertainty in the 2020 season. Across nine games, Fields registered 88 total tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, one interception, and two pass deflections.
Fields ended his career with recognition, just as he started it. He was named the Defensive Newcomer of the Year in the Big 12 conference, and he also earned first-team All-Big 12 honors at linebacker, alongside Garret Wallow and Mike Rose. Fields chose to opt out of his bowl game in preparation for the NFL Draft and accepted an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Analyzing Tony Fields’ NFL Draft profile
His 375 total tackles in four years will imply this, but Tony Fields II plays with his hair on fire. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker is incredibly urgent and sudden, bringing great energy to the field. He couples that energy with stellar straight-line athleticism.
Fields brings exceptional explosiveness when moving vertically, and he also has enough speed to cover the field from end-to-end. He’s not a burner, but his short-area burst allows him to traverse his zone rather quickly, and it also gives him pass rushing upside.
Fields also brings great flexibility and recovery athleticism, which is important. Fields’ size, as we’ll get into in a moment, doesn’t do him a lot of favors. But with his flexibility in close quarters, Fields can duck blockers and evade opponents who seek to neutralize him. At the contact point, he’s fairly reliable when it comes to wrapping his man up and bringing him to the turf. Fields also brings a good amount of physicality, which allows him to maximize his chances at taking players down.
In addition to his athleticism, Fields is also more powerful than his size suggests. He’s still not the strongest player, but even in blocking situations against larger opponents, he has the capacity to break free with his hands. He also brings solid balance to the fold, which helps to supplement his measured play strength.
The West Virginia linebacker still isn’t an ideal player against larger blockers. However, he does possess the skills to deconstruct blocks on occasion. Additionally, he has the burst and lateral athleticism to get back into the play with haste.
What are the concerns with Tony Fields?
In space, Fields brings a lot to like. Unfortunately, his size is a severe limiting factor on his upside. If he can add weight to his frame without sapping his athleticism, it might mitigate that concern. But as of now, Fields is noticeably underweight for NFL competition, and it impacts him in all phases.
In run defense, Fields’ size is most noticeable. He does have the skills to shed off blocks, but more often than not, he struggles to break free right away, sacrificing valuable time and space. Against offensive linemen reaching the second level, this concern is magnified.
In pass defense, Fields doesn’t have the power or length to disrupt players near the line. His length also limits his playmaking capacity at the catch point. And as a pass rusher, he can be handled rather easily if he doesn’t find an open lane.
Fields’ size is the most detrimental quality in his profile, but he also has room to refine his game elsewhere. He’s not always as decisive as he should be in pass defense, and his hip transitions can be somewhat flat-footed. He’s a fairly energetic, instinctive linebacker who has enough explosiveness to provide utility. However, his ceiling will be lowered by his size. He’s not dense or powerful enough to guarantee an every-down future, and his length limits his playmaking upside.
Tony Fields’ best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
In a vacuum, I can see a scenario where Tony Fields is a good middle-round pick. He has some starting potential with his explosiveness and his natural ability at linebacker. However, his size incurs a lot of questions regarding his upside, and in a relatively deep 2021 linebacker class, that will be fairly costly.
Fields seems like a Day 3 pick. Within that range, however, his potential billing is wide-reaching. Fields could be an early Day 3 pick if a team likes his athleticism and production well enough. He could also be a late Day 3 pick if his size remains a concern through offseason testing and the Senior Bowl.
A lot of it is up to Fields to remedy. Can he add weight to his frame? And if not, can he prove that he still has a premier role in waiting at the NFL level? The Senior Bowl will be a big chance for Fields to do just that, against comparable competition.
Which teams might best utilize Fields’ talents?
With his playstyle, Fields generally fits both 3-4 and 4-3 alignments well. However, his size might relegate him to a 4-3 WILL linebacker role at first. On defense, Fields could serve as a rotational contributor early on, with some measured starting potential based on how he develops his frame. Another factor working in Fields’ favor is this: With his range and tackling ability, he could also translate as an exceptional special teams player.
Working as a special teamer with rotational utility, Fields would be a good pick for teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, and Green Bay Packers. Other teams with a need for depth at the position could do far worse. For now, that’s the role Fields will find at the NFL level. However, if he can prove his limitations are minor in the context of his strengths, he could earn greater volume.