With the Jets trading Sam Darnold to the Panthers on Monday, and the 49ers trading a king’s ransom in draft capital to move up to the third overall pick, it’s pretty easy to see that the first three picks in the 2021 NFL draft will go QB-QB-QB. Of course, we don’t know who those quarterbacks will be; even Urban Meyer could shock us by taking someone other than Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick.
(Spoiler: This will not happen).
That leaves the Jets with the second overall pick and fully open for business at the game’s most important position. And it’s highly unlikely that the 49ers would trade their first-round picks in the 2022 and 2023 drafts for any other position.
So, the Falcons, who have the fourth overall pick as it stands now, are next to be discussed. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, several teams have talked to the Falcons about trading up to that fourth pick. Of course, that happens all the time pre-draft, but it’s an interesting exercise to think about which teams are most likely to jump up in the draft — most likely to pick another quarterback, which would create a new precedent in pro football history, as quarterbacks have never gone with the first four overall picks.
Let’s say the first three picks are Lawrence to the Jaguars at 1, BYU’s Zach Wilson to the Jets at 2, and either North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Ohio State’s Justin Fields to San Francisco at 3. That leaves a couple of legitimate first-round prospects in whichever quarterback is left between Lance and Fields, and Alabama’s Mac Jones — who I do not believe for one second is the guy Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch moved up to take.
Assuming the Falcons believe they have a couple more years with Matt Ryan, which teams are looking to make draft history, and perhaps get their next franchise quarterback? Here are a few likely suitors.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
The Lions picked up the Rams’ first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, as well as a 2021 third-round pick in the Matthew Stafford trade that also netted Detroit Jared Goff. And if you think that Goff is a franchise quarterback on the Stafford level… well, he’s not, and my guess is, the Lions are well aware of that. Goff is their bridge, and if head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes want to grab the guy at the end of the bridge sooner than later, the time might be now, as they have those future first-round picks (as well as the seventh and 43rd overall picks in the 2021 draft) to deal.
(Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
Here’s where it gets interesting. First, the Dolphins moved back to San Francisco’s 12th pick, giving up their third overall pick for San Francisco’s first- and third-round picks in 2022, and their first-round pick in 2023. This leaves general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores with all kinds of options, even after trading their 2022 first-round pick to the Eagles to move from 12th to sixth. Now, the Dolphins could stand pat, watch the quarterbacks come off the board in aforementioned historic fashion, and put their faith in second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. There are certainly worse ways to go. But if Grier and Flores see their quarterback hanging out at 4, they certainly have the juice to move back up.
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The Broncos overhauled their cornerback room in free agency to great effect, and they’re pretty loaded across the board — except at the quarterback position, where Drew Lock has created more questions than answers over his first two seasons. With new general manager George Paton on board, and John Elway taking more of an advisory role, it might be time for the Broncos to stop striking out at this position as they have ever since Peyton Manning retired. Denver doesn’t have the same obvious capital as other teams in multiple first-round picks in a single year, but they could offer this year’s ninth overall pick, as well as this year’s 40th or 71st overall picks, and first-round picks in future years.
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Trading down to 12 puts the Eagles out of the top quarterback sweepstakes without a surprise fall from one of the Big Five, or a trade back up. Which general manager Howie Roseman and new head coach Nick Sirianni could do, if they’re not of the opinion that Jalen Hurts is their immediate future at quarterback. They also have the 37th and 70th picks in the 2021 draft, as well as the extra first-round pick they got from the Dolphins when the Dolphins wanted to trade back up. Or, they could sit there at 12 and get a serious weapon for Hurts, or Jason Peters’ successor in Rashawn Slater or Christian Darrisaw if everything works out.
New England Patriots
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The Patriots did a lot in free agency to augment a receiver/tight end group that did Tom Brady no favors in 2019, and did Cam Newton even fewer favors in 2020. With the additions of tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, and receiver Nelson Agholor, New England now has the pieces to run the passing game the way Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would seem to prefer. But is Cam Newton the quarterback to control those pieces? Newton re-signed on a one-year deal with $5 million in base salary and about $9 million in incentives, which is a commitment of sorts. Though he’s known more for trading down in the draft, Belichick has traded up four times in his time in Foxboro. Could he do it again to land his ideal quarterback? The Patriots have the 15th overall pick in the 2021 draft, as well as the 46th and 97th picks, so there would have to be a first-round haul in future years.
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The Bears continued an organizational quarterback purgatory that has gone on since World War II by signing Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million contract, and assurance that Dalton will be the team’s 2021 starter. Dalton is a safe-as-milk choice, and he’s not a long-term solution by any means. So, would general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy, who have been living on the hot seat of late, make a bold move to get their next franchise quarterback? There are two issues with this approach. First, Pace was the guy who traded up in the 2017 draft to select Mitchell Trubisky second overall. He may not be who you want on that wall. Second, as PFF’s Brad Spielberger points out, trying to move up in a major way with the 20th overall pick would exact a dear price. https://twitter.com/PFF_Brad/status/1379461393951432704 On the other hand, deadlines spur action… and Pace is very much on the clock right now.
Washington Football Team
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The Dwayne Haskins Experience came to an unmerciful end less than two years in, which means that the WFT is now in need of a franchise guy — which Haskins never was, despite his status as the 15th overall pick in 2019. They signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to an Andy Dalton Special (a one-year, $10 million contract), and Fitzpatrick projects perfectly as a bridge guy who can work in any offense and is more than willing to mentor his eventual successor. The problem is the same problem the Bears have — Washington has the 19th overall pick, and it would take a major haul to get to No. 4. Still, this is a team with a top-three defense, and if they believe they’re a franchise quarterback away from greatness (which could be true in their case), maybe they go all in.