The Super Bowl may be over, but the fun is just beginning. Even though it's draft season all year long for us at The Draft Network, now that the final NFL game has been played, it's time for the rest of football fans to play catch up and start to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
This upcoming draft will be one of the most unique and suspenseful drafts we have ever seen. With COVID-19 completely changing the way evaluators evaluated talent this fall, as well as players opting out and seasons being canceled or shortened, we should expect a lot of difference in opinions around some of the top prospects throughout NFL front offices. Even for us in the media, our access to sources and teams has never been smaller as networking events such as the Senior Bowl or NFL Scouting Combine had either limited access or were canceled altogether due to COVID-19 safety protocols. This year, more than any other, will be strictly about watching tape and forming your own opinion about a player, rather than speaking with friends and colleagues and falling into the groupthink trap.
One of the draft’s most compelling storylines is where will the big four quarterbacks end up being drafted and by which teams. We know that Trevor Lawrence will be going to Jacksonville with the first overall pick, but we still have a lot of questions about where the likes of Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance will be playing football next season. The demand for these three players will be extremely high, and with so many teams at the top of the draft needing quarterbacks, it would be a major surprise to see any of these players available after pick No. 12. As a matter of fact, the demand is so high for a franchise quarterback, we could see teams that are picking well outside the top 10 like Chicago, Indianapolis, or Washington look to trade up in the draft and select one of these quarterbacks.
That’s the part of the conversation we always talk about: which team wants to trade up? What seems to be forgotten, however, is for a trade to work you must have a team that’s willing to trade down, otherwise the team wanting to trade up will be out of luck.
A team may want to trade down if the players at the top of their board are no longer available and the next best player isn’t valued at where they are picking. In this scenario, it would be wise for the team to acquire extra picks and move down the board so they can get good value when selecting a player instead of reaching for a guy just because he is the top player on their board. With so many teams expected to want to trade up this year, whether it be for one of the quarterbacks or another player, there must be teams that would be willing to move down otherwise all the trade-up talk is meaningless. I believe there will be plenty of trades in the first round of this year’s draft and a trade down could make sense for these five teams.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (NO. 3 OVERALL)
With the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets both expected to pick quarterbacks with the first and second overall picks, the draft really begins to get interesting here with the Miami Dolphins' pick at No. 3. If Miami is unable to acquire Deshaun Watson this offseason, it is widely expected that they will run it back with last year’s No. 5 overall pick Tua Tagovailoa—meaning they will bypass a quarterback with the third overall selection. If that’s the case, then under no circumstances should the Dolphins make a pick here, and they should be actively looking to move down and acquire more draft capital. With so many teams needing quarterbacks in the top 10, I doubt Miami will have a hard time finding a trade partner. Miami being able to acquire more picks in either this year’s draft or next year's will allow head coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier to be flexible as they continue to build this football team.
ATLANTA FALCONS (NO. 4 OVERALL)
New general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith will have quite the decision here with the No. 4 overall pick. Even if three quarterbacks go ahead of them, they will still have the opportunity to draft the fourth one—and with there being such a variety of opinions in regard to these three quarterbacks, the Falcons' top guy could easily be sitting there at four. It then becomes a question of is now the right time to acquire the team’s quarterback of the future? I’m torn here. I’m always of the belief that if you are drafting this high and you think you may need a new franchise quarterback in the next three years or so, take the guy and figure out the rest later because you never know when you’ll be picking this high again. However, in this situation, I could see the Falcons opting to not draft a quarterback and look to find ways to improve this football team and get back in the playoffs. I wouldn’t fault the Falcons' brass if they elected to go that route. This team still has Matt Ryan, who is still a high-level quarterback, and they have talented pass-catchers for him to throw to. If the Falcons add more talent along their offensive line and defense, then this team can certainly be back in playoff contention next season. Trading back from No. 4 would be wise if the team decides to not take a quarterback, as they can acquire more picks while still being able to draft talented players later in the first or second rounds.
DETROIT LIONS (NO. 7 OVERALL)
Detroit finds itself in an interesting position here. This team desperately needs to add talent all throughout this roster, so sticking and picking at No. 7 wouldn’t be a bad move by any means. That being said, if a quarterback is there at seven, and the Lions aren’t in love with him, they have no pressure to select him as they acquired Jared Goff to be their quarterback for at least the next two seasons. Trading back in the first round with a quarterback-needy team and picking up an extra first-round pick next season could make a ton of sense for this franchise, as it will then give the team three first-round selections next year in 2022 and will put them in a great spot to be aggressive in getting a top quarterback then. For a team that has clearly committed to a long-term rebuild, a trade back just makes too much sense to me.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (NO. 14 OVERALL)
The Vikings are one of the most difficult teams to pick for when I do my three-round mock drafts for TDN. They need help on both sides of the trenches, specifically in the interior, an area where this draft is lacking top blue-chip talent. Instead of picking a Kwity Paye or a Christian Darrisaw at No. 14, I could see this team looking to trade back, picking up additional picks, and then drafting a guy like Christian Barmore or Wyatt Davis later in round one or early in round two. It is also important to know that this team currently doesn’t have a second-round pick because they traded it to the Jaguars for Yannick Ngakoue, so adding more picks could be a priority for the Vikings.
BUFFALO BILLS (NO. 30 OVERALL)
Every year when we get toward the end of the first round, we hear about how there could be some teams that are looking to trade back up late in the first round to pick a quarterback so they get that fifth-year option. We saw the Ravens do this when they traded back into round one and selected Lamar Jackson at pick No. 32 in 2018 and when the Minnesota Vikings traded back into the first round to select Teddy Bridgewater at pick No. 32 in 2014. Could we see a team try and do the same with, say, Alabama’s Mac Jones? It’s certainly possible, and I believe the Bills would make a lot of sense as a team late in the draft that would want to move back. The Bills are going to make Josh Allen a very rich man this offseason when they give him a new well-earned extension, and by doing so, it makes hitting on draft picks even more important as so much of their cap space will be allocated to their quarterback. Trading back and acquiring an extra second and a fourth would give general manager Brandon Beane two more at-bats when it comes to finding young cost-effective players as they enter their Super Bowl window with Josh Allen about to enter his prime.
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022