2021 N.F.L. Draft: Trades Hint at Team Needs
The top of the N.F.L. draft quaked late last month when the Miami Dolphins, the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles swung what amounted to a three-team trade. The bottom of it shuddered on Friday when the Baltimore Ravens acquired another first-round pick.
In March, the Dolphins sent the No. 3 pick in the draft to San Francisco for the No. 12 pick this year, first- and third-round picks in 2022 and a first-round pick in 2023. Then they shipped the No. 12 pick and a fourth-rounder this year and a first-rounder in 2022 to the Eagles, who gave Miami the No. 6 pick and a fifth-round selection.
Those teams have not tipped off their draft targets — though 49ers Coach Kyle Shanahan faces questions nearly every day about his team’s quarterback position — but here are their needs ahead of Thursday night’s first round:
No. 3 Pick: San Francisco 49ers (From Miami)
With Jacksonville set to pick Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 and the Jets most likely taking Zach Wilson at No. 2, this is where the draft begins and where all the speculation finally, mercifully, ceases. After trading with the Dolphins to move up nine spots last month, the 49ers are taking a quarterback to sit behind, or supplant, Jimmy Garoppolo this year. Their choice will reveal much about Kyle Shanahan’s vision.
Does he value an accurate, mechanically sound pocket passer who can execute a scheme designed to yield completions and yards after receptions? If so, come on down, Mac Jones of Alabama.
But after watching Patrick Mahomes toast the 49ers in the Super Bowl to cap the 2019 season and seeing Josh Allen shred them in Week 13 last season, Shanahan could be craving a mobile quarterback. He has Justin Fields of Ohio State and Trey Lance of North Dakota State to choose between. That decision will fling the rest of the top 10 into chaos.
No. 6 Pick: Miami Dolphins (From Philadelphia)
The Dolphins want to put quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in a better position for success in his second N.F.L. season. Their trades with Philadelphia and San Francisco guarantee that they can do so with the sixth overall pick, where at least one receiver among Ja’Marr Chase of Louisiana State and Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith of Alabama, or the unicorn tight end Kyle Pitts of Florida, will be available. Offensive tackle Penei Sewell of Oregon could also be available.
Miami is picking here because a video surfaced minutes before the 2016 draft of the offensive tackle prospect Laremy Tunsil wearing a gas mask and appearing to smoke marijuana through a bong. To explain: Because of the video, Tunsil was selected at No. 13, lower than expected, by Miami. After developing him into one of the league’s best tackles, the Dolphins, as they stripped their roster for a rebuild, were able to trade a package that included him to the Houston Texans in 2019 for a package that included three draft picks, including the third pick in this year’s draft.
No. 12 Pick: Philadelphia Eagles (From Miami, via San Francisco)
By trading back from the sixth pick and obtaining a 2022 first-round pick in the process, the Eagles signaled that they would replenish their aging roster under their new coach, Nick Sirianni. The move collects a raft of picks for 2022, when, hopefully, the college football schedule returns to normal and teams can better evaluate prospects.
Maybe most important to Eagles fans, it confirmed that Philadelphia was not interested in selecting a quarterback high or displacing Jalen Hurts — at least not this year. With two first-round picks in 2022, and possibly a third if Carson Wentz reaches playing time benchmarks in Indianapolis, the Eagles are positioned to acquire a quarterback next off-season if Hurts flops.
As for this year, the Eagles need receivers and upgrades at a lot of other positions. If Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith from Alabama is available, General Manager Howie Roseman may be tempted. If neither is, and if he doesn’t like the talent at another need position (like, say, cornerback), he might just trade out again.
No. 31 Pick: Baltimore Ravens (From Kansas City)
The Ravens on Friday traded a player at a premium position, the Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown, to Kansas City for this pick and others. It might have seemed peculiar, helping the best team in the conference get better at protecting Patrick Mahomes’s blind side, but Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta values draft choices. For unloading Brown, he got three others spread across the next two years.
Baltimore, which also picks at No. 27, now has options, either to trade up, to bolster its receiving corps or to improve a pass rush that lost the free-agent defensive end Matt Judon to New England in the off-season.
Full 2021 N.F.L. Draft Order
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. New York Jets
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Cincinnati Bengals
6. Miami Dolphins
7. Detroit Lions
8. Carolina Panthers
9. Denver Broncos
10. Dallas Cowboys
11. New York Giants
12. Philadelphia Eagles
13. Los Angeles Chargers
14. Minnesota Vikings
15. New England Patriots
16. Arizona Cardinals
17. Las Vegas Raiders
18. Miami Dolphins
19. Washington Football Team
20. Chicago Bears
21. Indianapolis Colts
22. Tennessee Titans
23. New York Jets
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
25. Jacksonville Jaguars
26. Cleveland Browns
27. Baltimore Ravens
28. New Orleans Saints
29. Green Bay Packers
30. Buffalo Bills
31. Baltimore Ravens
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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