2021 NFL Draft Burning Questions: Mac Jones, Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
With just two weeks until the 2021 NFL Draft, we know three things for certain: the Jacksonville Jaguars are taking Trevor Lawrence, the New York Jets are drafting a quarterback (most likely Zach Wilson), and the San Francisco 49ers are taking a quarterback after trading up for the 3rd overall pick.
After those three truths, we’re left with a bunch of unknowns. But that’s what makes the draft suspenseful and exciting, right? Here are my four biggest questions as we inch closer to draft day.
1. Are the 49ers really taking Mac Jones 3rd overall?
When the 49ers made a move to trade up, the immediate speculation suggested it was to pick Alabama prospect Mac Jones, who has been arguably the biggest riser in this draft class since last August.
Snippet of audio from the DiPietro, Canty & Rothenberg show this morning
Adam confidently proclaims Mac will be the pick, then details the 49ers plans pic.twitter.com/zRNUaCLak4
— Anthony Amico (@amicsta) April 6, 2021
But since then, Schefter has backed off this proclamation, suggesting that the 49ers are coming into the draft liking all three of the quarterbacks who will likely be left on the board come pick number three.
Personally, I view Justin Fields as a more talented prospect than Jones, and I think his mobility could be a bonus in Shanahan’s horizontal passing game.
So, that begs the question: is this all just a smokescreen concocted by Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch? It wouldn’t stun me.
2. What do the Atlanta Falcons do?
In my first burning questions piece, I wrote that the draft really starts with the Jets at No. 2 overall. But now that we know the Jets and 49ers are taking a QB, the draft really begins with Atlanta, who holds the fourth overall pick.
The Falcons have a variety of options and plenty of needs on both sides of the ball. They could draft their quarterback of the future as Matt Ryan’s career comes to a close. They could add another weapon to their offense, such as Kyle Pitts. They could take the best defensive player on their draft board. Or they could see what’s behind Door #4 and trade down with a team that’s desperate to land a rookie passer.
Atlanta’s decision will determine how the rest of their draft shakes out. Personally, I think their new leadership elects to trade back, compile picks and try to address as many holes as possible. Ryan is under contract through the 2023 season and basically can’t be released unless Atlanta wants to pay an exorbitant amount in dead cap space. That makes it harder to draft a top passer in this year’s draft.
3. Where does Kyle Pitts land?
It seems likely that Pitts will be the first non-QB taken in this year’s draft. At the very least, he has a good chance to be the first skill position player taken in the draft. The question is, where does he end up?
My guess is he goes no later than 8th overall. While tight end is a risky position to spend a top 10 pick on, Pitts is a generational talent. He possesses elite size and athleticism for the position and should be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Carolina all could use another playmaker. I expect him to go 5th overall to Cincinnati, assuming Atlanta trades back. The smart move for the Bengals would be to bolster the offensive line and take Oregon tackle, Penei Sewell. But giving Joe Burrow a potentially transcendent weapon wouldn’t be a bad move either.
4. Which team makes an aggressive move for a quarterback?
There will most likely be five quarterbacks taken in the first round: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance. It won’t stun me if all five of those QBs are off the board within the first 10 picks.
Teams will probably have to get aggressive if they want to land one of these potential franchise quarterbacks. And there are four to keep an eye on: Denver, New England, Washington, and Chicago.
The most desperate teams appear to be New England and Chicago. The Patriots can’t expect to make the playoffs running it back with Cam Newton. And the Bears are an organization in shambles with a general manager and head coach fighting to keep their jobs at all costs. Meanwhile, Denver seems likely to give Drew Lock another year (good luck), while Washington might wait until Day 2 to find a prospect.
Regardless, I suspect at least one of these teams to make a move as the elite prospects start going off the board. If I had to guess, I expect New England to trade into the top 10 to land whoever’s left of Fields, Lance, and Jones.
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