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The 2021 NFL Draft revolves around quarterbacks. Five signal-callers routinely get selected in the top-10 picks of mock drafts, with other names sneaking into the back half of Round 1.
Quarterback-heavy drafts (like 2018) add excitement and the potential for everyone’s favorite football event: trades! Over the past six drafts, seven of 11 trades inside the top 10 involved teams moving up to pick a quarterback. With that stage set, it’s time to examine the teams most likely to move draft picks.
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Likely To Move Down
Atlanta Falcons: Pick 4
Matt Ryan will head into 2021 at the age of 36, and his career twilight is here. That would seem to position the Falcons as a quarterback landing spot. The complicating factor is a recent contract re-negotiation that escalates Ryan’s cap hit — $27 million in 2021 and $48 million in 2022 — should Atlanta move on from him. Selecting a quarterback at pick four would potentially create a messy situation, forcing the Falcons to sit their selection for two seasons or replace their former franchise MVP. Not ideal.
The fourth overall pick holds tremendous value. Assuming the draft falls in line with projections, two of Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Mac Jones will be available. Fields and Lance would project to be the first quarterback off the board in many draft classes. Both feature athletic traits the league craves in top quarterbacks and fit recent positional trends.
Several QB-desperate teams litter the board between picks No. 9 and 20. When a potential franchise QB is available, not actively shopping the pick is franchise mismanagement.
Miami Dolphins: Pick 6
Ian Rapoport made waves Monday by reporting that the Dolphins had begun receiving trade calls from teams looking to move up to pick 6. The Dolphins have been the most active team in trade conversations, already shuffling from pick three to 12 to six.
The sixth pick could hold extra value if four quarterbacks go in the top five. The clock would be ticking for teams to land the last top-tier QB. The Dolphins have quickly rebuilt their roster, and their lack of glaring holes — combined with extensive draft capital — allows them the luxury of selling this pick to the highest bidder.
Likely To Move Up
Denver Broncos: Pick 9
The Broncos have insisted they are comfortable with Drew Lock as their starting quarterback throughout the offseason. It’s not unlike insisting you are fine driving a family sedan. Given the lack of alternative options, you can find comfort in what you have. But the moment a sports car shows up, the sedan is gone.
The question remains, are the Broncos keeping their cards close to their chest, or is Lock the QB of the present and future?
According to draft value charts, they would be the team most well-positioned to jump up. According to Pro Football Reference’s draft value chart, the difference between picks six and nine is roughly Denver’s pick 71 in the third round. If the Broncos wanted to jump to pick No. 4, they could hypothetically accomplish it with the 40th pick.
The ninth pick could hold extra appeal because Atlanta or Miami can still walk away with an elite prospect. Tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, and tackles Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater are currently projected to go in this area and represent the best in the class. Either team moving down to pick nine could still snag a player they are considering at their current draft position while accumulating additional draft capital. Moving down, remaining within a tier, and earning additional draft capital represents every GM’s dream scenario.
New England Patriots: Pick 15
Cue The Imperial March now. When the Patriots re-signed Cam Newton at the beginning of free agency, the move received heavy skepticism. However, the team now finds itself able to make an aggressive move up the board and secure its future. With the trade between San Francisco and Miami as an outline, the move would be costly. The Dolphins received a third-round pick in addition to firsts in 2022 and 2023. New England’s selection at 15 does not enjoy the allure of offering a top-tier player like Denver’s first-round pick.
New England does offer an interesting situation for a young quarterback. The Patriots will return several key defensive players from opt-outs and were the most aggressive team during free agency. They may provide the most advantageous position for a young quarterback, given Coach Bill Belichick’s standing with the team and the ability to gradually transition from Newton. If the defense returns to its early-season dominance of 2019, a young QB can grow into the role without facing overwhelming expectations.
Chicago Bears: Pick 20
The Bears have aggressively pursued quarterbacks throughout the off-season. Rumors swirled of an offer, including multiple first-round picks, for Russell Wilson. We can feel comfortable declaring Wilson will not suit up in Chicago this season. However, indications show that despite adding Andy Dalton, the Bears are not satisfied.
Chicago represents an intriguing juxtaposition. General manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy have faced an increasingly hot seat, as their tenure has yielded nothing beyond early playoff losses. They have shown a rumored willingness to offer uncertain future picks to solve the position and reset the clock on their tenures. Yet it’s fair to question if ownership would sign off on this duo making such an aggressive move up the board.
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