Three teams took a blowtorch to everybody’s mock drafts on Friday. Here are nine takeaways on how the trades will affect Sam Darnold, Terry Fontenot, and everyone else involved.
Groups casually dropped the most substantial trade of the 2021 season (and possibly beyond) onto the NFL landscape Friday. As initially reported by Adam Schefter, the San Francisco 49ers are shipping the No. 12 picks, their third-round choice in 2021, and their first-round options in 2022 and 2023 to Miami for the No. 3 choices, most likely to prepare among the top 3 passers in next month’s draft.
In that offer, the Eagles sent their No. 6 choices and a fifth-round pick this year to Miami, in exchange for said 49ers No. 12 picks, a fourth-round pick, and a 2022 first-round choice. For an amateur couple who have never seen the movie Draft Day and felt the thrill of a tidal wave of draft trades, including a considerable number of first-round picks, this may feel a little frustrating.
Still, from an administrative perspective, Dolphins GM Chris Grier has turned Laremy Tunsil, a player who stumbled to them in the 2016 draft due to a safe video of him smoking what appeared to be marijuana seemed the day of the draft, into four first-round draft choices. A player they would have likely taken with the No. 3 selects anyway; however, they now have an extra first-round pick’s worth of compensation.
The Dolphins dealt out of quarterback variety (the leading four choices) on Friday, implying they will not be importing any more severe competition for the 2020 No. 5 choices than Jacoby Brissett. The mad rush to gate crash the top four on Friday speaks with the growing consensus that this year’s quarterback class is an elite one. Essentially, Kyle Shanahan traded a king’s ransom for the right to select the third-best quarterback in the class. It was thought to be whomever they have ranked initially after Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson (as pal Dan Graziano noted, Shanahan’s previous protective coordinator, Robert Saleh, is the head coach of the Jets, so Shanahan likely understands what they’re finishing with the No. 2 choices). This is a significant bet on Tagovailoa, who flashed upside in 2015 but watched out of his component at other times. He finished the season in Mitch Trubisky/Gardner Minshew territory in terms of DVOA. A composite of his completion percentage above expectation and expected points added per breeze were also amongst the worst in the league in 2015, albeit with an underwhelming set of weapons at his disposal. This brings us to our next point.
Assuming choices one to 3 are quarterbacks, the draft intrigue starts with the Falcons picking fourth. New head coach Arthur Smith and GM Terry Fontenot have been on hand to see a couple of quarterback pro days so far, implying that they could be in the market for a Matt Ryan successor (or, at the least, they’re setting up an excellent smokescreen). Regardless, Atlanta is most likely not in the market for what would be its third elite wideout, with many other pressing roster requirements.
The Bengals, having just lost A.J. Green, might, in theory, be in line for a pass receiver at No. 5. Still, their inability to bolster their offensive line substantially this offseason might point them in the direction of a top offensive take on.
In any case, a broad receiver class that many are considering generational (or maybe a little over-saturated) indicates a leading wideout will fall straight into the Dolphins’ lap at No. 6.
As a follow-up to breaking trade news, Schefter noted via a 49ers source that Garoppolo is still San Francisco’s “guy” this year. It would not be outside the world of possibility to see the 49ers use their former franchise quarterback as a bridge quarterback. Nevertheless, with a few teams still desperate for veteran upgrades, they’d be losing out on a valuable opportunity to mitigate a few of the draft capital losses they just sustained. I think we’re all looking at his former group here, as the Patriots have Cam Newton on the lineup making less than some quality backups. Garoppolo has kept an excellent relationship with his first head coach and former offensive coordinator, neither of whom seemed thinking about handling him in the first place.
Of course, San Francisco repeating self-confidence in Garoppolo now could be theater. The 49ers know there is a veteran carousel still spinning, and they wish to net something as great, if not better, than their initial second-round pick financial investment for Jimmy G in 2017.
Why didn’t the 49ers trade up to No. 2 to get the best non-Trevor Lawrence quarterback? Because the Jets stated no, probably. And if the Jets said no, they most likely did so since they’d like the best-non Trevor Lawrence quarterback. GM Joe Douglas has done an exceptional task being transparent this offseason, noting that he’d take a look at all options before deciding on Darnold, the previous No. 3 choices of an earlier routine. Douglas is not beholden to the last USC item and has the versatility to construct the lineup as he sees fit.
While the Jets could still theoretically deal with the No. 2 choices and are waiting out a much better deal (much better than three first-round picks), it seems like they are leaning in the direction of picking their next quarterback at No. 2.
There are thought to be four good-to-great quarterbacks in this draft, which suggests the Falcons’ new GM is sitting in an exciting location. The draft essentially begins with him, as we noted above, and if the Falcons don’t want a quarterback (Ryan is 36, with more than $40 million in dead cash up until the 2023 season), they could net a healthy return for the No. 4 picks.
Unless the Jets are holding out for a more substantial ransom for the second choice or are comfortable with Darnold as the quarterback of the future, No. 4 is the only location left to get a quality passer in this draft. Would Atlanta deal the No. 4 picks to a department rival, which would appear highly not likely? May Denver be the clubhouse leader to jump up, provided that they’re already at pick No. 9?
I took a sledgehammer to the Eagles after their fine-season-ending tank task. Why would a team risk alienating its core veterans and lose a video game to go up three areas in a deep NFL draft class? This is why. It’s tough to imagine Howie Roseman was playing 3D chess and knew of this deal the entire time, but the Eagles netted an additional first-round choice by losing that game and dropping three spots. There is more.
By dropping out of the top 10, the Eagles have almost ensured they would not be choosing a replacement QB in 2021, indicating Jalen Harms will get this coming season to prove his worth as a full-time starter under new head coach Nick Sirianni. Injuries need to be hoping for two things: One, he plays well enough to do the job again in 2022. 2 that Carson Wentz is successful in Indianapolis. Keep in mind, if Wentz plays more than 75% of Indianapolis’s snaps, the conditional second-round choice he was dealt for becomes a first-round pick. That would offer Roseman three first-round options (the Eagles’ initial, the Dolphins’ and the Colts’). Roseman wins in either case, as this haul would theoretically suffice to jump to No. 1 if they aren’t sitting there already.
Likewise: Roseman is not done yet. Zach Ertz could be on the move, and while he won’t command a first-round choice in return, the exchange will not be unimportant. Watch out on the Expenses and Colts there.
One final fascinating note is that the 49ers have currently taken advantage of the NFL’s brand-new program that nets groups countervailing draft choices if a member of the coaching staff or an executive from a marginalized group gets hired, primary supervisor or head coach. With Robert Saleh’s transfer to the Jets, San Francisco got additional trade capital to play within 2021, which they used majorly.
It’s motivating for the league if this concrete incentive encourages more groups to hire and establish more varied skills on their staff.