The NFL draft order has been reset and Paton’s picking up the pieces.
Filed to ESPN: Dolphins trading No. 3 overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers for the No. 12 pick, a 2021 third-round pick (SF’s comp pick for Robert Saleh hiring) and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, per sources.
Blockbuster deal with massive ramifications for years to come.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 26, 2021
In a corresponding move shortly thereafter, the Dolphins made a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles in order to move back to sixth overall.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) March 26, 2021
The two moves sent a ripple across the NFL and provide clarity for the upcoming Draft. They also directly impact the Broncos.
Here’s what we learned.
Quarterbacks will go 1-2-3 in the NFL Draft
Trevor Lawrence will go first overall and we’ve known it since he was a freshman at Clemson. Urban Meyer left ESPN to become the Head Coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars so he could pick the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck.
There’s been some debate about what the New York Jets would do at two. A deleted tweet by Ian Rapoport suggests it will be Zach Wilson.
Shortly after deleting his first tweet Rapoport reported what he said was a clarification.
One thing is very clear: Zach Wilson will go high in this draft. At No. 2? Very possible. And hard to see anyone having enough ammo to move up. https://t.co/U7gAKiJBhj
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 26, 2021
The 49ers, Jets, Broncos, and others were all at BYU today to see Wilson work out at his Pro Day. The fact John Lynch traded up to three today means he’s either confident Wilson will be available or that he is happy with Wilson or one of Trey Lance, Mac Jones, or Justin Fields. While it is entirely possible Rapoport’s source is the reason he backtracked off the initial report, I would bet money Wilson is headed to New York.
Text from an NFL scout who was at the BYU pro day:
“Draft starts at 3. Wilson going 2.”
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 26, 2021
Atlanta’s Terry Fontenot controls the rookie QB derby
There’s been rampant debate about the quarterback order in this year’s class for months. Most have Lawrence or Wilson as their top quarterback, and Fields, Lance, and Jones in some order to round out the top five. With three of the five set to go 1-2-3 it will probably leave teams desperate to have their chance at the best of the remaining two. Which leads us to the Atlanta Falcons.
This will be Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith’s first draft in Atlanta after spending most of free agency trying to create space under the salary cap. To do so they restructured Matt Ryan’s contract, which makes him nigh uncuttable until 2023. The Falcons currently have just 50 players under contract and $1.2 million in cap space per OvertheCap estimates. Unless they’re comfortable with Ryan as a mentor or expensive backup through 2022, it’s hard to imagine they take a signal caller at four.
If the Falcons don’t trade back or take a non-QB at No. 4, it’d be an egregious misuse of resources.
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) March 26, 2021
Are the Broncos Locked in ‘til 2022?
From his opening press conference onwards George Paton’s said he would look high and low to secure a franchise quarterback. We know the Broncos were engaged in talks to secure Matthew Stafford. Multiple reports have suggested interest between the Broncos and Deshaun Watson.
George Paton said this at his first presser and we still act surprised the Broncos are chasing quarterbacks. pic.twitter.com/5LhV62bksY
— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) March 19, 2021
Stafford’s now a Ram after Los Angeles gave Jared Goff, 2022 and 2023 first round picks, and a third-round pick in 2021 to the Detroit Lions. As I write this there are 16 allegations against Deshaun Watson. At present it does not look like either will be Broncos anytime soon, if ever.
With three quarterbacks set to go in the top three picks, Paton could potentially trade with the Falcons to make history with four. If Atlanta isn’t open to a trade there remains the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, and Detroit Lions. Both the Bengals and Dolphins have young quarterbacks they appear committed to in 2021 while the Lions restructured Goff’s deal, which makes him onerous to move until 2023.
Moving up could be very expensive when you consider the 49ers just gave up three first round picks to move from 12 to three. I expect the Carolina Panthers to chase a quarterback. Teams like the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, and Pittsburgh Steelers also lurk.
With free agency two weeks old the best remaining quarterbacks are Alex Smith and Chase Daniel. I spoke with the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala about Smith in February before his release from the Washington Football Team. He is going to be 37-years old in May and while I think he could be a valuable mentor to Drew Lock, his health is a huge question mark. Daniel is a career backup who has thrown 261 passes in his NFL career.
With the Jets and Niners set to take rookie passers there’s reason to believe both Sam Darnold and Jimmy Garoppolo could be available in a trade. With C.J. Beathard now a Jaguar it looks like Gardner Minshew could also be on the trade market. If the Carolina Panthers take a rookie passer they may be open to trading Teddy Bridgewater.
While it’s entirely possible the Broncos do nothing at quarterback and enter training camp with Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, and Jeff Driskel 1-2-3 on the depth chart, George Paton has mentioned he’ll consider all avenues. I expect a new arm to enter the room.
“We’re monitoring it. We’ve evaluated all the quarterbacks. We like Drew Lock. We have a plan in place and there’s free agency, there’s the draft, there’s trades, there’s a lot of ways to acquire a quarterback. Fortunately, we have a quarterback here and we have a nice quarterback room. We do want to bring in competition. We are not going to force it. We are monitoring the market right now.”