It is a thriller wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma. It is the 2021 NFL Draft.
If NFL Mock Drafts have taught us something yr in and yr out, it is this: No one is aware of something. Even one of the best NFL Draft analysts generally tend to overlook on picks, and that is completely high-quality. It is all a guessing recreation, in spite of everything.
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This yr, although, it appears to be extra huge open than drafts previous. With an odd faculty soccer season that unfolded in 2020 throwing a monkey wrench into scouting, with gamers opting out and faculties taking part in modified schedules, NFL entrance places of work have doubtless been via a more durable time to guage prospects heading into Thursday. Sprinkle in that there was no NFL Mix and face-to-face interplay with prospects was at an all-time low, and you have a recipe for chaos.
Whereas the top-five quarterbacks are the speak of the city heading into this yr’s first spherical, there are many different questions which have but to be answered forward of April 29.
Listed here are a few of the most fascinating.
Who will the 49ers draft?
The 49ers made the primary main transfer of the 2021 NFL Draft cycle, sending the Dolphins two future first-round picks to leap from No. 12 to No. 3 (thanks, Houston). Make no mistake: The 49ers traded as much as take a quarterback, since you do not spend that a lot future draft capital if it is not for a quarterback.
However which quarterback? Rumors have urged that Kyle Shanahan loves Alabama’s Mac Jones at No. 3, whereas the 49ers’ personnel division appears to be scorching on Trey Lance.
The Jones stuff is, by far, probably the most fascinating factor to return out of the rumors this offseason: Shanahan has labored effectively with pocket passers in years previous (Kirk Cousins with Washington, Matt Ryan with Atlanta, Jimmy Garoppolo with San Francisco), so opting to take one other acquainted talent set in Jones is smart.
Lance’s pure bodily attributes coupled along with his age make him a house run of a decide ought to he pan out. Whereas Lance opted out of the 2020 faculty soccer season, his 2019 tape might be extra of a inform than something.
Who will the Patriots draft?
It is the Patriot option to enter the draft with nobody having any concept what Invoice Belichick is considering.
One of many newest rumors signifies that New England might be fascinated by Florida QB Kyle Trask. Different stories counsel that the Patriots want to make a transfer into the highest 10, presumably to take a passer excessive.
Whereas the Patriots might be set at quarterback for 2021 with Cam Newton again for yet another yr, there is not any scarcity of choices for New England within the draft. The group’s big-time free-agency interval dictates that Belichick will probably be going for it now, that means the Pats won’t look to a future QB till the 2022 draft, which might be one thing of a left flip heading into this yr’s draft.
In any case, the Patriots are within the candy spot: They’ll commerce as much as give a rebuilding group a bit extra draft capital within the subsequent yr and get themselves a quarterback or sit the place they’re and easily take one of the best participant accessible.
We’ll see what Nike does on Thursday.
Who will draft Justin Fields?
Justin Fields went from consensus No. 2 total QB within the draft earlier than the beginning of the 2020 faculty soccer season to some questioning whether or not he’ll be a top-10 decide this yr.
Regardless of the case could also be, the thought of Fields slipping previous the highest 10 is wholly unfair to him, but it surely’s a query that is going to final heading into Thursday.
With Trevor Lawrence presumably going No. 1 total and the Jets seemingly falling in love with BYU passer Zach Wilson at No. 2, there is not any telling who will choose Fields or the place he’ll fall. If the 49ers determine between Mac Jones and Trey Lance, it is one other touchdown spot off the board. All eyes then flip to the Falcons, who just lately restructured Matt Ryan’s contract, and will go.
Then at No. 5 you could have the Bengals, who will doubtless determine between Penei Sewell and a high offensive weapon for Joe Burrow. The Dolphins at No. 6 appear to be sticking with Tua Tagovailoa and are rumored to commerce down.
May Fields go No. 7 to the Lions? Detroit traded away Matthew Stafford and bought again Jared Goff and future first-rounders, too. It could be untimely to finish the Goff period earlier than it begins. The Panthers at No. 8 may take Fields, if they don’t seem to be a real believer in Sam Darnold’s future in Carolina.
Denver at No. 9 looks like a really real looking choice, assuming that no different groups bounce the Broncos to get him. It is a very actual chance that Fields falls out of the highest 10 — and that will be a rattling disgrace.
The place do the highest two operating backs go?
Alabama’s Najee Harris and Clemson’s Travis Etienne are thought-about to be the highest two operating backs within the 2021 draft — however do not be shocked if neither goes within the first spherical.
- 2015: Melvin Gordon, 82 video games, 57 touchdowns.
- 2015: Todd Gurley, 88 video games, 79 touchdowns.
- 2016: Ezekiel Elliott, 71 video games, 56 touchdowns.
- 2017: Christian McCaffrey, 51 video games, 45 touchdowns.
- 2017: Leonard Fournette, 49 video games, 25 touchdowns.
- 2018: Sony Michel, 38 video games, 15 touchdowns.
- 2018: Rashaad Penny, 27 video games, six touchdowns.
- 2018: Saquon Barkley, 31 video games, 23 touchdowns.
- 2019: Josh Jacobs, 28 video games, 19 touchdowns.
- 2020: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 13 video games, 4 touchdowns.
Clearly, various levels of success tales right here, with Gordon, Gurley and Fournette now not on the groups that drafted them.
operating again can change an offense, however for a way lengthy? There are advantages to taking a operating again within the first spherical, the fifth-year choice chief amongst them; however the fifth-year choice does not matter a lot if guys are beginning to decelerate into 12 months 3 or 4.
Groups have been slowly however absolutely transferring away from drafting first-round operating backs since 2000. There are a minimum of two groups that may use a again towards the again finish of the primary on this yr’s draft — Pittsburgh, Buffalo — and one or each may go that route. It could be a readymade transfer for both group to take a operating again now to assist with offense: The Steelers had been one of many worst speeding offenses in soccer in 2020, whereas the Payments had been decidedly center of the pack.
MORE: 2021 NFL Mock Draft with trades
What is going to the Falcons do?
In the event you consider that Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and one in every of Mac Jones or Trey Lance goes 1-2-3 on this yr’s draft, then the draft actually begins with the Falcons at decide No. 4.
Whereas Atlanta restructured Matt Ryan’s deal to ease the burden of the cap and will look to ship out Julio Jones to assist ease the cap as effectively, there is not any denying that the group will look drastically completely different on offense come the beginning of the 2021 season.
With Arthur Smith taking on, may the group look to the long run and produce within the subsequent era of Falcons passer? At No. 4, there will probably be a minimum of two intriguing quarterback choices accessible, it is simply unsure which two they’re going to be. If rumors and conjecture are to be believed, then each Justin Fields and Trey Lance will probably be there at three, and each will match Smith’s new scheme seamlessly.
Ryan, although, is not precisely previous: He is 35 and has some massive cash left on his deal, which is not the most lovable state of affairs for any NFL group with a brand new head coach on the helm.
There are any variety of instructions the Falcons may go: Possibly they may go along with a quarterback, or perhaps they draft Kyle Pitts to run within the Smith offense, or perhaps they draft a large receiver to mitigate the long run commerce of Jones, or perhaps they commerce down.
With the highest three picks seemingly settled coming into Thursday, all eyes are on the Falcons at No. 4.