On Friday afternoon, huge news dropped that will send shockwaves throughout the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the San Francisco 49ers are trading up to the third overall pick by sending the Miami Dolphins their 12th overall pick, a 2022 third-round pick, and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023—also known as the Matthew Stafford special.
It’s hard not to read this move as anything other than an aggressive push from the 49ers to grab a quarterback, though it’s unclear which one they may be targeting. By trading up to the third spot, it would suggest they would be happy with a couple of options behind the presumed first overall pick Trevor Lawrence.
But the trades were not done. Just a few moments later, ESPN’s Field Yates reported that the Dolphins jumped right back into the top 10 by taking their new 12th overall pick and jumping up to six—a spot right before the Detroit Lions—by sending the Eagles one of their 2022 first-round picks.
As for the Detroit Lions, while I’m sure they would’ve jumped on an offer like this last year when they failed to field any offers for their third overall pick, this trade could certainly impact what they do this year. Here are four ways in which this trade impacts general manager Brad Holmes and company.
If the Lions want a top-four QB, they’ll likely have to trade up
It seemed like things were trending in this direction, as many mock drafts were starting to have four quarterbacks taken in the top five, but that is starting to seem like a certainty now. Here are the top four picks and each team’s current “starting quarterback.”
- Jaguars — Gardner Minshew
- Jets — Sam Darnold
- 49ers — Jimmy Garoppolo
- Falcons — Matt Ryan
At this point, those first three teams seem locked into a quarterback, even if reports out there suggest the 49ers have no interest in trading Garoppolo. As for the Falcons and Matt Ryan, there’s a new coaching staff and general manager in town, and while they have shown a certain level of commitment in Ryan with a contract restructure this offseason, they could easily part ways after two more seasons.
Plus, with the Dolphins now back ahead of the Lions with the sixth overall pick, it’s still certainly possible Miami is looking to upgrade Tua Tagovailoa after a disappointing rookie season.
QB-hungry teams in the 10-20 range could still come calling to Detroit
If those quarterbacks come off the board quickly, there’s a chance a fifth quarterback could slide into the top 10. The Carolina Panthers, who hold the pick right after the Lions, have not kept it a secret that they’re looking to upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater.
All it takes is one team—be it the Patriots (pick 14), Raiders (17), or even the Eagles (12)—to fall in love with Mac Jones. The quick run of quarterbacks could make a team get desperate and aggressive, and the Lions would be in a good spot to take advantage.
There is precedent for this sort of thing. Go back to the 2011 draft. With the eighth overall pick, the Titans shocked everyone by selecting Jake Locker. The QB-needy Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t want to sit on their hands to wait for a quarterback any longer, so they jumped from 16 to 10 to overdraft Blaine Gabbert. Two picks later, the Vikings scrambled to select Christian Ponder.
Most skill position players will be there for the Lions
With a run of quarterbacks now virtually guaranteed at the top of the draft, the Lions will almost certainly have a shot at the top options at wide receiver and, yes, tight end. This chance improves even more with the Philadelphia Eagles—a team currently in desperate need of offensive weapons—now out of the top 10. The team that replaces them, the Dolphins, just added Will Fuller in free agency.
The Lions don’t have a single wide receiver that has a guaranteed spot on the roster beyond 2021, so if Detroit decides to keep the seventh overall pick, they’d be wise to consider a pass catcher of the future there.
Don’t count out Penei Sewell
For many, it was a foregone conclusion that Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell would be gone by the time the Lions were on the clock. But if four quarterbacks are off the board—and possibly even a fifth if a team gets desperate enough—the Lions could get a shot at the consensus best offensive lineman in this year’s class.
The Lions did just hand left tackle Taylor Decker a four-year, $60 million extension last year, but pairing him with Sewell would make for one of the best offensive tackle duos in the league to add to an offensive front that already has a Pro Bowl center and a talented young left guard. It would be an unconventional move considering some of the holes elsewhere on the roster, but the talent could be too much for Holmes to pass up.