The 2021 NFL draft is just a few weeks away, and we’ve already seen a pair of blockbuster trades shake up the early part of this year’s draft order.
Those deals could end up having a domino effect on other teams picking in the first round, as they look to jump up the board themselves in hopes of landing the top prospect on their board at a key position of need.
Here are a few teams who could be looking to make such a move in the first round when draft weekend kicks off:
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After the San Francisco 49ers traded up to the No. 3 spot, it’s expected that quarterbacks will be taken with the top three selections, at the very least. The Atlanta Falcons could also be thinking quarterback at No. 4 overall, but even if they go in a different direction, a team like the Carolina Panthers could be aggressive in trying to move up the board to make sure they get the quarterback they want. If any combination of Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones are still on the board at No. 5 overall, don’t be surprised if the Panthers try to swing a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals to move up for their man.
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The Broncos could be a dark-horse candidate to move up for a quarterback, depending on how they feel about Drew Lock’s future with the team. If a particular prospect in this year’s class catches their eye and falls out of the top four picks, Denver could swing a deal of their own with the Bengals or Miami Dolphins to jump ahead of teams like the Panthers and Detroit Lions to get the passer they want.
New England Patriots
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It seems unlikely that New England would be willing to part with the kind of draft capital it would take to move from No. 15 overall into the range where they could land one of this year’s top quarterback prospects, but considering how aggressive they’ve been in free agency this year, it shouldn’t be out of the question. If the Falcons pass on a quarterback, and even if the Panthers get their guy, that fifth quarterback could still be on the board as the top 10 starts to wind down. If that happens, the cost wouldn’t be quite so high to move up five or six spots, and the Pats could land someone like Jones.
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After watching the 49ers trade multiple future first-round picks to move all the way up to No. 3 overall, Bears general manager Ryan Pace now has a blueprint for what it might cost to make a similar move into the top 10 if a top quarterback prospect falls. Andy Dalton isn’t the kind of starting quarterback who will save Pace’s job (or head coach Matt Nagy’s), and finding a difference-maker at quarterback right now has to be more important to those two guys than losing future first-round picks.
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The Jags are sure to land their quarterback of choice at No. 1 overall, and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is the obvious favorite. But after that, they have another first-round pick and two picks in the second round, giving them the kind of ammunition to move up in the first round for another difference-maker to help Lawrence reach his lofty potential. Packaging one of those second-rounders to move up from No. 25 overall if the right guy starts to fall would make plenty of sense.