2021 NFL Draft: Potential Trade Scenarios That Could Shake Up the Top 10
The NFL draft trade frenzy came early in 2021, barging into the free-agency period with some blockbuster deals featuring top picks in the upcoming event.
First, the San Francisco 49ers leaped up to third overall from No. 12, striking a deal with the Miami Dolphins for a third-round compensatory pick and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023. Miami then quickly turned around and got back into the top six, sending that 12th pick, a 2022 first-round pick and smaller compensation to the Philadelphia Eagles for the sixth selection.
And that could just be an appetizer for a main course that feels like it normally only happens during the draft.
As always, it's all about the quarterbacks. With four or five passers looking like early-first-round picks and at least four teams looking desperate for help at the position but out of range, more top-10 shakeups seem guaranteed.
Eagles Trade Up to No. 7 with Detroit
If the Miami Dolphins taught onlookers anything with their flurry of top-12 moves, it's that one trade doesn't mean another can't happen.
Look at the Philadelphia Eagles sitting there at No. 12. While they were at sixth overall, it looked like they might be in a spot to land one of the draft's top passers to push Jalen Hurts. That, or they could add one of the top weapons in the class such as LSU wideout Ja'Marr Chase or Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
And that could still be on the table.
If one of the top passers or weapons falls past the original spot at No. 6, Philadelphia could easily package one of its two third-round picks (one was acquired from the Carson Wentz trade with the Indianapolis Colts) with the 12th selection to leap up as high as seven or eight.
Granted, this would require another team to be willing to move down. If the Detroit Lions, for example, want to build around Jared Goff and think one of their top targets will be there at No. 12, dropping a few spots and adding more draft capital could facilitate a deal.
The Deal: Philadelphia sends Nos. 12, 70 and 151 to Detroit for No. 7.
Lions Trade Up to No. 4 with Atlanta
Much of what happens in the top 10 could hinge on the feelings in Detroit. The front office can publicly position all it likes about its new 26-year-old starter, but it took on Jared Goff and two future first-rounders while dealing away Matthew Stafford for a reason.
Still, should the Lions really like a specific top quarterback prospect, they could make the short hop from No. 7 to either the fifth or fourth spot in the draft order. Key members of the organization, after all, made a point to attend the pro days for Trey Lance of North Dakota State and Zach Wilson of BYU.
The Atlanta Falcons might make for the most interesting trade candidate in this scenario. The cost to shift from seven to four wouldn't be excessive, and they might be open to it if three quarterbacks come off the board to start the draft. If its preferred passer doesn't fall, Atlanta could be content to move back a bit, fuel a rebuild with additional assets and stick with Matt Ryan's bloated contract for at least one more year.
With the Lions sitting on an extra third-round pick and the possibility of a preferred quarterback prospect or top non-quarterback still being on the board, moving up makes too much sense.
The Deal: Detroit sends Nos. 7, 72 and 154 to Atlanta for No. 4.
Panthers Trade Up to No. 5 with Cincinnati
The Carolina Panthers are already one of the teams most hurt by the flurry of movement.
They rolled the dice on Teddy Bridgewater after ending the Cam Newton era and got a 69.1 completion percentage with just 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions over 15 games. Since quarterbacks seem likely to come off the board with each of the first three picks—if not the first four—sitting at No. 8 means they could miss out entirely on the top prospects.
Barring a trade, of course.
Carolina has already been extremely aggressive in trying to upgrade under center, with ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting it floated the eighth pick and more in exchange for Matthew Stafford before he went to the Los Angeles Rams. That pick and plenty more capital will be in play again if the front office wants to move up, whether for Ohio State's Justin Fields or another passer who falls out of the top three.
This apparent desperation for an upgrade could be another team's gain in trade talks.
Look at the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 5, one of the rare top-10 teams secure at quarterback with Joe Burrow in the fold. They should merely be looking to take the best available offensive lineman or offense weapon when they get to the podium.
The Deal: Carolina sends Nos. 8, 39 and 152 to Cincinnati for No. 5.
Patriots Trade Up to No. 5 with Cincinnati
It would be unwise to count Bill Belichick out of pretty much anything at this stage of the game.
Yes, the New England Patriots re-upped with Cam Newton and sit 15th in the order. But the reunion was on a cheap one-year deal worth $5.1 million, and anything is possible with the right trade partner and assets.
Much could hinge on how the board falls and whether the Atlanta Falcons make it four straight quarterbacks to kick off the proceedings. Either way, the Cincinnati Bengals and the No. 5 pick look like the sweet spot for a few reasons.
For one, the Patriots and Bengals have a long history of trades, with normally quiet Cincinnati team president Mike Brown even pointing out his trading relationship with Belichick. Secondly, the Bengals might be comfortable moving out of the top 10 and taking the best player available while netting multiple future first-round picks for the rebuild around Joe Burrow.
Given the competition for top-10 trades this year, this deal would likely involve more than what the San Francisco 49ers coughed up to move up from No. 12 to No. 3.
The Deal: New England sends Nos. 15 and 97 and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to Cincinnati for No. 5.