NFL Teams That Should Not Try to Select Their Future QB in the 2021 Draft
Not every team should try to find its long-term quarterback answer in the 2021 NFL draft.
Sometimes, the cost just isn't worth it for teams that don't sit in the top five of an upcoming draft that projects to have four or five first-round signal-callers. Last year, once the three top prospects were off the board, teams in need knew to call it quits. In 2019, Washington at 15th overall didn't, and Dwayne Haskins Jr. is already off the roster.
There isn't a hard cutoff every year, but the cost of moving up to guarantee one of the top four passers in this draft is just too much. And that baseline price has already been set after San Francisco sent a trio of first-round picks to Miami to move from 12th to third.
The following teams are either out of range, have a worthwhile stopgap solution or a combination of both and should sit out the quarterback crunch for at least this year.
The Atlanta Falcons might be the most controversial team here because they sit fourth overall. If the franchise turns things around even a little, it won't sit in this position to draft a premium quarterback in the immediate future.
But settling for the leftovers, meaning the fourth quarterback prospect, isn't ideal unless the Falcons are in love with him. Jacksonville is obviously taking Trevor Lawrence, the New York Jets traded Sam Darnold in order to draft another (likely Zach Wilson), and the 49ers didn't trade all that capital to move up and take a non-quarterback.
There's an out built into Ryan's contract after 2021, but Ryan himself is part of the issue, too—going into his age-36 season, this doesn't have to be the end. The veteran was solid again last year, completing 65 percent of his passes on 626 attempts while throwing 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Now, he's getting a new head coach in offensive architect Arthur Smith who could only make things better.
Given the contract structures and career arcs of top names like Ryan and Julio Jones, a full-blown rebuild around a rookie passer doesn't need to happen in Atlanta just yet.
The Detroit Lions sit seventh overall after forcefully ending the Matthew Stafford era, inheriting Jared Goff in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams that also netted them two first-round picks.
Goff isn't the most appealing of starters in the NFL if a mind like Sean McVay was willing to throw in the towel and do a deal he thought was an upgrade, sacrificing a ton of assets in the process.
That said, the 2016 No. 1 overall pick is also just 26 years old. There are numerous teams in worse predicaments under center, even if he has only completed 63.4 percent of his passes and averaged 7.5 yards per attempt over five seasons.
Overall, Goff isn't bad enough to start coughing up assets in a desperate attempt to move up to four or five. Even standing still at No. 7, the Lions might be better off taking a best-player-available approach, especially if three or four quarterbacks are off the board after the first four picks, leaving them one of the top three or four non-quarterbacks in the entire class.
Goff's contract sort of hints at this anyway, as he's got a dead-cap charge of more than $30 million this year and the next before a possible out. A new coaching staff headed up by Dan Campbell can start revamping the rest of the roster with premium picks while seeking to unlock more of that upside that made Goff a No. 1 pick and two-time Pro Bowler in the first place.
Like Detroit, the cost to move up in range for a top passer might be too rich for the Denver Broncos.
That's especially true since they already roster Drew Lock, a 2019 second-round pick who is only 24 years old.
Lock wasn't perfect by any means over 13 appearances last year, completing 57.3 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. That was obviously disappointing after combining the talents of newcomers Jerry Jeudy and Melvin Gordon III with names like Courtland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay to outfit Lock with plenty of weapons.
Still, waving the white flag before Lock's third season seems ill-advised. That's not to say he'll follow the same trajectory, but Josh Allen in Buffalo wasn't exactly meeting expectations until a massive third-year breakout.
This might explain the team's half-hearted effort to trade for Matthew Stafford that saw the Broncos outbid by a handful of teams, according to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. It would also seem to explain general manager George Paton's comments that the team wants to add competition but wouldn't "force it."
Even picking from the scraps of the remaining quarterbacks, should one fall to ninth, might be a misappropriation of resources given the investment and remaining potential in Lock at this point.
New England Patriots
Given the haul San Francisco had to sacrifice to guarantee a top quarterback prospect while moving up from 12th overall, the New England Patriots would have to cough up even more to move up from No. 15.
And moving up might not even guarantee much if Atlanta goes against advice and takes the fourth available passer. Moving up to No. 5 just to settle for the fifth quarterback prospect would be a colossal misstep.
That likely influenced the Patriots' decision to re-up with 2015 MVP Cam Newton and aggressively spend an uncharacteristic amount of money in fleshing out the roster around him to best fit his skill set.
Bill Belichick and Co. added tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, plus field-stretching wideouts Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Flashy additions aside, there's also the notion that Newton will only get better after an odd offseason hampered his ability to get acclimated with a new organization for the first time in nearly a decade. He's also been open about how a positive COVID-19 test impacted his season.
It's a little easy to forget Newton is only entering his age-32 season. A big roster reshuffling in free agency hints at building around him, not using premium assets to add to the depth chart behind him, which would be the smart move given the level of production we've seen from Newton in the past and the feats Belichick has been able to pull off.