Ranking the 5 Most Likely NFL Players to Be Dealt During 2021 Draft

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2021

Ranking the 5 Most Likely NFL Players to Be Dealt During 2021 Draft

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    This offseason, NFL teams haven't shied away from blockbuster trade deals. Front offices have moved former No. 1 overall picks, starters and future first-rounders. We could see more action between April 29 and May 1 during the 2021 NFL draft.

    The rumor mill will kick into high gear in the coming days with notable names involved in the chatter.

    Several players have uncertain futures with their current teams because of recent roster acquisitions or discussions with potential trade partners. In one case, a projected top draft pick could make a veteran expendable.

    Based on the rumors and reports, we'll rank five of the best players who will most likely land at new destinations during the 2021 draft and provide a potential suitor, with an emphasis on roster need.

5. CB J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Cornerback J.C. Jackson hit the market as a restricted free agent before signing a second-round tender, which keeps him on the books with the New England Patriots—at least for now.

    According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Jackson isn't a lock to play out the 2021 season with the Patriots. New England may want to trade him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2022. The ball-hawking cover man could see a massive salary increase next offseason.

    In 2020, Jackson recorded nine interceptions, which upped his total to 17 over the last three seasons. He rose through the ranks as an undrafted product out of Maryland, and Rapoport expects teams to inquire about the fourth-year pro this offseason.

    Despite recent trade rumors swirling around 30-year-old cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots may find it difficult to move him while he recovers from a season-ending quad injury. Jackson may draw more suitors than the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year if New England wants to move one of its veteran cornerbacks in their contract years.

    This offseason, the Arizona Cardinals have taken an aggressive approach to their roster-building strategy. They signed defensive end J.J. Watt to a two-year deal with $23 million in guarantees, acquired center Rodney Hudson from the Las Vegas Raiders and inked wideout A.J. Green to a fully guaranteed one-year, $6 million contract.

    The Cardinals can make one more splash, adding Jackson to the boundary opposite Malcolm Butler. 

    Arizona lost lead cornerback Patrick Peterson to the Minnesota Vikings via free agency, but a trio featuring Jackson, Butler and Byron Murphy would significantly help the defense against quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson within the division.

    The Cardinals can offer the 49th overall pick for Jackson to solidify their secondary. 

    Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals

4. WR Anthony Miller, Chicago Bears

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears could have a contract issue with Allen Robinson II, who has signed the franchise tag. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero hinted back in February that the star wideout could become the subject of a tag-and-trade scenario.

    However, the Bears don't have to make a decision on Robinson within the next couple of weeks since they have until the July 15 deadline to extend him on a long-term deal. Most importantly, general manager Ryan Pace would do his offense a disservice in trading its best playmaker.

    Fellow wideout Anthony Miller seems more likely to go elsewhere in the near future. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Bears have had discussions with other teams about the slot receiver's availability. 

    Through three seasons, Miller has hauled in 134 receptions for 1,564 yards and 11 touchdowns with a 62.3 percent catch rate. He could fetch a late-round pick from a team that needs a veteran pass-catcher, and Chicago can replace him with wideout Marquise Goodwin, whom it signed Friday.

    The Philadelphia Eagles cut wideouts DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery this offseason, and 2019 second-rounder J.J. Arcega-Whiteside hasn't panned out. He's caught just 14 passes for 254 yards and one touchdown in 24 contests. 

    As the Eagles overhaul their wide receiver unit, they need a veteran presence to complement Jalen Reagor going into his second season. Philadelphia could select Alabama's DeVonta Smith or another top wideout, but Miller's experience would help quarterback Jalen Hurts, who's started just four games.

    The Bears' active talks about a possible deal elevate Miller to the No. 4 spot above cornerback J.C. Jackson, who's a speculative trade target.

    Landing Spot: Philadelphia Eagles

3. QB Gardner Minshew II, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Gardner Minshew II may have to embrace a new team along with his fresh look in 2021.

    In March, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer shot down trade chatter concerning Minshew, saying the team wasn't fielding offers for the third-year quarterback at that time.

    Well, that could change after the Jaguars take the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, since the Clemson product would likely start the season under center. Keep in mind, Jacksonville signed C.J. Beathard in March, so Minshew could slip to the No. 3 spot on the depth chart under a new regime.

    Around the time of Meyer's comments on Minshew, the Jaguars did receive calls for the young signal-caller, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. If teams continue to show interest, Jacksonville should make a deal sooner rather than later.

    Minshew's trade value will remain stagnant with Lawrence under center, and if he loses the primary backup role to Beathard, clubs may wait for the Jaguars to release him.

    However, the Atlanta Falcons don't have a backup quarterback on the roster. They may select a signal-caller with the No. 4 overall pick or later in the draft, but if Matt Ryan goes down, an experienced reserve is more likely to keep the team competitive over a rookie. 

    Minshew has started in 20 out of 23 games, throwing for 5,530 yards, 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 62.9 percent completion rate. With those numbers, he's a low-end starter.

    General manager Terry Fontenot can send the Jaguars a fifth-round pick for Minshew and cover all his bases at quarterback with an established starter, a rookie for the future and a solid backup for the 2021 season.

    In the third slot among trade targets, Minshew plays the most important position in the league, so he'll likely draw more trade interest than slot receiver Anthony Miller, who's an offensive specialist.

    Landing Spot: Atlanta Falcons

2. QB Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers chose to pivot at quarterback after one year with Teddy Bridgewater under center.

    After acquiring quarterback Sam Darnold from the New York Jets, the Panthers granted Bridgewater permission to seek a trade, and he's drawn interest from several teams, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The seven-year veteran would have a better chance to play for a club that's looking for someone who can push its starter. 

    According to NFL Network's Jesse Palmer, the Denver Broncos want some competition for quarterback Drew Lock, and they've yet to sign a veteran passer.

    Per Mike Klis of 9News Denver, the Broncos tried to acquire Matthew Stafford before the Detroit Lions traded him to the Los Angeles Rams, which shows Lock isn't entrenched as the starting signal-caller.

    Bridgewater put together an uninspiring 2020 showing, but he had some efficient moments, throwing for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 69.1 percent completion rate in 15 games. Meanwhile, Lock threw for 2,933 yards, 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with a 57.3 percent completion rate through 13 outings. 

    Based on the passing numbers, Bridgewater had a better 2020 season, and he could take over the huddle if Lock struggles through the 2021 term. Denver should be able to acquire him from Carolina with a fifth-round pick.

    Because of Bridgewater's experience and his role as a full-time starter this past season, he'll probably garner more trade buzz than Gardner Minshew II if teams scramble to acquire a veteran quarterback during the draft. The 28-year-old ranks second among players potentially on the move.

    Landing Spot: Denver Broncos

1. OT Orlando Brown Jr., Baltimore Ravens

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Last year, the Washington Football Team dealt Trent Williams to the San Francisco 49ers on the final day of the 2020 draft. Another star tackle could be on the move during this year's selection process.

    After Orlando Brown Jr. filled in at left tackle for Ronnie Stanley, who broke his ankle, this past season, the 24-year-old made it clear that he wants to play the position full time. 

    Back in October, the Baltimore Ravens signed Stanley to a five-year, $98.8 million extension, so they're unlikely to move him out of his natural position, which leaves one clear solution. The front office must find a trade partner for Brown and insert a veteran pickup or a high draft pick at right tackle. 

    According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, at least six teams showed interest in Brown before free agency. 

    As a proven commodity at a coveted position, Brown's trade value should ramp up going into the draft. Teams that miss out on top prospects at the position or prefer a veteran pass protector will call the Ravens with competitive offers. 

    The Los Angeles Chargers have a huge void at left tackle. Sam Tevi, last year's starter at the position, signed with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency, and Trey Pipkins, a 2019 third-rounder, has only started in eight of his 26 outings.

    Although the Chargers can address the left tackle spot with the 13th overall pick, they cannot guarantee their ideal choice will still be on the board midway through the first round. 

    General manager Tom Telesco can make a direct offer for an ascending talent and sign him to a lucrative extension if necessary considering Los Angeles currently has $20.5 million in cap space. With that said, the Chargers would likely need to start their trade proposal with an early-round pick, but that's worth the price of a high-end tackle.

    In the No. 1 spot, Brown has the most accolades among the potential trade candidates, and he's in high demand. If the fourth-year pro remains adamant about moving to left tackle, the Ravens will have no choice but to trade him and recoup some assets.

    Landing Spot: Los Angeles Chargers

        

    Team cap space courtesy of Over the Cap.

    Team draft picks courtesy of Tankathon.