NFL Trade Ideas That Could Shake Up the 2021 Draft

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2021

NFL Trade Ideas That Could Shake Up the 2021 Draft

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    The 2021 NFL draft gets underway Thursday, and there's no telling what will happen in the first round.

    Presumably, quarterbacks will be taken with the first three selections, but which signal-callers those are and what happens next are largely unknown. Several teams have made it known they are willing to trade down. Other teams could be eager to move up, as the San Francisco 49ers have already done.

    Not every draft-day trade will shake up the first round. When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up one spot for Tristan Wirfs last year, it didn't send shock waves through the NFL world. Here, though, we'll examine six hypothetical but realistic first-round deals that might.

    To keep these hypotheticals in the realm of realism, we'll examine factors like team needs, reasonable trade capital, draft positioning and relevant recent buzz.

Denver Broncos Trade Up to No. 4 for a Quarterback

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    Broncos president John Elway
    Broncos president John ElwayJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Denver Broncos Get: No. 4 pick

    Atlanta Falcons Get: No. 9 pick, No. 40 pick, 2022 second-rounder

    ESPN's Adam Schefter reported in early April that the Atlanta Falcons are open to trading down from the No. 4 pick. According to Andrew Mason of, the Denver Broncos have not yet called about Atlanta's pick. However, Denver might still try to make a deal on draft night.

    President John Elway, new general manager George Paton and the Broncos don't know which quarterbacks will be available at No. 4. If they're not comfortable with at least four of the top five prospects—Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones—they have zero reason to make a deal ahead of the draft.

    Denver won't draft a quarterback just to take one. It still has Drew Lock, and while he hasn't been impressive—he had a passer rating of 75.4 last season—he has potential and is playing on a rookie deal.

    Lock's presence shouldn't preclude Denver from moving on a quarterback if the right one is available, though.

    "One thing other teams do believe is that the Broncos have been lurking for some time as a sneaky quarterback-hungry team," Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated wrote.

    In this hypothetical scenario, a quarterback the Broncos love is available at No. 4. Denver makes the call, and the Falcons get a pair of second-round picks to move down five spots in Round 1.

    This trade would shake up the draft because it would kick off a scramble among quarterback-needy teams to nab the fifth top quarterback prospect. That could change the dynamic of the next several draft slots.

New England Patriots Trade to No. 7 for a Quarterback

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    North Dakota State QB Trey Lance
    North Dakota State QB Trey LanceBruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    New England Patriots Get: No. 7 pick

    Detroit Lions Get: No. 15 pick, No. 97 pick, 2022 first-rounder, 2022 fourth-round pick

    Two of the top five quarterbacks could still be on the board at No. 7—if the Falcons don't take a quarterback or move the No. 4 selection. The Cincinnati Bengals don't need a quarterback at No. 5, and the Miami Dolphins could be more interested in an offensive weapon to support 2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa.

    Assuming Lawrence and Wilson go first and second overall, respectively, two of the three other top QB prospects (Jones, Lance and Fields) may be available at No. 7.

    In this scenario, at least one of the top five quarterbacks is still on the board, and the New England Patriots want him. While Bill Belichick has never drafted a signal-caller in the first round, he needs a long-term stater.

    Belichick has traditionally been a free-agency spendthrift too, but New England went on a spending spree this offseason.

    Detroit, meanwhile, is reportedly open to moving down. The Lions are in a rebuild and looking to acquire future draft capital, as they did in the Matthew Stafford trade.

    "One senior executive said the Lions are looking for another deal and trying to move down from No. 7," The Athletic's Ben Standig wrote.

    General manager Brady Holmes has admitted that trade-down discussions with teams have taken place.

    "I will keep those in house, but yeah, there have been discussions," Holmes said, per Kyle Meinke of

    This deal would shake things up in one of two ways. It would either kick off the scramble for the last top-five quarterback prospect or—if New England grabs the last one—set teams racing to acquire the elite non-quarterback talent that has been pushed down the draft.

    The Lions would get a noteworthy haul to move down eight spots.

Philadelphia Eagles Trade to No. 8 for a Wide Receiver

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    Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle
    Alabama WR Jaylen WaddleButch Dill/Associated Press

    Philadelphia Eagles Get: No. 8 pick

    Carolina Panthers Get: No. 12 pick, No. 123 pick, 2022 second-rounder

    The Carolina Panthers could conceivably draft a quarterback even after trading for Sam Darnold. Though, they are willing to trade out of the No. 8 spot.

    We're very open to moving back," general manager Scott Fitterer said, per ESPN's David Newton.

    While it's easy to assume Carolina would be trading with a quarterback-needy team, that might not be the only scenario. If all five of the top quarterbacks are off the board, at least two of the class' four top pass-catchers—Kyle Pitts, Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith—would be there at No. 8.

    This could prompt the receiver-needy Philadelphia Eagles to spring into action.

    While the Eagles traded out of the top 10 last month to acquire a fourth-round pick and a future first-rounder from the Miami Dolphins, they're reportedly interested in getting back in.

    "The Eagles are exploring a move into the top 10 despite having just dropped from No. 6 to No. 12," Standig wrote. "Having acquired a first-round pick in 2022 from the Dolphins, the Eagles could move up and still net more assets."

    In this scenario, the Eagles flip their new fourth-rounder and send a 2022 second-rounder to Carolina to move up four spots. In essence, they take the long road to turning a 2022 second-rounder into a first and moving back two spots.

    The Panthers get a pair of valuable picks for moving back, and the two teams spark a dash to snag one of the draft's top offensive weapons.

Los Angeles Chargers Trade to No. 10 for an Offensive Tackle

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    Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater
    Northwestern OT Rashawn SlaterCharles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Chargers Get: No. 10 pick

    Dallas Cowboys Get: No. 13 pick, No. 78 pick, 2022 third-rounder

    The Cincinnati Bengals appear set to target LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, according to Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer. However, the Bengals could reverse course and take Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell instead.

    "I would not be shocked if they changed their mind and drafted him," Dragon told Dadio Makdook of Cincy Jungle.

    Should the Bengals take Sewell, it could start a scramble for the other two top tackle prospects: Northwestern's Rashawn Slater and Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw.

    The Los Angeles Chargers could be eager to move up for a tackle. Quarterback Justin Herbert was sacked 32 times as a rookie, and head coach Brandon Staley has acknowledged the team's need for an upgrade on the left side.

    Convincing the Dallas Cowboys to move down three spots could benefit the Chargers in a big way. Dallas, which had a rash of injuries along the line last season, could be interested in targeting a tackle. The Eagles could also be in the tackle market at No. 12 if they don't trade into the top 10.

    Philadelphia's line allowed a whopping 65 sacks last season.

    While the Cowboys might be smart to stay put and draft a tackle, they seem eager to generate interest in the No. 10 pick. Executive vice president Stephen Jones told 105.3 The Fan (h/t ProFootballTalk's Charean Williams) that the Cowboys have started receiving calls on the selection.

    There's little reason to go public with potential trade chatter unless Dallas hopes to pit teams against one another for the pick. Here, it gets a pair of third-round selections to move down three spots while potentially sparking a run on offensive linemen.

Chicago Bears Trade to No. 11 for a Quarterback

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    Alabama QB Mac Jones
    Alabama QB Mac JonesChris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Chicago Bears Get: No. 11 pick

    New York Giants Get: No. 20 pick, No. 52 pick, 2022 first-rounder, 2022 second-rounder

    In this scenario, the Patriots haven't traded up for a quarterback, and one remains on the board at No. 11. This could force the Chicago Bears to make their move for Jones, Lance or whichever signal-caller is still available.

    Andy Dalton is not a long-term answer for the Bears, who reportedly have aggressively pursued Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson this offseason. While a rookie prospect wouldn't be a proven franchise signal-caller like Wilson, Chicago could be aggressive in moving up.

    The New York Giants, meanwhile, are interested in acquiring more draft capital. They won't sell the No. 11 pick on the cheap, though. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said this week he has attempted to trade down in the draft before but hasn't liked the potential return.

    "I've tried to trade back," Gettleman told reporters. "But it's got to be value. I'm not getting fleeced."

    By moving back nine spots, the Giants pick up future first- and second-round selections along with a 2021 second-rounder. That's a fair price and far from getting fleeced.

    The Bears pick up a young quarterback to develop behind Dalton and Nick Foles for at least a season. It's a costly move, but it allows Chicago to get ahead of New England at No. 15.

    As for this hypothetical trade's impact on the first round, it would likely take the last of the top five quarterback prospects off the board and leave teams thinking about making a sixth signal-caller a first-round pick.

Atlanta Falcons Trade Back into the 1st Round for a Quarterback

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    Stanford QB Davis Mills
    Stanford QB Davis MillsRingo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Atlanta Falcons Get: No. 31 pick

    Baltimore Ravens Get: No. 35 pick, No. 108 pick, 2022 third-round pick

    While quarterback Matt Ryan is under contract through 2023, the Falcons are reportedly intrigued by the idea of drafting a signal-caller this year.

    "Owner Arthur Blank is fascinated by the quarterbacks atop the draft, thinking the franchise might not be in such an advantageous position to take one for years," NBC Sports' Peter King wrote.

    This doesn't mean the Falcons are destined to take a quarterback at No. 4. If they trade out of that spot or draft an elite playmaker like Pitts instead, they could still get a quarterback to groom behind Ryan.

    Trading back into the first round could help them do it. The Falcons have the 35th pick and may only have to surrender a couple of picks to move into Round 1. The Baltimore Ravens gave up a fourth-round pick and a future second to move into the first round and nab Lamar Jackson three years ago. Baltimore traded up 20 spots in that deal; Atlanta would move up four here.

    The Ravens could be the perfect trade partner after acquiring the No. 31 pick from the Kansas City Chiefs. According to Schefter, Baltimore dealt offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and two draft picks for the 31st pick and three other 2021 and 2022 selections.

    The Ravens could parlay the 31st pick into even more draft capital. Atlanta could jump the rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers and gain the fifth-year option on a developmental quarterback like Stanford's Davis Mills.

    "The buzz around the league is that he could be a first-round pick and will most likely be the sixth quarterback selected," NFL Network's Peter Schrager wrote of Mills.

    This move could spark a run on the second tier of quarterback prospects like Mills, Kellen Mond and Kyle Trask. That run might start at No. 32 if the Buccaneers look to grab Tom Brady's heir or another team trades in to secure the fifth-year option.


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