Buying or Selling Latest 2021 NFL Buzz Entering Draft Week
For those of us who love following, tracking and talking about the NFL draft, the beginning of the annual NFL silly season can be equally delightful and infuriating.
You know silly season; it's when the days until the NFL draft is upon us can be counted on one hand, and when the reports and rumors start to get a little...strange.
To help you out, we've compiled some of the predominant buzz that’s beginning to heat up as we head into draft week, analyzed it and decided if you should buy it or sell it.
It can be enthralling to hear that your favorite team is considering moving up for your favorite player in the draft, but during silly season, always remember: It takes two to tango (or trade), and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Buy: Patriots Will Trade Up for a Quarterback
We're starting off with a bang here, as predicting what Bill Belichick will do in the NFL draft is as easy as predicting what the weather will be like on April 26, 2022. And targeting Belichick to trade up in the first round to boot is as wild as predicting the weather will top 90 degrees in Foxborough this week.
However, the predominant talk swirling around the New England Patriots organization this month is that the team is looking to find its signal-caller of the future in this year's draft, and it's not hard to see why. Watching Tom Brady take his talents (and Rob Gronkowski) down to Tampa Bay and walk away with a Lombardi Trophy in his very first season has surely lit a fire under Belichick.
"It isn't hyperbole when saying that the 2021 NFL draft is the most important draft for the New England Patriots in nearly 30 years," writes CBS Sports' Tyler Sullivan. "Armed with the No. 15 overall pick, the Patriots are looked at as one of the teams who could be a major player for one of this year's top quarterback prospects and possibly even trade up to acquire him."
New England is coming off a highly active free-agency period that saw the team bring in everything from pass-catching weapons in Nelson Agholor and Hunter Henry to linebacker corps upgrades in Kyle Van Noy and Matt Judon.
Expecting that uncharacteristic aggression to continue into the draft, given New England's massive hole at franchise QB, isn't too far-fetched, even if we thought we'd never in our lifetimes see Bill Belichick trade up to select a first-round signal-caller.
Sell: Jaylen Waddle Is the Best WR in This Class
If you're a team looking to add a difference-making wideout to your roster in 2021, there is no shortage of options. But which is the best option?
To hear it from league scouts, allegedly it's Alabama burner Jaylen Waddle.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, multiple NFL scouts have said Waddle is the best player in the draft.
"I've talked to multiple scouts in this process who said [Jaylen Waddle] might be the best overall player in this draft, regardless of position," Fowler said on SportsCenter. "He's electric. He reminds them a little bit of Tyreek Hill, with his speed and big-play ability. I've talked to a source who said Waddle believes he's going to go somewhere in the top 10. Not a slam dunk, but he believes it. So if a team wants to trade up for him, they might have to get there."
When it comes to evaluating draft prospects, of course we should trust scouts over media. It's quite literally their job. Call us overly pessimistic, but being a week out from the draft, this kind of storyline has a whiff of an agent or other stakeholder priming the pump.
Waddle is a very good prospect; though he didn't run a 40-yard dash, in 2020 he had the fastest on-field GPS time of all the receivers in this year's crop, per NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah. He's a speedy playmaker who can break a game wide open.
However, Ja'Marr Chase (LSU) and DeVonta Smith (Alabama) are no slouches either. Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson ranks Chase not only as the No. 1 receiver in this year's class, but also across the 2020 and 2021 classes. And Smith won the Heisman Trophy on the strength of how easy he made life on his quarterback and how explosive of a weapon he was; his college career passer rating when targeted was 153.4, according to Pro Football Focus.
Are Chase's numbers a bit inflated given that he caught passes from Joe Burrow? Perhaps, but if you make that argument about Chase, you also have to allow that Waddle's role in college was limited and that he may not be able to run the whole playbook in the NFL.
Buy: DeVonta Smith Will Be 3rd WR off the Board
If we aren't quite believing Jaylen Waddle is the best receiver in this year's draft class, it's still entirely possible he could be the second player at his position off the board Thursday. And who might be the third? It's looking more and more likely that Alabama teammate DeVonta Smith may round out this trio of wideouts.
Now, splitting hairs between Waddle, Smith and Ja'Marr Chase is a little like splitting hairs between a Maserati, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini. Whichever way you go, you can be confident you're getting a fast game-changer who can, hopefully, make a splash on your team for years to come.
But this is the NFL draft we're talking about, and much more ink than this has been spilled dissecting the meaning of one single draft position over another. And at the end of the day, one of these players will be drafted behind the other two.
We hardly need to list all the reasons Smith is an elite receiver prospect. Just ask the Heisman Trophy voters. He put up 215 yards and three touchdowns in the national title game against Ohio State, breaking the records for receptions in a CFP championship game, receiving touchdowns in a CFP championship game (and in just one half, to boot!) and yards in a half. His 1,856 yards also set the SEC single-season record, which had formerly been set by none other than Chase last season, with 1,780.
Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini.
But the concerns about Smith, which have reached a crescendo as we head into draft week, revolve around his size. His college playing weight was 170 pounds at 6'1".
"That is just such a rare build that it has to carry some degree of uncertainty along with it," writes Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson.
"It wouldn't shock me if Waddle went before Smith," ESPN's Mel Kiper said on a recent conference call.
Alabama coach Nick Saban admitted after the school's pro day that when he recruited a 159-pound Smith, Saban, too, wished he were bigger. But he added, "There are bigger people who don't perform anywhere near how he performs. There are people that are bigger than him that don't have the competitive spirit that he has, nor the competitive toughness."
It's more likely than not Smith's incredible production will continue in the NFL. But the draft has become an almost absurd exercise in analytics and odds, and all the competitive spirit in the world can't reassure teams that just can't get over what their metrics are telling them.
Sell: The 49ers Are Taking Mac Jones at No. 3
Frank Davis is really, really hoping his San Francisco 49ers aren't eyeing Mac Jones with the third overall pick in this year's draft.
"For the love of God, it can't be Mac at 3!? Would be the biggest reach/most arrogant pick in NFL history...please give me hope that it isn't," Davis wrote in to Albert Breer's MMQB mailbag.
The rumors surrounding what indeed the 49ers plan to do at No. 3 have ranged from mysterious to flat-out funny. Just recall when, on April 7, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network said that while "people are under the assumption that the 49ers are going to take Mac Jones with the No. 3 pick," he was told "it's about 50-50 either Mac Jones or one of the other two QBs." In other words, no one really knew anything.
Now, a week out from the draft, the Jones-to-49ers rumors are losing even more steam. Breer still thinks it's possible, but he quoted one exec who said, "I don't think there's any way in hell they're taking Mac Jones. He's not good enough."
Meanwhile, on April 21, Rich Eisen shared that he's hearing the 49ers are targeting North Dakota State's Trey Lance.
The Niners moved up for one of Jones, Lance or Justin Fields. That we know. They moved up for "the special athlete," the exec Breer spoke to said. Which one of those three is the special athlete? We'll have to find out Thursday.
Buy: The Eagles Are Looking to Trade into Top 10 for Pass-Catcher
The best NFL draft rumors are the ones that are so vague or ominous that you simply can't stop thinking about them all week. That's the effect the report the Philadelphia Eagles are "up to something" this week is having on us.
The report came from ESPN's Jeremy Fowler on SportsCenter, where he said that many around the league have the Eagles on their radar for a draft-day trade that will shake up the draft board.
Philadelphia, of course, already made a splash this offseason when it engaged in a surprise trade with the Miami Dolphins, getting a 2022 first-round pick in exchange for moving down from No. 6 to No. 12. That in itself was fairly shocking, so the idea that the Eagles were just getting started has us reaching for the popcorn.
The Eagles are also shopping tight end Zach Ertz, and while they weren't able to move him in free agency, he may prove to be part of a larger draft-day package.
The Eagles would consider trading up for one of three players, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.
"If the Eagles move back up, the GMs I have spoken to believe it's for Pitts or a QB," La Canfora said. "Never rule anything out when it comes to the Eagles and potential trades."
Sell: Giants Are Considering Trading Back from No. 11
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport raised some eyebrows when he reported on April 20 that New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman is considering trading back from the team's pick at No. 11 overall.
The organization is considering the option because "that spot will have real value," Rapoport tweeted. However, in his eight drafts as a general manager, Gettleman has traded down...exactly zero times, so others aren't quite picking up what this rumor is putting down.
"I think we'll see a right turn in a NASCAR race before we see Dave Gettleman trade back," NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said in a conference call.
As Jeremiah points out, standing pat could allow them to acquire a pass-catching weapon for Daniel Jones or a difference-making pass-rusher like Michigan's Kwity Paye. New York needs an edge-rusher, and even if analysts have Paye ranked a few spots behind No. 11, is it really worth dipping a toe into the trade-back waters for the first time and missing out on him entirely?
Still, the rumor lives on, and Gettleman himself isn't doing anything to squash it. Gettleman said it's an "urban myth" that he refuses to trade back, per ESPN's Jordan Raanan...which isn't quite true, because he has literally never done it. That doesn't mean he hasn't tried, Gettleman says.
"But it's got to be value," Gettleman said. "I'm not getting fleeced. I refuse to do it. If someone wants to make a bad trade back, God bless them."
Buy: Jerry Jones Is 'Infatuated' with Kyle Pitts
Of all the rumors on this list, this is the one you can feel best about buying.
"We're hearing this thing about Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys—and the GM—being infatuated with Kyle Pitts," Chris Mortensen said on ESPN (h/t ProFootballTalk). "He's going to have to trade up to get Kyle Pitts. He spent $40 million a year on Dak Prescott, so why not go get Kyle Pitts?"
Why buy into this rumor? Mortensen and Jones are close, so surely the information can be trusted. However, will the Dallas Cowboys actually trade up for the Florida tight end? That is the million-dollar question.
The Cowboys are currently sitting at No. 10 overall, and it's risky at best and incorrect at worst to assume Pitts will be there waiting for Jones. Moving up will take their 2022 first-round pick, as it did for the Miami Dolphins when they traded up with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Pitts, for his part, is flattered by the report. On the Rich Eisen Show, he said it "it's an honor" to hear Jones considers him in such high regard.
Of course, Pitts grew up an Eagles fan, and most of his family still roots for Philadelphia, so the holiday jersey gifts may be awkward in December if this comes to pass.
Sell: Trading Jordan Love Is on the Table for Packers
You know how the story goes: Draft a once-in-a-generation quarterback. Win a Super Bowl with him. Contend nearly every season of his career. Trade up to select his heir apparent in the first round of the draft and risk angering generational quarterback. Trade heir apparent the very next year.
Oh, wait. That's not a story you hear very often, because it would be a patently absurd way for a franchise to operate. And that's why you can immediately discard any rumors concerning the Packers moving heir apparent Jordan Love this offseason.
There's always a completely out-of-left-field rumor that pops up during the week of the draft, and this one just may be our winner this year. How did it even begin?
It appears to have started with this tweet from the Gillette Nation Twitter account, which alleges that a custodian at Lambeau Field snapped a picture of details on a proposed draft-day trade that would see the Patriots send the that would send Love to the Patriots in return for trading down from No. 15, No. 29 overall and a fourth-round pick.
The "nephew" of this stadium custodian has done this sort of thing before, but in the past, it was his father who worked as a custodian in New York leaking the schedule release.
Remember, kids: NFL draft week is a wild time, but the truly outrageous rumors are easy to separate from the pack.