NFL Draft 2021: Realistic Trades That Could Spur Super Bowl RunsApril 29, 2021
NFL Draft 2021: Realistic Trades That Could Spur Super Bowl Runs
We've already seen two 2021 NFL draft trades that could help spur Super Bowl runs. More could be on the way.
The San Francisco 49ers kicked things off by trading up to the No. 3 spot in this week's event, presumably for a quarterback. While it's difficult to bank on a rookie signal-caller, it's also hard to stick with a quarterback who cannot stay on the field.
When Jimmy Garoppolo last played a full season in 2019, San Francisco reached the Super Bowl. However, he's only had one such campaign in the past three years. Replacing him may give the 49ers the dependability they need.
The Kansas City Chiefs recently traded the 31st pick for Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. in a deal involving several other selections. After K.C. parted with tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher in the offseason, adding the two-time Pro Bowler helps to reestablish the offensive line.
Kansas City, of course, has been in each of the last two Super Bowls.
What realistic draft-day trades might help other teams compete with Kansas City and the reigning-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Let's take a look.
Patriots Trade Up for Justin Fields
New England Patriots Get: No. 8 pick
Carolina Panthers Get: No. 15 pick, 2022 first-rounder
While it may be difficult to consider a seven-win team a title contender, it's also difficult to rule out Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. They won those games last season despite having virtually no receiving talent and a putrid passing game.
Quarterback Cam Newton threw for only 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Following a free-agency spending spree that brought in Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy and Nelson Agholor, New England could be a quarterback away from reentering the title chase.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Patriots are testing the waters on a trade that would land that quarterback. They are looking at moving into the top 10 and targeting Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
According to Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, the Patriots and Carolina Panthers have done "some groundwork" on a deal that could move New England to No. 8.
Belichick is a master at adaptation and game-planning, and if the Patriots can field a potent passing attack, they could be tough to deal with.
In this hypothetical trade, the Patriots send a future first-rounder to Carolina to move up seven spots and get their guy.
Baltimore Ravens Trade for Julio Jones
Baltimore Ravens Get: WR Julio Jones
Atlanta Falcons Get: 2022 second-round pick
The Baltimore Ravens have been in contention in each of the past two seasons but have fallen short of the AFC title game. They should be in a better position to advance if they can finally give Lamar Jackson a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
There's a good chance Baltimore will target that guy in this year's draft. However, the Atlanta Falcons could change the team's plans by giving up wideout Julio Jones. According to Breer and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Falcons are open to offers.
As NBC Sports' Peter King pointed out, though, a deal wouldn't involve 2021 draft picks. They could put "the framework of a trade together for star wideout Julio Jones, and [make] the trade effective June 2," per King. "That way, Atlanta could split Jones' cap charge between 2021 and 2022 instead of getting bashed with it all this year."
Baltimore and Atlanta could assemble this deal during draft weekend, making it effective in June.
If an early run on receivers leaves the Ravens without a viable target at the bottom of Round 1, calling the Falcons and setting up a deal could make a ton of sense.
Cleveland Browns Trade Up for a Cornerback
Cleveland Browns Get: No. 21 pick
Indianapolis Colts Get: No. 26 pick, 92nd pick, 133rd pick
It may feel odd to consider the Cleveland Browns a title contender, but that's the reality we're facing in 2021. The Browns won 11 regular-season games last year and advanced to the divisional round. Had they not gone into Kansas City with the league's 22nd-ranked pass defense, they might have upset the Chiefs.
Cleveland took steps to address its pass defense in free agency, adding safety John Johnson III, cornerback Troy Hill, pass-rusher Takkarist McKinley and edge-defender Jadeveon Clowney. Adding one more quality cornerback to the mix might be enough to send Cleveland on a run.
At No. 26, the Browns probably don't have a shot at Patrick Surtain II, the top-ranked corner on Bleacher Report's big board. Nabbing the second-ranked corner, South Carolina's Jaycee Horn, is possible. However, it could require jumping cornerback-needy teams like the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Making a deal with Indianapolis to move up five spots could be enough to secure Horn. In this proposed deal, the Colts land third- and fourth-round picks to move down to No. 26. Just as importantly, perhaps, they keep a premier cornerback prospect out of the hands of the AFC South-rival Titans.
The Browns, meanwhile, take another step toward turning a team weakness into a strength.
Buffalo Bills Trade Up for an Edge-Rusher
Buffalo Bills Get: No. 24 pick
Pittsburgh Steelers Get: No. 30 pick, 61st pick
The Buffalo Bills advanced to the AFC title game last year and have a fairly complete roster. However, their pass rush does leave something to be desired. Despite having the league's No. 2 scoring offense—which often forced opponents to play catch-up—the Bill only mustered 38 sacks last year.
Buffalo's biggest free-agent move regarding the pass rush was adding Efe Obada, who had 5.5 sacks last season.
Trading up for one of the draft's best pass-rushing prospects—like Michigan's Kwity Paye, the top-ranked edge-rusher on B/R's draft board—could help complete the roster. Moving up may be required to prevent teams like Jacksonville, Cleveland and Baltimore from taking Paye.
The Pittsburgh Steelers could be a prime trade partner, as they're reportedly interested in drafting a running back or a linebacker. According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk, the Steelers are eying Alabama's Najee Harris or Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins at No. 24.
If Harris is the preferred target and/or Collins is off the board, the Steelers should stand a decent chance of trading down and still getting their running back—no backs came off the board until the 32nd pick last year. Pittsburgh could nab a second-round pick to move back and fill the position it was hoping to fill.
Buffalo, meanwhile, could add punch to its pass rush and move a step closer to catching Kansas City in the AFC.
Green Bay Packers Trade Up for a Wide Receiver
Green Bay Packers Get: No. 26 pick
Cleveland Browns Get: No. 29 pick, 93rd pick
The Green Bay Packers shouldn't have to make a move to be considered an NFC contender. They were only a few plays from knocking off the Buccaneers in the conference title game last year and have kept most of their roster intact.
Making a trade in the first round, though, could help put Green Bay over the top.
While the Packers haven't traditionally targeted wide receivers early in the draft—Javon Walker in 2002 was their last first-round receiver—giving Aaron Rodgers more firepower could be bad news for opponents.
And while this is a deep receiver class, many of the Day 2 prospects, like Purdue's Rondale Moore (5'7", 181 lbs), are on the smaller side. Green Bay tends to target larger prospects when possible.
"You're always bigger, stronger, faster if you can be," general manager Brian Gutekunst told Packer Report's Ross Uglem last year.
Moving up and grabbing a receiver like Minnesota's Rashod Bateman (6'0", 190 lbs) could give Green Bay a dangerous No. 2 receiver to pair with Davante Adams.
In this hypothetical trade, the Packers send a third-rounder to Cleveland to jump the receiver-needy Ravens and land Bateman. A third-round pick would be good for the Browns, but keeping a potent pass-catcher out of Baltimore might be even better.
B/R's NFL Scouting Department 2021 Mock Draft
Bleacher Report NFL Scouting Department