The largest 2021 NFL Draft mysteries embrace 49ers (who?), Patriots (what?) and Justin Fields (the place?)


It is a thriller wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma. It is the 2021 NFL Draft.

If NFL Mock Drafts have taught us something yr in and yr out, it is this: No one is aware of something. Even the perfect NFL Draft analysts tend to overlook on picks, and that is completely positive. It is all a guessing recreation, in any case.

MORE: Evaluate the specialists’ Mock Drafts for 2021

This yr, although, it appears to be extra broad open than drafts previous. With an odd school soccer season that unfolded in 2020 throwing a monkey wrench into scouting, with gamers opting out and colleges enjoying modified schedules, NFL entrance places of work have probably been by a more durable time to judge prospects heading into Thursday. Sprinkle in that there was no NFL Mix and face-to-face interplay with prospects was at an all-time low, and you have got a recipe for chaos.

Whereas the top-five quarterbacks are the discuss of the city heading into this yr’s first spherical, there are many different questions which have but to be answered forward of April 29.

Listed below are a number of the most attention-grabbing.

Who will the 49ers draft?

The 49ers made the primary main transfer of the 2021 NFL Draft cycle, sending the Dolphins two future first-round picks to leap from No. 12 to No. 3 (thanks, Houston). Make no mistake: The 49ers traded as much as take a quarterback, since you do not spend that a lot future draft capital if it is not for a quarterback.

However which quarterback? Rumors have urged that Kyle Shanahan loves Alabama’s Mac Jones at No. 3, whereas the 49ers’ personnel division appears to be scorching on Trey Lance.

The Jones stuff is, by far, probably the most attention-grabbing factor to come back out of the rumors this offseason: Shanahan has labored properly with pocket passers in years previous (Kirk Cousins with Washington, Matt Ryan with Atlanta, Jimmy Garoppolo with San Francisco), so opting to take one other acquainted ability set in Jones is smart. 

However … 

Lance’s pure bodily attributes coupled together with his age make him a house run of a decide ought to he pan out. Whereas Lance opted out of the 2020 school soccer season, his 2019 tape might be extra of a inform than something.

Who will the Patriots draft?

It is the Patriot option to enter the draft with nobody having any thought what Invoice Belichick is pondering.

One of many newest rumors signifies that New England might be thinking about Florida QB Kyle Trask. Different studies recommend that the Patriots need to make a transfer into the highest 10, presumably to take a passer excessive.

Whereas the Patriots might be set at quarterback for 2021 with Cam Newton again for another yr, there isn’t any scarcity of choices for New England within the draft. The crew’s big-time free-agency interval dictates that Belichick shall be going for it now, which means the Pats won’t look to a future QB till the 2022 draft, which might be one thing of a left flip heading into this yr’s draft.

In any case, the Patriots are within the candy spot: They’ll commerce as much as give a rebuilding crew a bit extra draft capital within the subsequent yr and get themselves a quarterback or sit the place they’re and easily take the perfect participant accessible. 

We’ll see what Nike does on Thursday.

Who will draft Justin Fields?

Justin Fields went from consensus No. 2 total QB within the draft earlier than the beginning of the 2020 school soccer season to some questioning whether or not he’ll be a top-10 decide this yr. 

Regardless of the case could also be, the thought of Fields slipping previous the highest 10 is wholly unfair to him, nevertheless it’s a query that is going to final heading into Thursday.

With Trevor Lawrence presumably going No. 1 total and the Jets seemingly falling in love with BYU passer Zach Wilson at No. 2, there isn’t any telling who will choose Fields or the place he’ll fall. If the 49ers determine between Mac Jones and Trey Lance, it is one other touchdown spot off the board. All eyes then flip to the Falcons, who lately restructured Matt Ryan’s contract, and will go.

Then at No. 5 you have got the Bengals, who will probably determine between Penei Sewell and a prime offensive weapon for Joe Burrow. The Dolphins at No. 6 appear to be sticking with Tua Tagovailoa and are rumored to commerce down.

May Fields go No. 7 to the Lions? Detroit traded away Matthew Stafford and acquired again Jared Goff and future first-rounders, too. It might be untimely to finish the Goff period earlier than it begins. The Panthers at No. 8 may take Fields, if they are not a real believer in Sam Darnold’s future in Carolina.

Denver at No. 9 looks like a really sensible choice, assuming that no different groups soar the Broncos to get him. It is a very actual chance that Fields falls out of the highest 10 — and that might be a rattling disgrace.

The place do the highest two working backs go?

Alabama’s Najee Harris and Clemson’s Travis Etienne are thought of to be the highest two working backs within the 2021 draft — however do not be stunned if neither goes within the first spherical.

Since 2015: 

  • 2015: Melvin Gordon, 82 video games, 57 touchdowns.
  • 2015: Todd Gurley, 88 video games, 79 touchdowns.
  • 2016: Ezekiel Elliott, 71 video games, 56 touchdowns.
  • 2017: Christian McCaffrey, 51 video games, 45 touchdowns.
  • 2017: Leonard Fournette, 49 video games, 25 touchdowns.
  • 2018: Sony Michel, 38 video games, 15 touchdowns.
  • 2018: Rashaad Penny, 27 video games, six touchdowns.
  • 2018: Saquon Barkley, 31 video games, 23 touchdowns.
  • 2019: Josh Jacobs, 28 video games, 19 touchdowns.
  • 2020: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 13 video games, 4 touchdowns.

Clearly, various levels of success tales right here, with Gordon, Gurley and Fournette not on the groups that drafted them. 

An excellent working again can change an offense, however for a way lengthy? There are advantages to taking a working again within the first spherical, the fifth-year choice chief amongst them; however the fifth-year choice does not matter a lot if guys are beginning to decelerate into Yr 3 or 4. 

Groups have been slowly however certainly shifting away from drafting first-round working backs since 2000. There are a minimum of two groups that may use a again towards the again finish of the primary on this yr’s draft — Pittsburgh, Buffalo — and one or each may go that route. It could be a readymade transfer for both crew to take a working again now to assist with offense: The Steelers had been one of many worst speeding offenses in soccer in 2020, whereas the Payments had been decidedly center of the pack.

MORE: 2021 NFL Mock Draft with trades

What is going to the Falcons do?

In the event you consider that Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and one in all Mac Jones or Trey Lance goes 1-2-3 on this yr’s draft, then the draft actually begins with the Falcons at decide No. 4.

Whereas Atlanta restructured Matt Ryan’s deal to ease the burden of the cap and will look to ship out Julio Jones to assist ease the cap as properly, there isn’t any denying that the crew will look drastically totally different on offense come the beginning of the 2021 season.

With Arthur Smith taking up, may the crew look to the longer term and produce within the subsequent era of Falcons passer? At No. 4, there shall be a minimum of two intriguing quarterback choices accessible, it is simply unsure which two they’re going to be. If rumors and conjecture are to be believed, then each Justin Fields and Trey Lance shall be there at three, and each will match Smith’s new scheme seamlessly.

Ryan, although, is not precisely outdated: He is 35 and has some huge cash left on his deal, which is not the most lovable scenario for any NFL crew with a brand new head coach on the helm.

There are any variety of instructions the Falcons may go: Perhaps they might go along with a quarterback, or perhaps they draft Kyle Pitts to run within the Smith offense, or perhaps they draft a large receiver to mitigate the longer term commerce of Jones, or perhaps they commerce down.

With the highest three picks seemingly settled coming into Thursday, all eyes are on the Falcons at No. 4.

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