Deals or no deals? This is the question teams in need of a young quarterback are facing heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.
From 2016 to 2018, eight teams traded up to draft a quarterback in the top 12: Bills (Josh Allen), Jets (Sam Darnold), Rams (Jared Goff), Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes), Cardinals (Josh Rosen), Bears (Mitchell Trubisky), Texans (Deshaun Watson) and Eagles (Carson Wentz).
However, in the past two drafts, there were only two trades of any kind made in the top half of the first round and neither of them were for quarterbacks (LB Devin Bush, Steelers, 10th overall selection in 2019; OT Tristan Wirfs, Buccaneers, 13th overall selection in 2020).
This decline in early deals could be the start of a long-time trend because teams seem reluctant to give up three or four premium picks for a prospect. It’s also possible that the non-playoff teams typically interested in moving upward were waiting to see whether their current quarterback would develop — or maybe they just weren’t interested in giving up major draft capital for Justin Herbert, Daniel Jones, and/or Tua Tagovailoa.
Then again, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the no-trade trend end this year, as there is a long list of quarterback-needy teams and plenty to like about the available QBs. For this four-round projection, however, I play out the scenario that mirrors the 2019 and 2020 drafts. The Jets, Falcons and Panthers land future signal-callers in the top eight selections while staying put, but there are five trades in this mock, including one for a quarterback in the middle of the first round.
The free-agent compensatory picks listed in this exercise are based on my colleague Lance Zierlein’s projections from last April. The official list will be made available by the league in the weeks to come. Four additional picks were added to the end of the third round for franchises losing minority employees to head coach or general manager positions throughout the league.
The Matthew Stafford-Jared Goff trade between the Lions and Rams, which included L.A. sending a 2021 third-round pick to Detroit, is factored into this mock. The deal moving Carson Wentz from Philadelphia to Indianapolis for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 selection is also included. The trades won’t become official before the start of the new league year (March 17).