The 2021 NFL Draft order got its first massive shakeup of the offseason on Friday, as the 49ers, Dolphins and Eagles made a series of trades.
Focusing solely on the first round of the upcoming draft, Miami traded the third-overall pick to San Francisco. In return, the 49ers sent a package of draft picks that included the 12th-overall selection. Then, the Dolphins moved back into the top 10 as they obtained the No. 6 pick from Philadelphia. The full details of the deal can be found here on ESPN.
Ostensibly, the 49ers appear to be targeting one of the top quarterbacks. Though that's just speculation, the rare collection of top quarterback prospects will likely create a rush on draft night — and a move into the top three picks would give San Francisco the ability to secure one of those players.
The effect on the Broncos is largely limited to any circumstance in which they decide their heart is set on one of the top quarterbacks. For Denver, or any team that might be in the market for a quarterback late in the top 10, the possibility of one of the top four quarterback prospects lasting all the way until the ninth pick suddenly becomes quite slim. Should the Jaguars, Jets and 49ers all draft quarterbacks with the first three selections, a fourth would almost certainly come off the board at No. 8 to the Panthers, if not sooner to a team like Atlanta that may be looking to find a quarterback for the future.
Though the Broncos do not need to draft a quarterback with their first pick, if General Manager George Paton and the team feel they must have one of them, they'd have to put together a significant trade package to acquire a top-four pick of their own.
In his mock draft published after the trades on Friday, NFL.com's Chad Reuter projected Denver to pick one of the top offensive linemen, but he noted that a move up to pick a quarterback wasn't out of the question either.
"GM George Paton made it clear he's not ruling out bringing in another quarterback to compete with Drew Lock, so it won't be a shock if they're in the mix to move up and nab a signal-caller," Reuter wrote.
Paton and Head Coach Vic Fangio have both affirmed their confidence in Lock in the past month, but they've also expressed that they aim to add more competition at the position. That doesn't necessarily mean that would come in the first round in the draft, or in the draft at all, however.
"We like Drew Lock," Paton said on March 18. "We have a plan in place and there's free agency, there's the draft, there's trades, there's a lot of ways to acquire a quarterback. Fortunately, we have a quarterback here and we have a nice quarterback room. We do want to bring in competition. We are not going to force it."
Speaking of possible trades, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that even after the 49ers' trade, they are "holding on to Jimmy Garoppolo and have no plans to trade him."
However, if the Broncos prefer instead to focus on other options with their first pick, the situation might not change much. A run on quarterbacks was already assumed to some degree, and if it comes earlier than expected, then it would push other talent down. Should that happen, a trade down may be more likely for Denver.
Below the Fold
One position for the Broncos that is something of an afterthought for mock-draft makers after free agency is cornerback. After Denver signed Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby, it's true that the position is no longer such a pressing need, but with Fuller on a one-year contract, it's not impossible for the Broncos to still go after a top cornerback. Who that is, though, is murky. Former NFL cornerback and scout Bucky Brooks broke down the competition there in a new story for NFL.com.
After Friday's trades, get familiar with the new draft order for the entire 2021 NFL Draft.