NFL Draft 2021: Breaking Down the Pre-Draft Trades Made By the 49ers, Dolphins, and Eagles

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch (left) shakes hands with head coach Kyle Shanahan after their win against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.

While most of the NFL Draft deals typically occur on the day of the draft, some teams chose to get the hassle out of the way well in advance. On Friday morning, three teams made a flurry of moves that drastically changed the order of the top-12 picks in the upcoming draft. With many moving parts in each deal, here is the breakdown of the three major trades made by the Niners, Dolphins, and Eagles in the past few days.

49ers Move Up to 3rd in the Draft

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch speaks to the media during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Niners Receive: No. 3 Overall Pick in 2021 Draft

Dolphins Receive: 2021 First Round Pick (12th Overall), 2021 3rd Round Pick (Compensatory Pick), 2022 First Round Pick, 2023 First Round Pick

After no real chatter beforehand, San Francisco now finds itself in the top-3 of the upcoming draft. With over a month until the draft, there will be endless speculation on what the Niners will do with the pick. However, after giving up that much draft capital, it seems likely that the leap in the draft order was for a quarterback.

Promptly after the trade was announced, San Francisco announced that Jimmy Garoppolo remains the teams’ quarterback of the future. Then again, they couldn’t just come out and say that they were moving on from Garoppolo altogether. An announcement like that while Garoppolo is still with the team gives the Niners little leverage in future trade negotiations. Take the Niners announcement with a grain of salt.

Option 1: Niners Find Quarterback of the Future

Assuming the move was for a quarterback, San Francisco will likely have every option on the board minus Trevor Lawrence. There is a lot of chatter about BYU quarterback Zach Wilson being a lock to go to the Jets at second overall. Especially after seeing his outstanding pro-day workout, this is a very realistic scenario. However, a lot can change in the month, especially as the Jets begin to evaluate other positions of need.

Even with Wilson off the board, the Niners still have a match made in heaven with Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Many NFL scouts and analysts dream that Fields ends up in Kyle Shanahans’ offense. Fields, a quarterback who thrives on run-pass option plays and extending plays with his feet, would fit seamlessly into Shanahans’ offense. Not to mention that Fields would be operating behind one of the best offensive lines in football.

The final realistic option is a move for North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. One of the biggest mysteries of the draft, Lance, opted out of the CFB season after just one game. However, his fit with 49ers is almost as seamless as Fields. North Dakota State ran a very run-heavy offense that worked flawlessly against FCS competition due to Lances’ versatility as a runner and a passer.

Despite the obvious scheme fit, Lance arguably has more question marks than any other quarterback in the draft. Lance is an incredibly raw product, as his accuracy and throwing motion needs a lot of work for him to be successful in the NFL. His best tape is also against FCS opponents, which are far inferior to the ones he will be facing in the league.

Option 2: San Francisco Sticks With Garoppolo, Opts For A Top Skill Position Player

And then there is the ultimate curveball. The Niners saw a non-quarterback worthy of a top-3 pick and jumped at the opportunity to trade up and grab him. There is only a select number of players that fit this criterion. One is Florida’s tight end, Kyle Pitts.

In what would be an embarrassment of riches, the Niners could be planning to pair Pitts with George Kittle. A Kittle-Pitts duo would be an absolute menace in San Francisco’s oft-used two-tight end packages. San Fransico ran 21 personnel (a formation with 2 tight ends and 1 running back) at the 2nd-highest rate of any team in the NFL last season.

The other player is LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Given the Niners’ emphasis on the running game and recently selecting Brandon Aiyuk with their first-round pick last year, this seems even more unlikely than the Pitts selection. However, it is important to remember that Chase is by far the best receiver in the draft. No analyst or scout would think twice if he was selected within the top-3 come draft night.

Great Value From Miami

Moving down was a smart move for the Dolphins, given the return. While a Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, or Chase would have all been great options at third overall, gaining the additional two first-round picks for the future was too good to pass up on. As we would learn later on in the day, this was not their last move.

Eagles Trade Down to 12th as Dolphins Move Back Into the Top 10

General Manager Chris Grier and Head Coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins answers questions from the media during a season ending press conference at Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southern University on December 30, 2019 in Davie, Florida
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Eagles Receive: 2021 First-Round Pick (12th Overall), 2021 Fourth Round Pick (123rd Overall), 2022 First Round Pick (via Dolphins)

Dolphins Receive: 2021 First Round Pick (6th Overall), 2021 Fifth Round Pick (156th Overall)

When it is all said and done, the Dolphins moved down just three spots and acquired a first and third-round pick in the process. Not to mention that they still have a great shot of selecting one of the top offensive lineman or a top receiver. An absolute masterclass from Dolphins general manager Chris Grier.

From the Eagles’ perspective, it is an interesting move. The original thought at 6 was to get a weapon for presumed franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts. With the move down to 12, that now looks unlikely. Philadelphia definitely has no shortage of needs on the roster. With that in mind, there is a multitude of directions the Eagles could go with this pick.

Possible Scenarios for the Eagles

The Eagles still have a huge hole at linebacker from last season. Since they have yet to address this in free agency, using their pick at 12th seems like a likely move. The top linebackers that fit Phillys’ defense would be Penn States Micah Parsons or Notre Dames’ Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Parsons has a lot of long-term potential but may not produce first-round numbers from Day 1. Owusu-Koramoah has a lot of versatility and has shown elite coverage ability at 6’1, 217 pounds. If linebacker is the Eagles’ plan, look for Philly to select either of them at 12 on draft night.

The other option is at cornerback, another dire position of need for the Eagles. The top two cornerbacks in the draft are Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley and Alabamas’ Patrick Surtain. With a cornerback needy team like the Cowboys sitting in front of them, their choice may not be available once it gets to their pick. South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn is also a great cornerback prospect, with physicality being his strongest trait on the field.

This could also be a spot in which the Eagles go with the best player available. If by some miracle, Kyle Pitts makes it all the way to 12, it is hard to see a situation in which the Eagles pass on him. A tackle is also not totally out of the realm of possibility, with Virginia Techs’ Christian Darrisaw being a viable option.

Possible Scenarios for the Dolphins

As mentioned above, the Dolphins are in a fantastic spot to land a great player, having still acquired draft capital for the future. It could not have worked out any better for Miami. With that being said, they have only fought half the battle. The team has many needs and could go in a few different directions with this pick at 6.

Given Sewells’ overall value as a top prospect plus being a position of need for the Dolphins, it is hard to see them passing on him if he makes it to 6. This means that the team would be able to bump one of their tackles into the guard spot and great an elite offensive line for Tua Tagovailoa and Myles Gaskin. Especially given Tagovailoas’ injury history, this is a major plus for the team.

Selecting Chase, Smith, or Jaylen Waddle to add to a threat outside is also a real possibility. Other than Devante Parker, the team struggled to find consistent production from any receiver last year. Any of the three previously mentioned receivers would fix that problem from Day 1.

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