On April 5, now former New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold was traded to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for three draft picks. Darnold’s trade to Carolina could mean there is one less team in the hunt for a first round quarterback in April’s draft. Former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was once considered as competition for Trevor Lawrence as the number one overall draft in the 2021 NFL draft, but that is no longer the case. While Lawrence is almost guaranteed to go to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the first pick, Fields is projected to go as low as 15th overall in some mock drafts. This could spell good news for the Denver Broncos, who would likely take a long look at drafting Fields if he fell to them at ninth overall. Here are some 2021 NFL Draft trades, including Darnold to Carolina, that could possibly impact whether or not the Broncos draft Justin Fields.
2021 NFL Draft Trades and How Justin Fields and the Denver Broncos Could Be Impacted
Darnold in Carolina
Sam Darnold’s three year run in New York was full of ups and downs. In over 38 games with the Jets Darnold threw 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions and had a completion rate of 59.8%. Darnold, a fairly mobile quarterback, also ran for 417 yards, and fumbled 20 times, though he only lost seven of those fumbles. While Darnold’s stats don’t tell the whole story, especially when you consider the weapons and offensive line he was surrounded by in New York, there is no doubt he has underperformed thus far. For that reason alone, there is no guarantee that the Panthers will pass on taking a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft.
With that being said, the Panthers gave up a lot for a guy who has only averaged 15 touchdown passes per year. The Jets were able to steal a second, fourth, and sixth-round pick for a guy that they didn’t want anymore. The Panthers must see something special in Darnold, or they ran out of patience on the Deshaun Watson front. While the risk is low, because Darnold is in the last year of his rookie contract, the payment suggests Darnold will get a good shot to win the team and fans over in 2021. In Carolina’s case, the argument could be made that selecting Kyle Pitts to fill the void left by Greg Olsen, or Micah Parsons, to fill the void left by Luke Kuechly, would make a lot more sense than selecting Fields or any other quarterback at eight.
The San Francisco 49ers Seem To Love Mac Jones
Despite Mac Jones only playing one full season at Alabama, he has become one of the most talked about quarterbacks over the course of the 2020 college football season. Before the season Jones made very little noise on draft boards at all, but nowadays he is projected by most to be selected by the San Francisco 49ers as the third overall pick. In late March, the 49ers moved up nine spots in the draft after they traded the 12th pick and other assets for the third pick which was held by the Miami Dolphins.
While there was speculation that the 49ers made this move to go get Justin Fields, it then became widely rumored that San Francisco’s gaze has become fixated on Mac Jones. While the 49ers still have Jimmy Garoppolo‘s huge contract on the books, and Kyle Shanahan has endorsed Garoppolo as the team’s starting quarterback, it seems imminent at this point that the 49ers will select a quarterback with the third pick. Shanahan and general manager John Lynch can continue to play their cards close to their chest, but it seems unlikely at this point that Jones isn’t that pick. If it wasn’t already obvious that the 49ers preferred Jones over Fields, Shanahan and Lynch chose to attend Mac Jones’ Pro Day over Fields’ on March 30.
The Falcons Unpredictability
While no trade has taken place as of yet, the Atlanta Falcons are in a very intriguing spot. The Falcons have been rumored for weeks to be seriously considering trading out of the fourth overall pick in return for future draft capital. The team, which has some great young talent, has a lot of holes to fill across their roster. Their starting quarterback, Matt Ryan, is 35 and likely nearing the end of his career. Despite throwing 26 touchdown passes in each of the last two years, Ryan is unlikely to put up elite totals like he did in 2016 and 2018 ever again. While the Falcons have good reason to select a quarterback with the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, it seems more likely that the Falcons will select a non-quarterback or trade down.
The Falcons trading down, though could mean another team like the New England Patriots or Washington Football Team trades up to select a quarterback with that fourth pick. This is what makes the Falcons the most dangerous threat to the Broncos chances of landing Fields at nine.