The 2021 NFL draft just got hit with not one, but two monumental trades.
First, the San Francisco 49ers agreed to send the 12th pick and the 102nd pick in this year’s draft along with their first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to the Dolphins in exchange for the third-overall pick. Then, the Dolphins traded the 12th pick and 123rd pick in this year’s draft along with their newly-acquired 2022 first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for the sixth-overall pick and the 156th pick.
As of now, the top 12 picks in the draft look like this:
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- New York Jets
- San Francisco 49ers
- Atlanta Falcons
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Miami Dolphins
- Detroit Lions
- Carolina Panthers
- Denver Broncos
- Dallas Cowboys
- New York Giants
- Philadelphia Eagles
What does this mean for the Bengals and the other 11 teams atop the draft order? Let’s start with the obvious.
Three quarterbacks are guaranteed to go in the first four picks
The 49ers did not give away two future first-round picks for anything other than a quarterback. Both NFL analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Gil Brandt believe they’re targeting Trey Lance with the third pick. If that’s the case, then it’s all but confirmed that Zach Wilson will go to the Jets at the second pick after Trevor Lawrence goes to the Jaguars at the beginning of the draft.
Under this new reality, the draft really begins with the fourth pick. The Falcons currently hold that pick and there were rumors that they were seriously considering Lance with that fourth pick. NFL insider Benjamin Allbright and ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. both mocked Lance to the Falcons recently. If they have to watch Lance get taken right before them, this creates a vast unknown right before the Bengals go on the clock.
The Falcons could opt to take the fourth quarterback in the draft, or instead take the first non-quarterback. Both of these scenarios directly impact the Bengals.
One of Penei Sewell or Ja’Marr Chase is guaranteed to be available at the fifth pick
This was the dream for the Bengals. Their top two targets are very much in play after all this madness unfolded before them. The question is, will both be there? NFL insider Albert Breer thinks a quarterback is very much in play to be picked fourth-overall, regardless if it’s Atlanta whom makes the pick.
Either the Falcons take the last of the top QBs at 4, or they're in a great position to trade the pick to a team who will. Which makes it very, very possible this will be the first draft ever to have QBs 1-2-3-4.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 26, 2021
(FWIW, the murkiness of the '22 QBs plays into this, too.)
It’s tough to currently gauge where the Falcons are headed at this point. They’ve been roughly linked to tight end Kyle Pitts recently via mock drafts, but not much to either Sewell or Chase. The Falcons objectively already have a No. 1 wide receiver of the future in Calvin Ridley, so would they opt to take Sewell or Pitts instead of Chase? Or are they going to their backup plan at quarterback and keeping the focus on a future after Matt Ryan?
This is the new epicenter of the draft. Everything will play off what Atlanta does with their pick, and the Bengals are either going to take their No. 1 or No. 2 target. Or...
A trade back for the Bengals is also still in play
This would only occur if Atlanta passes on a quarterback. Say they take Pitts and Sewell and Chase are still there; the Bengals will have a preference between those two (if you’ve been reading the reports, the safe bet is Sewell at the moment), but their phones will still be operational. The Carolina Panthers (eighth pick), Denver Broncos (ninth pick) and New England Patriots (15th pick) could all be vying for whichever quarterback Atlanta passes on in this scenario.
Carolina and Denver would be the favorites from my point of view because the Bengals could still take one of top players on their board at either of those spots. They’d likely recoup at least a Day 2 pick in this year’s draft as well, which is something they’ll definitely have to consider.
The only way a Bengals trade back goes off the table is if the Falcons decide to do it from the fourth pick. And one more team could in consideration of that.
The Dolphins are still a factor to change things up, again
With more ammunition than a military base, the Dolphins absolutely could jump the Bengals from sixth to fourth-overall if they want to pick their top player on their board. This may not be the most likely scenario to go down, but it is still a possibility worth mentioning. And such a move would likely make the Bengals’ choice a bit easier if they were to stay at their pick.
For those that just scrolled down to the bottom, here’s what you skipped: This afternoon was a win for the Bengals.