nfl draft 2021
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Anybody can project Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson to be the first two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft.
It doesn’t take a psychic to peg two quarterback-receiver college reunions, with Ja’Marr Chase joining Joe Burrow on the Bengals and either Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith joining Tua Tagovailoa on the Dolphins.
But the NFL Draft rewards boldness. Here are The Post’s five bold predictions:
Panthers burn Sam Darnold by picking QB
Like the Jets’ Woody Johnson, Panthers owner David Tepper desperately covets a star quarterback. So Tepper is the type to approve/forgive the nonsensical idea of trading three draft picks (two in 2022) for Darnold knowing he might not be on the team in 2022. The Panthers bypass help for Darnold and select Justin Fields over Trey Lance at No. 8 to create the NFL’s most intriguing QB competition (sorry, Aaron Rodgers-Jordan Love), beginning the moment the Panthers decline Darnold’s fifth-year option and set up a game of “Survivor.”
Bears outbid Patriots to trade up for QB
Bill Belichick’s $300 million free-agent spending spree showed he still is full of surprises. Smart money has the Patriots calling to inquire about trading up from No. 15 if their preferred quarterback slides. In this scenario, it’s Lance. But the team on the other end of the call – Broncos here – say they already have a Godfather offer from the Bears. Hot-seat GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy mortgage the future. If their rookie quarterback looks promising, they buy more time. If he doesn’t, they get fired and their replacements start off with less 2022 draft capital. Ownership better have to sign off on a move like this one.
Julio Jones, Jimmy Garoppolo get traded
The Falcons pass on a quarterback but take away Matt Ryan’s favorite target before his last playoff run? What sense does that make? Well, Kyle Pitts takes Jones’ spot in the dynamic duo with Calvin Ridley. And the Falcons should load up on bonus picks in the 2022 Draft – and split Jones’ $23.25 million dead salary-cap charge over two years – in case they need to create a trade package to draft Ryan’s successor. The 49ers trade Garoppolo back “home” to the Patriots – or to the Broncos – after replacing him with Mac Jones at No. 3.
One-time top-12 projection slides out of first round
Linebacker Micah Parsons, cornerback Caleb Farley and defensive end Greg Rousseau were immediately mocked as top-12 picks after the college season ended, despite all three opting out in 2020. Now they all are sliding for different reasons. Parsons (maturity concerns) shouldn’t get past Washington at No. 19. Agent Drew Rosenhaus fended off chatter that his clients Farley (back surgery) and Rousseau (mediocre Pro Day) could slip out of the first round. Farley’s floor should be the Saints and Packers in the late 20s. Rousseau is a wild card.
Three running backs are first-round picks
Gasp! Cue the “running backs are a dime a dozen” crowd. But too many teams picking from Nos. 23-32 need a playmaking back. The Jets (No. 23), Steelers (No. 24) and Bills (No. 30) are the most obvious. Don’t rule out the Jaguars (No. 25) and Buccaneers (No. 32), either. Travis Etienne, Najee Harris and Javonte Williams are the players to watch. Three first-round running backs has happened just once since 2013.
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