In the immediate aftermath of last Friday’s blockbuster trade between the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins pundits were quick to declare various “winners” and “losers” of the trade. The 49ers, paying a premium to come up nine spots in the first round, were still declared winners, given they are now in position to grab perhaps one of the top quarterback prospects. The Dolphins were also considered winners, given the accumulation of future first-round selections.
As the dust settles there is a case to be made for another winner.
The New York Giants.
Dave Gettleman in perhaps now in an almost-ideal position in the draft, for a simple reason: Thanks to this trade, it is now almost a certainty that five quarterbacks will be off the board by the time the Giants are potentially on the clock with the 11th selection in the draft. Let’s walk through the scenarios to outline how the Giants benefited from this blockbuster deal, and illustrate who could be available when Gettleman is on the clock. We will also work through this question: If five QBs go in the top 10, should they?
We start with the easiest scenario to predict.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This does seem set in stone, even with the recent buzz over BYU quarterback Zach Wilson and his pro day. Still, Urban Meyer left the comfort of the TV studio to take the Jacksonville job, and you would think the opportunity to coach Lawrence — as well as using the massive war chest of draft capital/cap space the Jaguars have put together — was a big draw.
New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
This pick, too, almost seems set in stone. While it might not be the move I would make — I have long been on record as having Justin Fields from Ohio State as my QB2 in the draft — Wilson to the Jets seems a foregone conclusion. Yes his pro day might have helped, but Wilson’s production this last season took a huge leap forward due in part to the offense BYU ran, which was heavily influenced by the kind of offense the Jets will be running in 2021. The scheme fit, plus Wilson’s talent, makes him the second quarterback off the board.
San Francisco 49ers: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama; Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State; Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Here is where the draft begins in earnest, with the 49ers on the clock. As impressive as Kyle Pitts has been through his final season at Florida and the pre-draft process (and as scary as that offense could be with both Pitts and George Kittle) San Francisco did not give up a pair of future-first round picks for a position that is not quarterback.
But which QB?
Many have connected the 49ers with Mac Jones, given how the Alabama passer looks a lot like two other quarterbacks that Kyle Shanahan has worked with in the past: Jimmy Garoppolo and Kirk Cousins. Yes, Jones can run Shanahan’s offense. But something tells me that you give up a few future first-round selections to draft a quarterback who transcends your offense, and not just runs it.
So I think they came up either for Lance or Fields.
But they came up for a QB.
Atlanta Falcons: Fields, Lance, Jones, Pitts
Now the real fun begins.
The Atlanta Falcons could go quarterback here, and line up a player for the future. But having just restructured Matt Ryan’s contract, they might be stuck with the veteran passer for the next two seasons. That could take QB off the board for them. If they stay and make a pick, the mismatch weapon that is Kyle Pitts is an enticing option. Or, this could be a spot for a team to come up and draft another QB (Carolina/Denver/New England).
Almost since the moment the Cincinnati Bengals made Joe Burrow the first selection in the 2020 NFL draft an offensive lineman has been slated into this spot. Many believe it will be the athletic Penei Sewell, who began this draft cycle — almost a year ago — as perhaps the second-overall player on every big board.
But the winds have shifted a bit, as Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater has risen up boards. In addition to that, the Bengals added RIley Reiff in free agency and head coach Zac Taylor said in recent days that Cincinnati is set at tackle between Reiff and Jonah Williams. Maybe that is a smokescreen, or maybe the Bengals go in a different direction.
They could also look to trade out, but odds are, they are not drafting a quarterback. So the Giants see a non-QB go in this spot, and all four players could be enticing to Gettleman at 11 overall.
Miami Dolphins: Chase; Pitts; Najee Harris, RB, Alabama; Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
This is where things start to get a bit more difficult to game out. With the Dolphins trading out of three, and then back up to six, the franchise put themselves in range of either Chase or Pitts, particularly if the Bengals indeed go offensive line with the pick at five.
A useful tool this time of year is NFL Mock Draft Database. This tracks all the various mock drafts, and while there is a lot of noise to sift through, you can see some trends. Mocks that have come out since the trade have the Dolphins looking at Chase, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, and Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau.
I think given this edge class — and their needs — the Dolphins wait on EDGE. (And if they do pick an EDGE in this spot, it is not likely Rousseau. Parsons could be a pick here, given how Miami lost Kyle Van Noy in free agency and the athletic linebacker fits the modern game, and what Brian Flores is building on defense. Or, if Chase or Pitts are still available, that is where they go.
Miami is also going to draft a running back, and while it probably does not happen at six, it happens early.
Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama; DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama; Fields; Lance; Jones; Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Detroit Lions are an intriguing team to watch. Given the departures of both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, Wide receiver is certainly a need. Chase is likely gone by this spot, so Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith are names to watch. The Lions could surprise and go quarterback if a player they like is available, or they could trade out with both Carolina and Denver lurking, and even the New England Patriots at 15.
Then there is Paye, the Michigan EDGE. The Lions know they are in the midst of a longer rebuild, and he fits the mold of Detroit’s kind of player. That could be a darkhorse team to watch, if you are a Giants fan looking for Paye to fall to 11.
Carolina Panthers: Quarterback
The Panthers are drafting a quarterback with their first pick, whether at eight or via a move up in a trade with Cincinnati/Miami/Detroit. It is unlikely that the Panthers could swing a trade with Atlanta to get to four, because it is hard to see the Falcons handing the keys to a potential franchise QB to their division rivals, unless the Panthers include a bevy of future first-round selections.
But here is where a quarterback likely comes off the board, and whether it is quarterback four or quarterback five, that position is starting to thin out.
Given their need at cornerback, many mock drafts have the Denver Broncos and new general manager George Paton going with corner at this spot. They might have their choice of corners, given that the Philadelphia Eagles now sit at 12 overall. Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech might be CB1 on some boards, but his recent back injury and impending surgery might see him slide. Patrick Surtain II is an NFL-ready defender, and Jaycee Horn might be a potential matchup-eraser on defense.
Parsons is also an option, if he slides past Miami at six.
Then there is the quarterback position. Paton has been making the pro day circuit and has free reign to evaluate Drew Lock and the future of QB in Denver. There is a shot that the fifth quarterback comes off the board here, to the Broncos.
Dallas Cowboys: Farley; Surtain; Horn; Slater
The Dallas Cowboys have a glaring need in the secondary, and you have to think that the organization drafts a cornerback in this spot, whether it is the first CB off the board or potentially the second or third. Offensive line is not an immediate issue, but if they like Slater — or should Sewell somehow fall — the value might be too hard to pass up.
If, somehow, there is still a quarterback here, the Patriots are now in striking distance of a more manageable trade. This might be the floor for QB5 in this draft.
At 10 overall.
New York Giants: ?
And now the Giants are on the clock.
In the top 10 there are three teams that look locked into a QB (Jacksonville, New York Jets and San Francisco), a team that is strongly looking in that direction (Carolina) and two teams that could go in that direction if they love a player (Detroit and Denver). Six potential spots, five quarterbacks. And then there are the Patriots, lurking at 15 and potentially seeking a trading partner to get their player.
Which means players like Waddle, Smith and Rashod Bateman will be available at 11 at the wide receiver spot. The Giants could have their pick of EDGE prospects. There is also a chance that Slater is available, giving Gettleman a new offensive lineman who can play tackle or even slide inside to guard.
Which is why right now the Giants look to be winners of this deal.
So, five quarterbacks in the top 10. Should there be?
Yes, and no.
In a vacuum, Trey Lance and Mac Jones are probably not top-10 prospects in the NFL draft. But quarterbacks are not drafted in vacuums. They are drafted in the real world, where the difference between 10-6...errr...11-6 and 14-3 comes down to whether you have the quarterback you need, or whether you are in the midst of quarterback purgatory. Exacerbating that issue is the fact that after QB5 on most boards, there is a dropoff. Teams that miss out in the first round might not be that excited about QB6, whether that player is Kyle Trask, Davis Mills or Kellen Mond on their board. Which means teams are going to take the swing early, and teams might move up to do so.
There is also this: The economics. Drafting a quarterback in the first round is not an immediate financial hit under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. No longer is the QB drafted first-overall immediately the highest-paid player in the game. They are cost-controlled. Which means moving on from them is easier to swallow. Just look at the Jets and Sam Darnold. If he were currently costing the Jets around $40 million per season, you would think New York would draft a player to help him, and not his replacement.
So teams will take that swing early, knowing that if it does not work out, the replacement cost will not be as expensive.
Putting all of this together: We will see five quarterbacks in the top 10 selections, even though in a vacuum that might look like a reach or two. And the Giants are in a great position to benefit.