nfl draft 2021
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The Jaguars, Jets and 49ers are about to add rookie quarterbacks.
So are the Falcons — or maybe not. So are the Panthers — or maybe not. So are the Patriots — or maybe not. So are the Bears — or maybe not. So is Washington — or maybe not. So are the Steelers — or maybe not. Anyone else want to join in?
For just the third time since the merger in 1970 and the first time since 1999, quarterbacks are expected to be the first three picks of the NFL draft when the first round gets underway at 8 p.m. Thursday. The Jaguars won the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes by securing the No. 1 pick with a season-ending 15-game losing streak. The Jets, at No. 2, are zeroed in on Zach Wilson after trading away Sam Darnold.
“At one point on my scratch pad, I had quarterbacks going 1-2-3-4-5 just because people move up a little bit to get them and all of a sudden a guy becomes hot,” Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt said. “With quarterbacks, it’s a feel — and then the feel becomes how hard they work and how good the guy is who’s coaching him.”
The draft really starts at No. 3, though that pick is telegraphed as a quarterback — whether it is Mac Jones, Trey Lance or Justin Fields — after the 49ers traded two future first-round picks to move up. Maybe the intrigue really will begin with first-year Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot, who could trade No. 4 for a king’s ransom, select Matt Ryan’s successor or become the first team since 1972 to draft a tight end (Kyle Pitts) in the top five.
“I’d remind him to recheck the phone lines and check them again and then one more time,” said former NFL general manager Mark Dominik, a SiriusXM analyst. “It would be really nice if they could get that opportunity to get that trade-back call. I think I’d take advantage of it if I was Atlanta, but I don’t want to move out of the top 12.”
History could be made in as many as three forms: the first time quarterbacks go with the first four picks, the first time five quarterbacks are selected within the top 10 picks, or with a record-tying six first-round quarterbacks if Stanford’s Davis Mills or Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond joins the party late. Five were picked in the top 12 in 1999 (two Pro Bowlers and zero Hall of Famers) and five were first-rounders in 2018. The six quarterbacks picked in 1983 included three Hall of Famers: John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.
“Trevor is a beast: They don’t build guys like him where you have to search for something not to like about him,” one offense-minded NFL coach, not expected to be a player in the quarterback market, told The Post. “I like all these other guys, but I don’t love any of them.”
The fun — or madness — is in deciphering which two of the Big Five quarterbacks will be available after the 49ers choose and which teams will pounce in the trade market. The Steelers (No. 24) have a veteran, Ben Roethlisberger, who is near the end of the line. The Patriots (No. 15) spent $300 million on free agents, but still have a Tom Brady-sized hole. Washington (No. 19) is a quarterback away from NFC East supremacy. The Bears (No. 20) reek of desperation.
Who could trade down? The Lions (No. 7) after acquiring Jared Goff. The Panthers (No. 8) — unless they view Darnold as a one-year rental. The Broncos (No. 9) after seemingly backing out of the market Wednesday by trading for Teddy Bridgewater as Drew Lock’s competition. And the Giants (No. 11), who most need a pass-rusher, but have a GM in Dave Gettleman who has never moved back in 54 career picks.
All eyes are on the Patriots, who also could try to reacquire former Brady backup Jimmy Garoppolo after the 49ers make their selection.
“Jimmy grew up in their offense, so if they can get him back in, why not?” the coach said. “Mac Jones would be a good fit, too.”
There’s something for everyone: The can’t-miss prototype (Lawrence). The Mahomes-wannabe gunslinger (Wilson). The deadly accurate tactician (Jones). The tantalizing dual-threat unproven against top competition (Lance). And the big-armed, big-game winner mysteriously sliding down mock drafts (Fields).
“All the different flavors make it very, very intriguing,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said, “when you’re looking across the whole scope of the class of these quarterbacks.”
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