What NFL’s blockbuster draft deals mean for 49ers, Dolphins, Eagles

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) passes against the Arizona Cardinals. (Tony Avelar/AP)

The 2021 NFL Draft was dramatically altered on Friday with a pair of blockbuster deals that will likely change the course of all three teams involved, and likely many more that weren’t.

In case you missed it, the San Francisco 49ers acquired the No. 3 selection in next month’s draft from the Miami Dolphins for a big haul of picks, including the Niners’ original 2021 first-round pick at No. 12, and then the Dolphins moved back up the board to No. 6 in a separate trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s a lot to unpack, so below we’ve tried to lay out some of what these trades could mean for each of the 49ers, Dolphins and Eagles.

What the deal means for the 49ers

The first thought that jumped to mind when news broke that the 49ers were acquiring a top-three pick was that they were eyeing one of the quarterbacks who will be available after the Jaguars presumably take Trevor Lawrence first-overall: BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.

When a team gives up significant future capital to move up in a draft, it’s nearly always to pick a quarterback.

But the 49ers almost immediately poured cold water on the idea, putting it out there that drafting a QB wasn’t necessarily their intent at No. 3 and making it known publicly that current starter Jimmy Garoppolo is still “in their plans.”

Despite what is being said about what motivated the 49ers’ decision to move up into the top three of next month’s first round, it’s hard to believe San Francisco did so without the most important position in the sport in mind. It seems unlikely the team doesn’t already have one or two quarterback prospects who they like enough to give up so much for.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean Garoppolo will not be a 49er when the whistle blows on the start of the 2021 season, as it’s entirely possible GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan keep their current starter as their QB of the future waits in the wings. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise if Garoppolo is traded or released at some point before the start of the 2021 campaign.

Either way, it’s reasonable to expect the 49ers, despite what has been said in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s deal, to draft the best quarterback available when their name is called on April 29.

What the deals mean for the Dolphins

Under the guidance of GM Chris Grier, acquiring draft capital has always been the name of the game – and it’s helped Miami become a team on the rise.

So with Tua Tagovailoa in place as Miami’s current starter heading into his sophomore campaign and quarterback not a current need for the Dolphins this draft season, Grier used the extremely high leverage of the No. 3 pick acquired in a 2019 trade with the Texans to his advantage… and racked up even more draft capital.

The Jaguars and New York Jets are both expected to take quarterbacks with the first two picks of the draft. But with four (or maybe even five) top-end talents available at the position this year, teams that need a QB and like one of the players who could be available in the top-four are willing to pay a pretty penny to have that chance – and we saw that with the 49ers.

But if stockpiling draft picks is what has helped the Dolphins rebuild their franchise, why make the second trade, sending a 2022 first-round pick to the Eagles to move back up into the top-10? The Dolphins clearly have their eye on a couple of players they believe are worth the sacrifice of a future first-rounder and who will be available at No. 6.

Who could that player be? Well, if four quarterbacks are selected with the first four picks of the draft, which many believe is a distinct possibility, standout prospects like LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell and Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater could be there for the Dolphins at six and would immediately make them a better team.

Whoever that player ends up being, the Dolphins will come away from Friday’s two blockbusters with an extra first-round pick in 2023 and a prospect who can make an impact as soon as he steps on the field in Week 1 next season.

What the deal means for the Eagles

The trade signals a couple of interesting developments for Philadelphia: 1) the team is clearly in full rebuild mode, having now acquired what could be a third first-rounder in 2022, and 2) the team is all-in on giving Jalen Hurts a chance to prove himself this season.

With the acquisition of the Dolphins’ 2022 first-round pick on Friday, Eagles GM Howie Roseman could end up with a trio of first-rounders next spring: the Eagles’ own, Miami’s selection and the conditional Colts pick acquired in the Carson Wentz trade, which becomes a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75 per cent of next season’s snaps. The potential of three first-round picks in 2022 would give the Eagles a foundation on which to build back up after what has been a rapid fall from grace since winning Super Bowl LII in February 2018.

By moving back to No. 12, the Eagles also took themselves out of the running for one of the top quarterbacks available in the draft. Despite the Eagles seemingly backing Hurts with the decision to trade Wentz, there had been questions about whether Philadelphia could draft a QB at No. 6 and have a competition play out in this summer’s training camp. But by trading back to No. 12, the Eagles have likely pulled themselves out of position to select a quarterback and Hurts should enter camp as QB1.

Mired in salary cap trouble for 2021 and needing to fill a lot of holes on the roster, the Eagles will have plenty of good players to choose from in the 12th spot next month.

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