The 2021 NFL Draft really gets interesting at pick No. 3, now owned by the San Francisco 49ers, who almost certainly will select a quarterback after swinging a blockbuster trade with the Miami Dolphins.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and BYU quarterback Zach Wilson are projected to go No. 1 and No. 2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, respectively, but there’s been some debate as to which college signal-caller the 49ers will choose: Alabama’s Mac Jones, Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
There were rumblings after San Francisco acquired the No. 3 pick from Miami that it had done so with the intention of drafting Jones, a former fringe first-round prospect whose draft stock has soared in recent weeks. But Colin Cowherd isn’t quite buying that connection.
Cowherd explained Tuesday on FS1 that he believes the Niners will opt for Fields, an athletic quarterback whose style could fit San Francisco’s offense, and that the Denver Broncos then will trade up with the Atlanta Falcons to select Lance at No. 4 overall.
This chain of events, according to Cowherd, could lead to Jones falling down the draft board to the New England Patriots, who currently own the No. 15 pick in Round 1.
“This feels like New England going out and getting Mac Jones, who can play behind, for a year, Cam Newton,” Cowherd said. “Josh McDaniels has had great success with the last and current best pocket quarterback, Tom Brady. That’s the offense they’re comfortable with. They went and got tight ends and receivers, so there are some legitimate targets. Also, New England’s O-Line is always top five to six in the league. Mac Jones, like Alabama, will be protected.
“So that one feels like, to me, New England sits around, Mac Jones drops a little and ends up going to New England.”
Of course, the Patriots still might need to trade up to land Jones. Because while the Carolina Panthers, who own the No. 8 pick, probably aren’t in the quarterback market anymore after acquiring Sam Darnold from the Jets on Monday, other teams ahead of the Patriots — including the Falcons and Detroit Lions — could throw a wrench into New England’s plans.
All told, it’ll be fascinating to see how Bill Belichick operates, especially if a QB, like Jones, starts sliding down the board on draft night. Because New England obviously has a huge need at the position one year removed from Tom Brady’s departure, and this year’s draft class is loaded with top-level talent.