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To Draft, Not to Draft, To Trade on Not to Trade: That is the Question

CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Each team at the top of the 2021 NFL Draft appears to be faced with a dilemma as to which of the top players on their board they should draft. William Shakespeare’s depiction of Hamlet and the young Danish prince’s ever-bourgeoning indecision was the playwright’s belief that the bane of modern, overly-intellectualized man is: he thinks too much.

As Shakespeare portends in the tragedy: “over-analysis causes paralysis.”

Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim reiterates every draft season the urgency to not overthink in the spring the scouting determinations he and the team made during the fall. In this age of information gluttony, analytics and metrics, NFL GMs are more and more apt to wear out the rugs in their offices while pacing to and fro in their constant weighing of the pros and potential cons of each decision they make when their teams are “on the clock.”

One of the elephants in the the GM’s room is the oppressive way in which the national and local media are now trying to influence teams’ selections. A perfect example of this is how virtually every major NFL national pundit believes that QB Trevor Lawrence (pictured in the huddle above) is the slam dunk, no-brainer #1 pick in the draft. After all, even since Lawrence burst onto the scene as a freshman at Clemson, the expectation of him being the “can’t miss” #1 pick in his draft class has grown to magnificent and overwhelming proportions.

Yet, suddenly even some of the more well-heeded national pundits are softly stating that Ohio St. QB Justin Fields may very well have the “highest ceiling” of any of the QBs in the 2021 draft class. Not only does Fields appear to be the most gifted all-around athlete of the class, as confirmed by his recent 4.4 40 yard dash, if you watched the national semi-final game a few months ago having never heard of Justin Field or Trevor Lawrence, and you were asked after the game, a game in which Fields was outstanding, who the consensus #1 QB in the 2021 draft class is, you would say Fields, without having to think.

This takes us to the Jacksonville Jaguars and their dilemma at pick #1: Fields or Lawrence?

Because of Urban Meyer’s affinity for Ohio St. and the notion that even going back as far as Meyer’s Bowling Green and Utah days where he hit a grand slams with a dual-threat QBs Josh Harris and Alex Smith, one could make the argument that based on his coaching history, Urban Meyer has always preferred to build his offense around highly mobile QBs.

At #2, the Jets, having now traded Sam Darnold, are taking a QB as well. The question is will they select Justin Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson? What makes this pick especially fascinating is how new Jets’ HC Robert Saleh finds himself in a position to trump the 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan and his former team. Word from the media has been that the 49ers are keen on taking Alabama QB Mac Jones at #3. But, has that been a smokescreen all along in the hope that Justin Fields becomes available to them?

The media has also been adamant about Wilson to the Jets , particularly seeing how Salah and GM Joe Douglas flew out to BYU to attend Zach Wilson’s pro day. Yet, what would the Jets do if the Jags take Justin Fields? Wouldn’t they pivot immediately over to Trevor Lawrence?

Moreover, getting back to the debate between Justin Fields and Zach Wilson, which QB has the higher NFL ceiling, is the better athlete and has proved himself versus the highest level of Power 5 conference competition?

If one considers Urban Meyer’s preferred style of offense where he rose to fame with dual-threat QB Josh Harris at Bowling Green, then went undefeated with Alex Smith in 2004, then won national championships with Chris Leak in 2006, Tim Tebow in 2008 and the trio of Braxton Miller, T.J. Barrett and Cardale Jones in 2014, one could see where Meyer could be fashioning a Jaguars’ offense with Justin Fields as his QB. If he does what Kliff Kingsbury did in 2019 and goes with the player who best fits his style of play, then the top 3 picks could fall right into place:

  1. JAC: QB Justin Fileds
  2. NYJ: QB Trevor Lawrence
  3. SF: QB Mac Jones

Or, if Urban Meyer decides that Trevor Lawrence is his guy, then:

  1. JAC: QB Trevor Lawrence
  2. NYJ: QB Justin Fields
  3. SF: QB Mac Jones

The best scenario, imo, for Zach Wilson is to be drafted by the Broncos. If Pat Shurmur could get Pro Bowl level play from Case Keenum, imagine what he could do with Zach Wilson.

It could therefore behoove the Broncos to try to trade up from #9 in order to select Wilson.

ATL at #4, CIN at #5, MIA at #6, DET at #7 and CAR at #8 would likely entertain a short move back to #9 in order to gain more draft capital.

But, much of what happens in the first round of this draft is going to hinge on what the Falcons decide to do at #4.

Word is that they are taking calls.

What this suggests is that the Falcons are not committed to taking a QB at #4.

Yet, for a Falcons’ organization that gave up the ranch in 2011 to move up to take transcendent WR Julio Jones, how can the Falcons ignore the fact that they have a chance to draft transcendent TE Kyle Pitts at the #4 spot?

I know that Peter Schrager is very keen on the Cardinals’ intention to move up to take TE Kyle Pitts, but I think that trying to move up into the top 5 from #16 would be near impossible, unless the Cardinals gave up what the 49ers did to move up to #3.

Peter Schrager has Pitts falling to #7. Unless Pitts gets photographed doing a bong hit between now and the draft (and even then, Matty Ice, Julio, Cheech and Chong might join him), there is no scenario, imo, in which Kyle Pitts gets past pick #5. Aside from the top QBs, Pitts is the unicorn of the 2021 NFL Draft.

However, the player the Cardinals might be just as interested in trading up for is WR Ja’Marr Chase, whom Jerry Sullivan coached at LSU. The Cards likely would be keen on taking a WR in Round 1 next year, so trading their 2021 and 2022 1st round picks for the Ja’Marr Chase, #1 WR in the 2021 draft, might be a move they would very much consider, especially if they believe they will have no chance to draft the top WR in the 2022 draft.

Where Peter Schrager is correct, imo, is the earliest spot in which the Cardinals could trade up to —- #7 with the Lions.

That would mean that something like this would have to happen:

4. DEN (from ATL): QB Zach Wilson

5. CIN: TE Kyle Pitts

6. MIA: T Penei Sewell

To Draft or Not to Draft, to Trade or Not to Trade: That is the Question...

Would you be happy to see the Cardinals pull of the Peter Shrager trade (giving up 2021 1st, 2022 1st and 3rd) for WR Ja’Marr Chase?

Are there any other players in the 2021 draft whom you think the Cardinals should consider giving up this three high picks for?