We are less than two weeks away from the 2021 NFL Draft, and it could not have come at a better time.
The anticipation of the draft has rapidly crescendoed, as analysts and insiders have been churning the rumor mill non-stop since the Super Bowl.
Outside of presumable No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence heading to Duval County, everything is still up in the air.
Speculation, projections, and smokescreens have dominated headlines, making for a fascinating first round.
And with some college athletes opting out of last season and the cancellation of the NFL Combine, evaluating prospects becomes an even greater challenge.
It’s such a weird draft year due to scouting limitations, no combine etc…I’m fascinated to see if teams target 2022 picks in trades because of it.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) February 10, 2021
Nonetheless, chaos will ensue on April 29th, and teams will undoubtedly reshuffle the current draft order.
Here are three teams who will look to move down in the first round of the NFL draft.
Atlanta Falcons (#4)
The Atlanta Falcons are in a prime position to move down and recoup some picks.
They own the fourth overall pick, and the three teams ahead of them are almost guaranteed to select a quarterback.
After Lawrence, two out of Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Mac Jones, and Trey Lance will get drafted next.
That still leaves two players from that group available at the fourth selection.
If a quarterback they like falls to them, it would not be unrealistic for the Falcons to just draft him.
However, it is not the most pressing need since Matt Ryan is still a quality starter.
They could also address another position, but they have too many holes on both sides of the ball.
A trade down remains a legitimate possibility for the Atlanta Falcons in Round 1. Here is my report on an elite CB who can be a welcoming addition to their secondary as a result of a trade back. https://t.co/Rek8xJAt1D
— Eric Robinson (@_Eric_Robinson) April 12, 2021
Accumulating more capital would help alleviate those deficiencies.
Teams in desperate need of a franchise signal-caller are bound to give the Falcons a call, and it would be wise for them to pick up.
Carolina Panthers (#8)
Before their trade for Sam Darnold, the Carolina Panthers were popular candidates to move up in the draft.
Now that they have their quarterback of the future, there is a good chance they will trade in the opposite direction.
Our third mock draft has the Panthers trading back in the first round. https://t.co/NIkucrbgl1
— The Charlotte Observer (@theobserver) April 15, 2021
Granted, the Panthers could stay right where they are and draft a premium player.
After all, with so many quarterbacks likely to fly off the board early in the draft, there will be plenty of elite talents available at the eighth pick.
However, just like their division rival Falcons, the Panthers’ roster is too shallow to be fixed by one guy.
Even if they pass on the opportunity to take someone like Kyle Pitts, Micah Parsons, or Rashawn Slater, Carolina could plausibly trade down a couple of spots and still come away with a game-changing player.
Plus, with the competitive nature of the NFC South, the Panthers need all the help they can get.
If they are to challenge the likes of the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they should entertain any teams willing to pay a premium to move into their slot.
New England Patriots (#15)
It might be tempting for the New England Patriots to remain where they are, as they have not owned a pick this high up in the draft since they took Jerod Mayo 10th overall in 2010.
Bill Belichick Explains How Patriots Go Through Trade-Up, Trade-Down Scenarios Ahead Of NFL Draft https://t.co/5qsebWtWky
— WBZ Boston Sports (@wbzsports) April 16, 2021
The Patriots have a history of trading down, though, and it should not be surprising if they do it again.
Of the 14 times New England has switched positions in the first round in the Bill Belichick era, 10 of those were a trade down.
They excel at extracting talent out of late-round picks, and moving down gives them even more opportunity to capitalize on hidden gems.
The Patriots did address many of their needs in a robust free-agent haul.
They should also get reinforcements from the players who opted out of last season as well.
However, the Patriots love turning relatively unknown players into solid contributors, and this draft will just be another chance for them to outsmart the competition.