So much of the NFL Draft boils down to how the board falls. How a team’s needs match up with the availability of prospects at those positions often go a long way in determining who ultimately wins a draft.
Admittedly, a lot of the draft is pure luck, too. Even the NFL personnel departments who work tirelessly around this annual event get plenty of picks wrong, and sometimes it just boils down to not quite having the right players available when their team goes on the clock.
With all that as the backdrop, here are four teams who are in absolute prime position to be the biggest winners of the 2021 NFL Draft.
- Potential power play: Trade up for a third first-round pick
Fairly obvious that the Jaguars are well-positioned to make big improvements. They’re going to draft Trevor Lawrence after all. But they also have the 25th, 33rd and 45th picks, not to mention the first pick in the third round at No. 65.
That’s a lot of ammunition in terms of draft capital, not to mention, Gardner Minshew is an appealing QB option for teams either looking for depth or competition for a starting job.
Urban Meyer is all about winning now. It’s all he’s ever done in his prior stops at college, and expectations are going to be high out of the gates with Lawrence as his quarterback. That’s why Meyer and Jags general manager Trent Baalke should trade back into the first round for a third Day 1 pick.
Not only would Jacksonville nab the important fifth-year option for said prospect, but chances are, it’d increase the Jaguars’ chances of landing another instant starter.
The AFC South is wide-open with Indianapolis’ uncertain, Carson Wentz-led QB situation, Houston in shambles, and Tennessee losing its genius offensive coordinator. Go for it!
- Potential power play: Trade back for a third first-round pick in 2022
The blockbuster trade that shocked the NFL world to kick off this offseason occurred when the Los Angeles Rams sent Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford. Another big part to that trade was Detroit gaining two additional first-round picks.
Goff can hardly be considered a franchise QB at this point. The Lions need insurance in case he doesn’t work out. One way to go about doing that while expediting an overhaul of the roster is to trade back from the seventh overall pick.
Yes, maybe Detroit will miss out on a top-tier talent, yet if the trade down isn’t too far, it shouldn’t be too costly. A single non-QB isn’t going to change the Lions’ fortunes in 2021. They’re many pieces away from playoff contention.
By landing a third first-round pick and more capital by trading back, Detroit can control the 2022 draft, all but ensure it gets the first crack at the best QB in that class, and bolster the roster’s depth this year. It’s just a total win all around.
Los Angeles Chargers
- Potential power play: Land a franchise cornerstone at 13th overall
A big reason former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley left one promising team in Los Angeles for another is because the Chargers have Justin Herbert. Having a young franchise QB is such a bonus for a new head coach, and Staley recognized that.
But Staley is a legitimate defensive wizard who’ll love to work with players like Joey Bosa, Kenneth Murray and Derwin James. Because of how special the wide receiver class is, the presence of Kyle Pitts and the upcoming run on QBs, the Bolts stand to get someone special at 13th overall.
If the draft falls just right, someone like Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater or Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darrisaw could easily fall into the Chargers’ lap. They could acquire an instant star at cornerback like Jaycee Horn. Maybe they feel strongly enough about Staley’s ability to coach someone up and take a toolsy pass-rusher like Michigan’s Kwity Paye or Miami’s Jaelan Phillips.
There are any number of directions Los Angeles can go. In any scenario, it seems like the Bolts are going to be big winners after Day 1, which frees them up to do whatever they please in the later rounds.
- Potential power play: Vault into the top half of Round 1 for a surefire starter
Because the Browns filled so many holes in free agency, and had high-end talent at several key positions to begin with, they can afford to be aggressive in the NFL Draft.
What’s more, Cleveland has star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as a potential trade chip. Coach Kevin Stefanski’s offense runs a lot of two-receiver sets, and QB Baker Mayfield has a better rapport with Rashard Higgins than he’s ever had with OBJ.
But on the other hand, Beckham could be an X-factor in the Browns’ quest for a Super Bowl in Year 2 of the Stefanski era. Cleveland also has an extra third-round pick to work with, and could even sacrifice a Day 2 pick in 2022 to move up from 26th overall.
With such a move, the Browns could still have a full draft class and get a legitimate blue-chip defensive lineman, linebacker or cornerback to add to their defense. Otherwise, they could wind up with someone like DeVonta Smith in the event Beckham is traded.