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Top 10 storylines for the 2021 NFL Draft

The 2021 NFL Draft is about to get going here soon. It’s expected to be a drama-filled event with the possibility that we could witness history with five quarterbacks going in the top-10 picks.

We’re also intrigued to see how many trades will take place in the first round. The San Francisco 49ers shook everything up by trading for the third overall selection. Could another quarterback-needy team look to move up with the Atlanta Falcons at four?

All the while, this is also considered a darn good class at wide receiver. How many will go in the first round? Where might they land? These are among the top-10 storylines for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Who will be the best QB from the 2021 NFL Draft?

Read More: 2021 NFL Mock Draft: Expert Picks & Opinions on Round 1 Prospects

San Francisco 49ers’ decision at three

2021 NFL Draft: Justin Fields, San Francisco 49ers
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) gets ready to throw the ball against Indiana Hoosiers during the third quarter in their NCAA Division I football game on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Osu20ind Kwr32 1

Ever since San Francisco pulled off the blockbuster trade to move up to three, most NFL Draft rumors have surrounded what general manager John Lynch and Co. plan to do with that selection. Initially, the 49ers were linked to reigning Heisman finalist Mac Jones from Alabama. More recently, Ohio State product Justin Fields is seen as the betting favorite to land in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Trey Lance is also an option.

What the 49ers do here will not only define the tenures of Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan, it will have a trickle-down effect when it comes to the remainder of the NFL Draft. My bet is on the 49ers taking Fields and letting him excel as a starter during his rookie campaign under Shanahan. However, everything seems to be up in the air here.

Read More: Chicago Bears could trade up for a quarterback in 2021 NFL Draft

Chicago Bears’ desperation

Chicago Bears 2021 NFL Draft
Dec 20, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy looks on during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

I have a hard time believing that head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace are really going to rely on free-agent signing Andy Dalton to save their jobs in the Windy City. That’s why rumors continue to point in the direction of a desperate Bears brass pulling off a trade for one of the top-five quarterbacks in the NFL Draft.

With that said, recent indications conclude that the higher-ups in Chicago’s organization might not sign off on a blockbuster trade. That’s primarily because of Nagy and Pace being firmly on the hot seat and the Bears not wanting to give up future draft capital in a trade spearheaded by two figures who might not be in Chicago long-term. It’s an interesting storyline heading into the draft.

Read More: 2021 NFL Draft: Ideal fits for top 5 wide receivers

The 2021 NFL Draft wide receiver class

NFL Draft rumors: Devonta Smith
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Most of the talk heading into the annual event has surrounded what could be an historical draft class at quarterback. However, this is also seen as one of the top wide receiver classes in modern history. LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Devonta Smith are coming off historical college careers with the latter winning the Heisman a season ago. Despite his smallish 5-foot-10 frame, Jaylen Waddle is also seen as a top-end prospect. All three should go within the first half of Round 1.

Delving deeper into the 2021 NFL Draft, Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman could very well be a steal toward the end of the first round. Meanwhile, the slot receiver class is absolutely stacked with the likes of Rondale Moore, Elijah Moore and Amari Rodgers likely being second-round picks. Yeah, it’s a good year to need a receiver. Expect as many as 10 to go within the first two rounds.

Read More: Surprise QBs who could be traded during 2021 NFL Draft

Atlanta Falcons trade down from four?

San Francisco 49ers draft picks: Top 2021 selections, ideal prospects to target
Jan 11, 2020; Frisco, Texas, USA; North Dakota State Bison quarterback Trey Lance (5) scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the James Madison Dukes at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of what the 49ers do at three, these Falcons are going to be in a great position to either add a top-end talent or bamboozle a quarterback-needy team in a trade-down scenario. Two of Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones will be available. Recent reports suggest that owner Arthur Blank is high on adding a future heir-apparent to Matt Ryan at quarterback. It might be the Falcons’ best chance to do just that.

However, teams such as the Denver Broncos (ninth), New England Patriots (15th) and aforementioned Chicago Bears (20) could pay a huge bounty to move up to four for a quarterback. Heck, the Washington Football Team — selecting 19th overall — are seemingly high on Trey Lance. This is certainly something to keep an eye on.

Read More: NFL trade rumors: Latest updates and information for 2021 offseason

Potential blockbuster trades during NFL Draft

San Francisco 49ers mock draft: Jimmy Garoppolo trade
Dec 8, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) reacts after a touchdown in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Despite two trades already taking place within the top-six picks, the expectation is that we’re going to see more wheeling and dealing. Even if a team moves up to the Falcons’ spot at four, another quarterback-needy squad might look to get into the top 10 for a player at that position. Heck, we’re hearing suggestions that five signal callers could go within the top-10 picks.

As for potential player trades during the 2021 NFL Draft, Jimmy Garoppolo’s name stands above the rest. San Francisco is said to be demanding a first-round pick in exchange for the Super Bowl quarterback. Linked to their former backup on a never-ending loop, the New England Patriots might bite. Chicago Bears wide receivers Anthony Miller and Allen Robinson are also two other players who could be dealt during the annual event, as could Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr.

Read More: 2021 NFL Draft big board: Ranking top 100 prospects

How the defensive side of the ball is going to play out

New York Giants, Las Vegas Raiders, NFL Draft: Micah Parsons
Nov 9, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Micah Parsons (11) celebrates after sacking the Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (not pictured) in the second half at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a decent chance that the top-nine picks off the board are going to be players on the offensive side of the ball. That’s darn good news for squads looking for help on defense, including the Dallas Cowboys picking 10th.

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is considered the top defensive player in the class. Former Alabama standout corner Patrick Surtain II has overtaken the injured Caleb Farley as the top defensive back in the class. Meanwhile, edge rushers Azeez Ojulari, Kwity Paye and Joseph Ossai are all getting first-round play. While offensive players and those at the skill positions are getting the most play leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, there’s some star power on defense. Teams will be able to take advantage of that by finding value at need positions.

Read More: Best team fits for 2nd-tier QBs in 2021 NFL Draft

Second-tier quarterbacks as late first-round picks

2021 NFL Draft: Kellen Mond
Oct 3, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) warms up at Bryant-Denny Stadium before the game with Alabama. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

There’s five quarterbacks seen as potential franchise guys, starting with Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson at one and two, respectively. Joining that group, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones could also all very well go off the board within the top-10 picks. With that said, it would not be a shock if both Texas A&M product Kellen Mond and Kyle Trask from Florida find themselves as late first-round picks.

Selecting 28th overall, the New Orleans Saints are looking for a long-term replacement for the recently-retired Drew Brees. Meanwhile, teams selecting in the second round might look to move up to the end of Day 1. This is magnified by the fact that teams have the ability to use a fifth-year option on rookie deals when it comes to first-round picks. We’ve seen this play out in the past. Perhaps, the Chicago Bears and Washington Football Team look to move up for one of these two signal callers.

Read More: 4 teams in prime position to win the 2021 NFL Draft

Finding fits for the draft’s best running backs

Miami Dolphins draft Najee Harris
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris (22) celebrates after beating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not necessarily a surprise that running backs are not getting play in the first round heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. This is a position that teams figure they can find value later in the draft. That’s true with the likes of Chuba Hubbard and Pooka Williams likely being available in the mid rounds after stellar college careers.

Even then, former Alabama standout and reigning Heisman finalist Najee Harris is likely to be the only back to go in Round 1. The battering ram has been compared to two-time reigning NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans. He seems to be a natural fit with a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers at 24. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills are seriously looking at running back with their first-round pick. Perhaps, dynamic former Clemson running back Travis Etienne could make sense at that spot.

Read More: NFL Power Rankings: Risers, fallers before 2021 NFL Draft

General managers on the hot seat in the 2021 NFL Draft

Giants GM David Gettleman struggling with Saquon Barkley situation.
Dec 29, 2019; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants general manager David Gettleman before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

We already covered Bears front office head Ryan Pace. However, there’s a number of other general managers who need to ace the 2021 NFL Draft if they are to remain in their positions over the long haul. David Gettleman of the New York Giants comes to mind first after a mixed bag in his first few drafts in that role.

It’s also going to be interesting to see how Philadelphia Eagles front office head Howie Roseman does in the draft. Philly traded down from the sixth pick to 12th overall and is now looking to potentially move back up again. After a disappointing four-win season and with Doug Pederson just recently fired, there’s a good chance that Roseman is on the hot seat. He must ace this draft to secure his long-term future in the City of Brotherly Love.

Read More: AFC QB coach would draft Zach Wilson over Trevor Lawrence

Historical NFL Draft class at quarterback

Jaguars mock draft: Trevor Lawrence
Feb 12, 2021; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence works out as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer (right) looks on during Pro Day in Clemson, South Carolina. Mandatory Credit: David Platt/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

This specific draft class is being compared to the 1983 iteration when future Hall of Famers Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly were all selected in the first round. Trevor Lawrence is seen as a generational talent and someone to lead the fledgling Jaguars into the future under first-year head coach Urban Meyer. BYU’s Zach Wilson had a stellar 2020 campaign and is seen as the consensus No. 2 prospect in the draft. He’s even drawn comparisons to the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray.

These two head a class that could end up being historical a decade from now. Then again, there’s a chance that it bombs out big time. Remember when Jared Goff and Carson Wentz went one and two, respectively, back in 2016? Both were seen as generational talents. Each signal caller was ultimately traded earlier this offseason after recent struggles. It’s the gamble teams are willing to take in order to find a potential franchise quarterback. It could also come back to bite some of these organizations in the back end .