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A major shake-up at the top of the 2021 NFL draft went down during Zach Wilson’s Pro Day on Friday.
The 49ers traded for the Dolphins’ No. 3 overall pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. San Francisco gave up the No. 12 pick, a 2021 third-round pick and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023. The Dolphins then traded back up with the Eagles from No. 12 to No. 6, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.
These trades didn’t directly affect the Jets, but they did potentially reveal Joe Douglas’ draft strategy.
For one, the trades almost assure the Jets will draft a quarterback with the second overall pick. Douglas likely wouldn’t have turned down a trade like that if he wasn’t comfortable picking a quarterback. Secondly, it means the Jets are more than likely taking Wilson, who thoroughly impressed at his Pro Day on Friday.
The Eagles were in talks with the Dolphins to trade up to No. 3 before the 49ers, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, but would only do so if they knew Wilson was going to be available. At some point Friday, they likely realized Wilson wouldn’t be there at No. 3 and decided to trade back rather than up.
Consider who the trades involved: the 49ers and the Eagles. Both have direct ties to the Jets. Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur coached in San Francisco and Douglas worked with the Eagles for three years. Douglas likely tipped his pick to both teams, who then made corresponding moves. It’s no coincidence it happened during Wilson’s Pro Day, either.
If this is indeed the case, it also means the Jets are likely going to move on from Sam Darnold sooner rather than later. What’s interesting, though, is that the 49ers’ trade essentially takes them out of the running for Darnold. They wouldn’t have given up three firsts and third to move up and then trade for Darnold. It just wouldn’t make sense.
This also narrows the list of potential trade partners for Darnold. The 49ers were originally among the most likely teams to make a move for Darnold because of the offense they run. But now the only realistic teams who could look at Darnold include the Broncos and Panthers – both quarterback-needy teams who may want to trade for a young player on a cheap rookie contract. Every other potential suitor from earlier this offseason signed a starter already or is in a position to draft one.
There is still a lot of time between now and April 29. Anything could happen before the beginning of the draft, but it looks like the Jets’ plans are coming into focus.