2021 NFL mock draft: Falcons take Kyle Pitts, Panthers trade up to No. 5 for Trey Lance

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Tim Weaver
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The Panthers’ chances of landing a new franchise quarterback in the draft this year suffered a big blow on Friday when the 49ers traded up with the Dolphins from No. 12 overall to No. 3. Teams don’t make moves like that unless they’re planning to pick a quarterback, so we can assume Kyle Shanahan has his eye on one of the top-four prospects in this class. So, which one will they take?

Assuming Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are taken with the first two picks, San Francisco will be choosing between Justin Fields and Trey Lance. In Mark Schofield’s latest 2021 mock draft, the Niners choose Fields, leaving one of Carolina’s division rivals in a very interesting position.

A lot of recent mock drafts have had Atlanta taking a quarterback at No. 4 overall, but even if Matt Ryan bombs in 2021 getting rid of him will be highly problematic. Cutting Ryan before June 1 next year comes with $40+ million dead money. A post-June 1 designation only cuts that figure down to around $25 million. Given the numbers involved, the Falcons might decide to keep the 35-year old Ryan around a few more seasons – especially if he thrives under new head coach Arthur Smith – as we expect he will.

If that’s the case, then Atlanta may decide to go in another direction in round one. In Schofield’s mock, the Falcons do just that by taking Florida tight end Kyle Pitts at No. 4. Together with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, Pitts would form as fierce a trio of receivers as there’s been in modern NFL history.

The downside for the Falcons taking Pitts is that it would leave at least one more dynamic dual-threat quarterback prospect on the board, who could wind up going to the Panthers.

With the next pick, Schofield has Carolina moving up to No. 5 overall and selecting Trey Lance. Here are the terms of the mock trade with the Bengals.

Carolina gets a 2021 first-round selection (5 overall); Cincinnati gets a 2021 first-round selection (8 overall), a 2021 third-round selection (73 overall) and a 2022 second-round selection.”

That’s a very-reasonable price to move up for a new potential QB1. It also seems a bit too good to be true at this point.

If the Bengals say no or the Falcons decide to select a quarterback afterall, the Panthers won’t be able to get a top-tier prospect this year and may well have to settle for Mac Jones or continue starting Teddy Bridgewater.

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