The Key top 10 Draft picks in the upcoming Draft
It is the key to success; a General Manager and Head Coach on the same page. With the franchise quarterback in place to help lead them to years of winning seasons. Then ultimatley playoff appearances and a shot at a Super Bowl title. Looking at the Super Bowl finalists from 2020 you can see the pattern. For the newly-crowned Buccaneers Jason Licht, Bruce Arians and Tom Brady. And for the defeated Chiefs Brett Veach, Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes.
It is the stability each NFL side craves. In the top 10 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft there are several new combinations of General Manager (GM) and Head Coach (HC). They will be looking to cement the position of quarterback so they can begin to mount a challenge. In total across the first ten picks there are only three GM/HC partnerships which continue from 2020 (Dolphins at #3, Bengals at #5 and Cowboys at #10). Let’s look at each one of the new pairings in turn and see how it may impact their first pick.
#1 Jacksonville Jaguars
GM Trent Baalke, HC Urban Meyer
There is little doubt where the power lies in this arrangement. It will have taken much persuading to convince Urban Meyer to risk his glittering College coaching reputation in becoming the Jags new Head Coach. In amongst the details there must be an understanding that, similar to his experience at College-level, Meyer will have much of the say on player recruitment. Baalke was an in-house candidate for GM after serving as interim-GM following the departure of David Caldwell. He should be in lock-step with the thinking of owner Shahid Khan. Luckily, Caldwell left the franchise in good shape. Both in terms of cap space and future draft picks (including four picks across the first two rounds).
This is the team with the easiest decision to make, sat with the very first pick in the draft. It seems inevitable that Trevor Lawrence will complete the triumvirate in Jacksonville. Whilst the three other early picks should provide protection and targets for Lawrence. In the last few days Baalke and Meyer have learned that staffing issues are difficult enough. (With the resignation of the Director of Sports Performance Chris Doyle). The Jaguars will be hoping that the player recruitment side of the business will be easier to manage and develop.
#2 New York Jets
HC Robert Saleh
Ding, dong, Gase is gone. Jets fans are still rejoicing at this news. As well as the combination of widely respected GM Joe Douglas and new Head Coach Robert Saleh. The Jets, like the Jaguars, are in a healthy position to rebuild. What with their cap space and their early draft capital. They also have the benefit of promising early career form of their recent high draft picks. Mekhi Becton, Denzel Mimms and Quinnen Williams have shown potential.
Now, how to complete the triangle? There seem to be three possibilities here. They could go all in with their draft capital and trade for Deshaun Watson. A QB who would instantly improve their chance of multiple playoff appearances over the next decade. The cost would be high but potentially worth it. Alternatively, they could stick with Sam Darnold. To see if, with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, they could conjure up the potential Darnold demonstrated. A ptential which warranted a third overall pick. If so, they could trade down from #2 with a more QB-needy side. Garnering more high draft picks and providing Darnold with enough support to take the next step. Leaving him in what would be a 1-year “prove-it season”. Finally, they could take a new QB with the second pick. Probably Zach Wilson, and try to find a trade partner for Darnold. Right now their cards are close to their chest. But in an increasingly competitive AFC East the Jets cannot afford to lose pace with their rivals.
#4 Atlanta Falcons
GM Terry Fontenot, HC Arthur Smith
All change in Atlanta with the new Fontenot/Smith partnership both coming in at the same time. This is where you hope they are on the same page in how to take the Falcons forward. Fontenot moves to Atlanta after a long association with the New Orleans Saints. Where he was instrumental in assisting Saints GM Mickey Loomis in building the Saints impressive roster. Arthur Smith comes to the Falcons off the back of his work in Tennessee as offensive coordinator reviving Ryan Tannehill’s QB career.
An immediate question for the new duo is what to do with QB Matt Ryan. Now 35 years old and in the later stages of his career. Smith is quoted as not wishing to draw comparisons with Tannehill’s renaissance. But has stated he wants the Falcons to play to Ryan’s strengths. The concerns will be around Ryan being in the category of the diminishing pocket-passer. The Falcons could take a leaf out of rivals Buccaneers books by concentrating their recruitment on protection and playmakers. As well as improvements on defense. At #4 they could stick and pick (Micah Parsons would be a nice start on defense). Or trade down, although it is highly unlikely they would trade with divisional rivals Carolina Panthers who are most likely on the hunt for their future franchise QB.
#6 Philadelphia Eagles
HC Nick Sirianni
Only three years after Doug Pederson held the Vince Lombardi trophy aloft, the Eagles are in turmoil. With a new Head Coach, a QB openly looking to be traded and cap issues which could see a large scale dismantling of the current roster. There is much work to do for GM Howie Roseman. At the top of that list is the future of the Eagles at the QB position.
The Eagles seemingly threw away the chance of a week 17 win versus the Washington Football Team in order to pick at #6 rather than #9. Does this give a clue that they are looking to draft a QB at #6? Wentz’s exit from Philadelphia appears to be coming into sharp focus. Even if the price is less than the Eagles would ideally like to recoup. Will Roseman and Sirianni agree on the way forward? If it provide Hurts with the best opportunity to succeed or to provide him with open competition from Trey Lance or Justin Fields? Similar to the Jets at #2 expect this saga to be much clearer by the time we reach April.
#7 Detroit Lions
GM Brad Holmes, HC Dan Campbell
It may be that the Lions have shown their hand for 2021 in trading away Matt Stafford in order for Jared Goff to come in as starting QB. Holmes clearly has belief in Jared Goff. Having been Rams Director of College Scouting when Goff was drafted #1 in 2016. Expect the Lions to concentrate their efforts in the draft to providing Goff with the best opportunity to succeed. With protection and playmakers, so that new offensive coordinator, Anthony Lynn, drawing up a run-first, play-action system. The Lions will be hoping Goff can succeed and prove his potential. And not that he ends up taking the route to becoming the next Josh Rosen.
#8 Carolina Panthers
GM Scott Fitterer
Similar to the Jaguars the power balance here seems to sit squarely with the owner (David Tepper) and Head Coach (Matt Rhule). Filterer comes to the Panthers after a decade in Seattle. In coming to Carolina he comes to another franchise where they HC wields much of the power in recruitment (particularly from his strong long-term contractual position). Expect the Panthers to be aggressive in recruiting their QB of the future. They were in the running for Matt Stafford. And will be sizing up trade options to move their way up, if needs be, in the first round of the draft.
Tepper and Rhule are bold. So don’t rule out a move to get all the way to #2 if the Jets are willing partners and they like what they see from Zach Wilson. If not they do have the options of Trey Lance or Justin Fields who may drop down to #8. Or who may require a less dramatic move up. Either way the Panthers will have a future QB waiting in the wings to take over from Teddy Bridgewater. They’ll be hoping for the same impact as the LA Chargers Tyrod Taylor / Justin Herbert experience from 2020.
#9 Denver Broncos
GM George Paton
Paton comes to Denver off the back of a long career in Minnesota. So the Broncos now have a formidable amount of league experience in their GM/HC combination. Especially with Vic Fangio returning for another season. The Broncos under-achieved last season, partly due to key injuries and partly through under-performance including from their QB Drew Lock.
Lock finds himself in a similar predicament to Sam Darnold. Approaching the time when his current franchise will decide whether to stick or twist at QB. At #9 the Broncos may find the highest profile QB prospects out of range. Competition for Lock may bring out the best in him. But do not necessarily expect this to come from a rookie. Denver may trawl free agency for a more experienced back-up / challenger to Lock.
So, out of these franchises how do you see it playing out? Which team from the top 10 draft picks is going to be able to put together a GM, HC, QB trio good enough to propel their franchise into the challenger bracket over the next 1-3 years? Drop us your thoughts on Twitter @NinetynineYards #drafttalk
Mark or MJ has turned his love of the NFL into sharing his thoughts and opinions. You can find him on twitter @47yards and on 47yards.blog. If you like his take on the Draft Picks here you can find more of his writing right here on 99 Yards.
Banner Image: Presumptive number 1 2021 NFL Draft Pick Trevor Lawrence. Image from The Guardian.