How Does Sam Darnold Trade Impact the Eagles and 2021 NFL Draft?
On Monday, the New York Jets traded away their former quarterback of the future to make room for their next prospective franchise quarterback, sending Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. Trading Sam Darnold not just guarantees that the Jets will select a quarterback with the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, it also creates a new domino effect in the draft that will impact what prospects may be available for the Philadelphia Eagles at the 12th overall pick along with what other teams may be looking to trade up. Here are the ramifications to keep an eye on as we get closer to Thursday, April 29:
*With the Panthers acquiring Sam Darnold, Carolina would be considered out of the market for the first round quarterback
- There were a lot of rumors about the Carolina Panthers interest in upgrading the quarterback position and their interest in acquiring Texans QB Deshaun Watson was not a secret to anyone covering the NFL. But with Watson's legal issues putting his status in limbo, the Panthers had to turn their attention elsewhere. Entering his second season, Head Coach Matt Rhule and Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady appear to be looking for a quarterback who fits their short and long term plans for the offense. If you compare Sam Darnold to the current group of 2021 NFL Draft QB prospects, you can objectively say he is as good or a better QB prospect as Alabama's Mac Jones and a similar ceiling for his potential as Trey Lance while he comes from a traditional college football powerhouse (USC) like Justin Fields (Ohio State).
- What this means for the Eagles: There is a possibility that one of the top five quarterback prospects could be available outside of the top ten picks, making the Eagles a target for teams who may consider trading up to get whichever quarterback drops out of the top ten. Teams such as the New England Patriots (15th overall), Washington Football Team (19th overall), and Chicago Bears (20th overall) all have uncertainty about their futures at the quarterback position, could Eagles GM Howie Roseman take advantage of a desperate team to acquire more first and second round picks? Remember how the Eagles got a first round pick from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for the often injured Sam Bradford; If a team is desperate enough, the Eagles could trade down again and accumulate more Draft Assets.
*Acquiring Sam Darnold would shift the Panthers focus with the eighth overall pick to a couple other positions of need: offensive line, wide receiver, and cornerback
- The Panthers overachieved for most of the 2020 season as they were competitive in almost every game and their five wins exceeded many experts expectations for a team in full rebuilding mode. Panthers have many holes to fill on their roster, but a couple of eye sores are the offensive line and wide receiver groups. Teddy Bridgewater was subject to 38 QB hits along with 31 Sacks as Carolina's offensive line was underwhelming to say the least. The Panthers also lost wide receiver Curtis Samuel in free agency after he was second on the team in receptions last season. On the defensive side of the ball, Carolina was 30th in the NFL last year in Interceptions (7) with half of those INTs were grabbed by players who did not play cornerback.
- What this means for the Eagles: There are several teams in the top ten who could target one of the receivers, so I would not be surprised if Florida's Kyle Pitts, LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, and either of the Alabama WRs (Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle) are all off the board before the Cowboys at the 10th overall pick. The Panthers needs on offense puts them right in line at the eighth overall pick to get one of those players or draft one of the top offensive line prospects: Oregon's Penei Sewell and Northwestern's Rashawn Slater. Panthers also need more cornerbacks as badly as the Eagles so they could also scoop up either Alabama's Patrick Surtain II, South Carolina's Jaycee Horn, or Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley. It looks more likely that one of the three CBs fall to the Eagles at 12th overall and only one of the wide receiver prospects, potentially forcing the Eagles to make an interesting decision about what position is more important and what prospect has the most potential as an NFL player.
The 2021 NFL Draft is Thursday, April 29th through Saturday, May 1st and you can hear all the coverage on 973 ESPN.