Zwiller: Grading the 49ers, Eagles and Dolphins trades
Thomas Zwiller | Tuesday, April 6, 2021
On March 26, major news broke that changed the landscape of the upcoming NFL draft. The Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers made a trade; the 49ers received the third pick in the draft, moving up from the 12th spot. The 49ers had to give up a lot to do so; they sent the Dolphins the twelfth pick in this year’s draft, next year’s first and third round picks, and a first rounder in 2023. The Dolphins wanted to get back in the top 10 despite just leaving it. So, the Dolphins sent away the 12th and 123rd picks and next year’s first round pick in exchange for the 6th and 156th pick from the Philadelphia Eagles.
The 49ers seem to have been presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Under Kyle Shanahan, the San Francisco 49ers seem to be similar to the Pittsburgh Steelers under Mike Tomlin; they are always a good team and always in the mix. So, when the 49ers got hit by injuries and COVID-19, had a losing record and got the 12th pick in the draft, it seems they wanted to go all in. So, why not move up from just outside QB range right into the thick of things? Supposing the 49ers return to form, they will pick in the twenties for the foreseeable future, and it’s a lot harder to go from 25th to third than from 12th to third.
Who they take
Now that the 49ers are here, it is hard to know precisely what they will do with the pick (outside of drafting a QB). The first two picks haven’t changed: The Jaguars will still draft Trevor Lawrence, and the Jets are likely to draft Zach Wilson. Todd McShay has the 49ers taking Mac Jones with the third pick. This is primarily due to Jones being an incredibly accurate passer who operates well in a play-action-based system, much like Kyle Shanahan’s system does.
I agree with McShay; this feels like the most likely pick, although I see it for a different reason. Looking at Shanahan’s former quarterbacks, it is easy to see a pattern emerging. Shanahan has worked with Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan and Jimmy Garoppolo. They have a few things in common that allow them to work well in Shanahan’s system. They all read the field well, they all do well with play-action, they are consistently accurate, yet none of them are exceptionally mobile. That is not to diminish; they are athletes, but not athletic.
I think Jones fits all these criteria; he is a younger and, more importantly, cheaper version of Jimmy Garoppolo, which allows the 49ers to continue to get better (they can cut Jimmy G after a year and take a minimal dead cap hit). I think the 49ers will take Jones because he has the lower ceiling but the highest floor; you have a solid idea of what you’re getting.
Trade Grade: B
This is one of the best moves of the offseason, and it should excite Dolphins fans about their future. It feels like the Dolphins have finally found a GM and Coach in Chris Grier and Brian Flores who know what they’re doing. This is a great move. It almost feels, for lack of a better phrase, “Belichickian.” It’s a move that allowed the Dolphins to improve their future without sacrificing anything in the present.
Who they take
The Dolphins may have been interested in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, but that feels like a thing of the past given the Texans’ QB’s current circumstances. So, moving forward, the Dolphins will be going with Tua Tagovailoa , who — despite a rocky season — has franchise QB potential. He needs some more help, so I wanted them to take DeVonta Smith before trading back. The Dolphins have addressed this need by adding Will Fuller, freeing them up to pick another receiver. Or maybe a TE like Kyle Pitts? I know he is being projected to Atlanta at the fourth pick, but I don’t buy it.
If the 49ers could have, they would have picked fourth, saving themselves some draft capital but still ensuring they get a QB. That, to me, says that the Falcons are taking a QB, maybe even Jones, which is why the 49ers felt the need to get ahead of them. The Bengals will take an OT to shore up a terrible O-Line, and Pitts should fall to Miami. All of this, and Miami still picks again later in the draft, and while they only have one first round in 2022, they have two in ’23. They are in great shape, and all of it for Laremy Tunsil.
Trade Grade: A
I like what the Eagles did here a lot. I think their situation is similar to the Dolphins in certain respects. The Eagles have a QB who played well last season in Jalen Hurts, and the organization seems relatively comfortable in moving forward with him as the starter. This makes a lot of sense to me; since they are outside of the top five picks, the odds are good they won’t land Lawrence, Wilson, Fields or even Jones. It makes more sense to stick with the QB who you are familiar with, and a known commodity.
Who they take
So, if you’re at six and you don’t need to take a QB, why not move back and get an asset next year that helps you build? This year is supposed to be incredibly deep in both the WR and OT position, so picking at 12th instead of picking at 6th is not the big deal it would usually be. Worst comes to worst, work on another need. It’s not as if the Eagles lack them. The Eagles are not prevented from addressing their needs; they’re compensated in order to address other needs first. I think they could easily get Penei Sewell, but if they don’t take a WR/OT, I like an LB by the name of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
The Eagles are getting another first-round pick for next season, which is an excellent haul for either getting a slightly lower graded OT/WR or addressing their defensive concerns first. There is something to be said for the pick likely being a later one since it will be a Miami pick. Assuming the Dolphins perform around the same level as they did last year, if not better, the pick will be a late teens or early twenties pick. This isn’t a big problem; having two first-round picks is a lot better than just having one, but its potential later placement is worth noting. All in all, this was a good trade.
Trade Grade: A-