The NFL Draft is more than a month away, but the San Francisco 49ers all but made their intentions known when they agreed to a massive deal with the Miami Dolphins on Friday.
According to multiple reports, the Dolphins are sending the No. 3 pick to 49ers in exchange for the Nos. 12 and 102 choices this year, as well as the team’s first-rounders in 2022 and 2023. The Dolphins then turned around and flipped the No. 12 pick and a future first-rounder to the Philadelphia Eagles for the No. 6 choice.
Those moves figure to reverberate through the early stages of the first round, including the No. 7 selection held by the Detroit Lions.
After exploring the trade market for veteran quarterbacks during the offseason, engaging in conversations with the Lions and Minnesota Vikings regarding Matthew Stafford and former Michigan State star Kirk Cousins, there’s little doubt the 49ers are intending to address the position with their newly acquired pick.
With Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence all but a lock to go No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, that will leave the 49ers with the opportunity to take BYU’s Zach Wilson, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance or Ohio State’s Justin Fields.
It’s safe to suggest the 49ers don’t have a strong preference between at least two of those three. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been content with a move to No. 3, directly behind the New York Jets, who also are in play for a quarterback.
What does all this mean for the Lions? First and foremost, it probably hampers their ability to trade down in the first round. The market for quarterbacks at the top of this class has clearly heated up and there’s an increasingly good chance the top four will all come off the board before the Lions are on the clock.
Had things remained unchanged ahead of the first round April 29, the thought was the Lions were in prime position to move back if Lance or Wilson made it to seven. The 49ers were viewed a prime match for a swap, with Carolina (No. 8), Denver (No. 9), New England (No. 15) and Washington (No. 19) also in the mix.
That’s not to say a trade down is off the table, but Atlanta and Cincinnati, who hold picks five and six, will get the opportunity to field offers ahead of Detroit. And there’s a reasonable chance Atlanta takes a quarterback themselves with former MVP Matt Ryan turning 36 years old this offseason.
On the plus side, if four quarterbacks are selected in the first six picks, and the trade market for No. 7 dries up because of that run, it will push more non-QB talent into Detroit’s range. That could mean someone like LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase or Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell could fall to Lions.
Ideally, the Lions would have been able to orchestrate a trade back, picking up more quality draft assets to fuel the early stages of the rebuild. Plus, fans are likely to feel some residual frustration the team wasn’t able to drum up interest for the No. 3 pick last year after looking at the return the Dolphins got, especially given the Lions had no intention of selecting a QB with Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert there for the taking.
Friday’s deals significantly reduce the possibility of first-round drama for the Lions. The silver lining will have to be the increased odds of general manager Brad Holmes landing a foundational building block at No. 7.