Uncertainty coming off a pandemic-abrupted college football season has made for a top-heavy 2021 NFL Draft. As such, the trade chatter ahead of the selection process has been quieter than a normal season.
One team angling to make some noise tonight? The New Orleans Saints.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday morning that the Saints appear to be the team doing the most groundwork for a potential trade up, per sources informed of the situation.
New Orleans has even called into the top 10 to gauge value, per Rapoport.
The Saints own eight draft picks heading into Thursday night, including two third-round comp picks.
With a hole opposite Marshon Lattimore, the Saints have been projected to select a corner in the first round. Sitting at pick No. 28, it's unlikely one of the top CBs lands in their laps.
New Orleans has also been connected with talented corner Caleb Farley, who has dealt with multiple back surgeries the past two years. Farley would fit wonderfully in the Saints defense. His health concerns, however, are serious. Even with those issues, Farley's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, expects the corner to go in the middle of the first round. That projection would require the Saints to trade up still.
Loomis hinted at a possible first-round trade Wednesday, noting that he's looking for quality over quantity with his eight picks.
"I don't see a lot of holes in our roster," he said, via the team's official transcript. "I think we have a lot of talent and a lot of positions and when you look at each of these position groups. A lot of times, it's hard to envision a rookie coming in and displacing some of our veterans. So I wouldn't say that volume is a priority for us. I think quality is a priority for us."
In order to find that quality player, the Saints likely need to move up in a first round that is expected to fall off after the first 16-or-so picks.
New Orleans is burning up the phone lines to see if a move is possible.
Here's what else we're monitoring ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, which kicks off Thursday night:
- Drew Lock's world saw a bit of a shake-up Wednesday with the Teddy Bridgewater trade. Broncos GM George Paton and coach Vic Fangio informed Lock of the deal before it became public, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported, and Fangio told Silver the quarterback took it well, understanding the team is trying to create competition at the position. They might not be done talking with Lock. Standing at No. 9 in Thursday's draft order, Denver is still in the running for a quarterback. As Silver explained on NFL Draft Kickoff, the Broncos might be in a better position to take a rookie than they were just 48 hours ago because of Bridgewater's arrival. "It also gives them more of a path to drafting Trey Lance if he's there at No. 9," Silver explained. "He's not a guy that they consider is ready to play right away in an optimal world. Didn't play that much at North Dakota State, but now, with Teddy Bridgewater on board, you can make that pick and feel pretty good about it."
- The Atlanta Falcons have myriad options at No. 4: select one of the two top remaining QBs, draft the top skill position plater available or trade down and receive a haul of picks. NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported Thursday that Atlanta likes Kyle Pitts, Justin Fields and Trey Lance, but teams have called the Falcons about trading up to the No. 4 pick, though it's not clear if there have been substantive conversations about a trade.
- Like complicated draft trades? Too bad. Rapoport reported Thursday that teams are not expected to deal future picks as often this weekend. An executive told Rapoport that clubs are valuing 2022 draft picks "like gold," as there will be more talent, cleaner player evaluations and more tape next year. As Rapoport said, "We could see an all-time low of future picks dealt."
- Speaking of trades ... a number of notable veteran players -- who aren't named Jimmy Garoppolo -- could be available this weekend. Rapoport reports that the days to watch for veteran moves should be Friday and Saturday after teams have time to assess selections. Some names to monitor? Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew could be available following the Jaguars' expected selection of Trevor Lawrence, and Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who already has been given permission to seek a trade.
- As for Garoppolo, the New England Patriots, Jimmy G's former team, are not expected to trade for the 49ers quarterback Thursday night or anytime soon, per Rapoport. If the two sides could even come to terms on a trade agreement, it would take a complex contract negotiation to get it done, and New England doesn't have room to fit the contract, Rapoport added.