Most of the focus heading into Thursday's first round of the 2021 NFL Draft has revolved around the top five quarterbacks, who all have a chance to be selected in the top half of the opening round.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Wednesday on Good Morning Football that a handful of teams have done "extra legwork" on some or all of the potential Day 2 QBs.
Per Pelissero, that list of teams includes the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The New England Patriots also recently "spent a long time" in a virtual meeting with Mills, Pelissero added.
The Bears have been scouring for a franchise QB for generations. With Andy Dalton slated to be the starter and none of the top five signal-callers expected to slip to them at No. 20 overall in the first round, grabbing a quarterback who might need grooming could be GM Ryan Pace's best option.
The Vikings could seek an eventual replacement for Kirk Cousins. General manager Rick Spielman noted Tuesday that no position was "off the table" in terms of the draft.
The Bucs could be in the market for Tom Brady's eventual replacement. With few holes on a roster returning most of its Super Bowl squad, Tampa could elect a mid-round signal-caller to learn behind the G.O.A.T. Waiting until Day 2 or 3 to grab a QB would allow the Bucs to add a contributor in the first round for another Super Bowl run while still preparing for the future.
The Patriots need a long-term QB with Cam Newton re-signed for one year to backup money. New England has been projected to snag a first-round QB, but if its target is gone by pick No. 15 and the Pats can't trade up, Day 2 becomes an option.
Projections for Mond, Mills and Trask have been all over the board ahead of this week's draft. Each owns some tantalizing skills but also has question marks about how he might transition to the NFL.
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah has Mills as his top-rated QB of the second-tier trio, placed at No. 77 in his top 150 draft prospects. For comparison, Mac Jones is Jeremiah's 32nd rated player. The drop from the Round 1 players to Round 2 and 3 could be steep for some teams.
Mills owns talent but played only 11 games due to injury at Stanford. Mond, Jeremiah's 81st ranked prospect, owns ideal size and athleticism with dual-threat ability, but there are questions about his accuracy and anticipation. Trask (DJ's No. 110 player) owns prototypal size scouts traditionally love but is a pure pocket passer with little mobility and questionable footwork.
Each would likely require seasoning before potentially being given a chance to run a club.
Pelissero noted that one or more of the second tier could get pushed into the back end of the first round. With the fifth-year option on first-rounders, a club could view it as an investment to leap over others to secure its desired signal-caller.
More likely, the QBs will start to come off the board around the middle of Round 2, where the Bears sit.
Here's what else we're monitoring Wednesday ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, which kicks off Thursday night:
- The Denver Broncos have acquired Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick (No. 191). NFL Network's James Palmer reported the move doesn't rule out the Broncos selecting a QB at No. 9, depending on how the board shakes out.
- Slated to pick during the first round's expected early rush on quarterbacks, the Atlanta Falcons are a team everyone in the football world is watching. In their pre-draft presser Wednesday, Falcons GM Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith didn't let on as to which direction they were leaning at No. 4, saying it depends on what San Francisco does at No. 3. Fontenot did say that Atlanta wants to land an "impact player, whether it's someone who is going to sit or is going to play on day one." Among the players frequently mocked to the Falcons at No. 4 are TE Kyle Pitts, whom Fontenot called a "special player," and QBs Trey Lance and Justin Fields. Fontenot admitted Wednesday that Atlanta has to "add a QB to the roster" and that there are "a lot of good options" in the draft. Matt Ryan is the only Atlanta QB currently under contract. There's also a possibility that the Falcons trade back from No. 4, possibly to a team eager to add a top QB not picked in the top three. Atlanta is keeping all options open. "There's still variables involved," Fontenot said. "We know the players that we'll be discussing there, and we can all anticipate the first three picks, but it has to actually happen. From that point, we have to weigh the options in terms of if we trade back and compare it to the player we could get at 4, or if we trade back, what would be the value. ... You never know what's gonna happen at that exact moment, but we know the players that we're talking about there."
- One of this year's top tackle prospects, Christian Darrisaw, has proven a curiosity to some teams ahead of the draft. The Virginia Tech offensive lineman played late last season with a significant groin injury and underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury in January, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Darrisaw should be fully healthy soon and got a thumbs-up at his combine medical checkup, Rapoport added. He is expected to be drafted in the first round.
- The New Orleans Saints are considering a move up the draft board from No. 28, Rapoport reported. New Orleans is expected to be in the market for a cornerback. Saints coach Sean Payton said last week that they have to address the position this offseason.
- During an NFL Network interview with Judy Battista and James Palmer, Jaguars coach Urban Meyer was asked what he's learned during his first draft. Meyer emphasized the importance of the club making the most of this year's selections. "People have been appreciative. I'm not acting like I know everything. I have a very unique perspective," he said. "I've seen all 32 teams working, work closely. Some are incredible in the work, and some are not very incredible. So I've probably pushed our staff more than most. I've pushed myself to learn. Trent and I are in complete collaboration. The amount of time spent in that dark cave... We can't screw this up. We've got five in the first 65. It's a historic draft for Jacksonville, and we have to get this right. Jacksonville deserves that."