The 2021 NFL Draft is still a few weeks away, but who the top three picks will ultimately end up being is beginning to take shape.
Barring something unforeseen, the Jacksonville Jaguars will draft Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence first overall. The New York Jets, who just traded Sam Darnold to Carolina on Tuesday, will likely be taking BYU passer Zach Wilson second. The San Francisco 49ers, who traded up to get the third pick last month, will also be taking a quarterback -- whether that be Alabama's Mac Jones, Ohio State's Justin Fields or North Dakota State's Trey Lance.
So, where the draft truly begins is with the fourth overall pick, currently in possession of the Atlanta Falcons. And, on Wednesday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Falcons are willing to move the pick and have been engaging with teams about possible trades.
Speaking on Good Morning Football, NFL Network analyst Peter Schrager listed the Washington Football Team as one of the handful of clubs he thinks should give Atlanta a ring about the fourth overall pick.
"Atlanta holds the keys to the Draft with the fourth pick right now," Schrager said. "I’d look at Denver, New England, Washington, even Chicago to pick up that phone and see what it would take. Atlanta’s willing to listen. This is where it gets really interesting."
By trading up to fourth, Washington -- or any team that ultimately strikes a deal with the Falcons -- would be moving up for a quarterback. With three signal-callers expected to come off the board with the first three picks, QB-needy teams might not be able to select the passer they want in the first round unless they move up.
Washington currently has three quarterbacks on its roster, with free agent signing veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick the presumed starter. Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen round out the QB room. Washington could easily roll into the 2021 season with that group as its quarterbacks, but it's unlikely any of them are the team's long-term answer at the position.
Speaking with reporters earlier this offseason, Washington head coach Ron Rivera said he's not in any rush to find his franchise quarterback. But, barring a career year from Fitzpatrick, it's hard to imagine Washington not being in the mix for a long-term QB next offseason.
"Ryan Fitzpatrick is a great quarterback for next year, but is that the long-term answer? Is Heinicke? I don't know," Schrager said.
Thanks to an improbable NFC East title last season, Washington currently holds the 19th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. In order to move up to No. 4, they'd likely have to give up even more than what San Francisco dealt to Miami last month to move up from No. 12 to No. 3, which was three total first-round picks.
Yes, giving up that many first-round picks for one player is certainly a risk. The Robert Griffin III trade in 2012 is a prime example.
But, in the NFL, you almost never can win a Super Bowl without great quarterback play. And rarely do teams find franchise quarterbacks outside of the draft.
At 19, it's almost certain that all five of the likely first-round quarterbacks will be well off the board. If Washington does want to use a first-rounder on a passer, they will have to trade up. It's that simple. They could always take Florida's Kyle Trask or Texas A&M's Kellen Mond on Day 2, but neither of those players have the ceiling that the five likely first-rounders do.
The 2021 class is strong as the quarterback position, too, while the 2022 group isn't shaping up to be all that great. North Carolina's Sam Howell and USC's Kedon Slovis appear to be first-round talents, but right now there's no clear top QB in next year's class.
If Washington wants to find its franchise passer, this is the draft to do it. And, with the Falcons reportedly open to moving the fourth pick, Ron Rivera and his staff know which team to call.