Winners and losers of 2021 NFL draft trades by Dolphins, 49ers and Eagles that shuffle first-round order

Just when it appeared the NFL was headed for a relatively quiet period – what with the league's free agent market largely picked over and the draft still nearly five weeks away – an offseason thunderbolt landed Friday, and this year's first-round order was suddenly jumbled.

The Miami Dolphins were at the center of the pre-draft chaos, shipping the No. 3 overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers for No. 12, first-rounders in 2022 and 2023 and an additional third-rounder next year. But the Fins didn't wait long before vaulting back into the top 10, flipping that No. 12 selection and one of their 2022 first-rounders as part of a package to the Philadelphia Eagles that brought this year's No. 6 overall choice to Miami.

Time to sift through the aftermath as we try to determine the winners and losers of these megadeals: 


Kyle Shanahan: The Niners, particularly their head coach, have long fought a perception they've soured on Jimmy Garoppolo. The quarterback had generally provided solid (occasionally spectacular) play, but injuries ruined his 2018 and 2020 seasons – and, by extension, San Francisco's. Though never a Pro Bowler, Jimmy G did have his best NFL campaign in 2019 – the only time he's thrown for at least 3,000 yards or surpassed double-digit TD passes (27) – and the 49ers made it all the way to Super Bowl 54. Garoppolo was adequate against the Kansas City Chiefs on that Super Sunday, the Niners taking a 20-10 lead into the fourth quarter. But even after they coughed up that advantage, Garoppolo could have emerged heroic by hitting wide-open Emmanuel Sanders for the go-ahead TD with 93 seconds to go … but he missed long, and the 49ers never recovered. Still, GM John Lynch had remained publicly supportive in multiple interviews, saying on a podcast last month, "I really believe that Jimmy is our guy." 

Yet it's pretty apparent there's been a substantial shift in the organizational mindset. You don't make this kind of deal – trading three first-round selections – to target even a ferocious pass rusher or lockdown cornerback. Evidently, Shanahan and Lynch have identified at least two quarterbacks in this draft (not named Trevor Lawrence) whom they think can operate this offense more effectively than Garoppolo. Somebody in San Francisco's brain trust made a convincing argument that this team was one upgraded passer away from long-term contention … and soon we'll all find out if that's true.

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