2021 NFL Draft notes: Intel on the latest buzz regarding first round as Bears ‘badly’ want to move up

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LAGUARDIA AIRPORT — I’ll be in the sky on my way to Cleveland for CBS Sports HQ’s coverage of the NFL Draft when this publishes, but I wanted to start your morning off with all the information I’ve gathered over the last few weeks. Plus, it’s been more than a year since I was able to put a dateline on something and I just wanted to do it.

My two mocks have included some of this information, and I’ve tried to weed out the obvious smoke from teams to distill what I believe is true. This all is rooted in the draft going Lawrence-Wilson-Jones.

I’ve been bracing for a Justin Fields fall in this year’s draft, but I’ve come to believe that he won’t get past pick No. 9 later tonight. If Fields is available after the Bengals pick at No. 5, I think the Bears or Patriots could move up to get him.

Sources have told me the Bears “badly” want to move up from pick No. 20, and the only reason you’d give away that much future draft capital is for a franchise quarterback. Now, a veteran-laden team like the Bears could use those picks down the road, and it could cause the Bears trouble in the coming years if the quarterback doesn’t pan out. But GM Ryan Pace needs to get a quarterback in the first two rounds, and it may be Fields up top or Kellen Mond later.

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Fields is still in play for Atlanta at No. 4, however, I’m placing my marker on Kyle Pitts there. First-year GM Terry Fontenot said Wednesday he’s had calls with all NFL GMs on trade-back options and will be comfortable pulling the trigger if need be.

Kudos to the Falcons and their staffers on a quality misinformation campaign. I mean this with respect and sincerity: talk to anyone there and they can reasonably convince you of four different picks/scenarios at No. 4.

Insider pre-draft tidbits

  • The tide has been shifting in favor of Ja’Marr Chase to Cincinnati. I firmly believe their best option is Penei Sewell, but sources are leaning Chase to Cincy.
  • So what does Miami do? The Dolphins are throwing up signals that they want to trade back yet again.
  • The Panthers very clearly want to trade back, and I think they’d make a deal with the Patriots at 15 to still get a player with a first-round grade. I won’t rule them out on taking Fields at No. 8, but I think if they stay there, the pick could very well be South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn. Carolina values his athleticism and press-coverage skills above Patrick Surtain II, who’s seen as less of an athletic marvel but a safer pick.
  • One personnel executive predicted Carolina’s trade-down partner could be Philadelphia.
  • The Cowboys could go with Surtain or Rashawn Slater. Corner seems like the obvious move, but the Dallas offensive line has gotten old in a hurry.
  • The Giants have been difficult to nail down. One source believes their safe pick would be Kwity Paye.
  • The Chargers and Vikings could take offensive linemen in consecutive picks. If Christian Darrisaw doesn’t go to Los Angeles, I’d expect him to go to Minnesota. The Vikings are weighing Jaelan Phillips there, too.
  • Speaking of the Vikings, GM Rick Spielman is known to covet a second-round pick. After 14, the Vikes don’t pick again until 78. But they do have two third-round picks and three fourth-round picks. I’d expect Minnesota to deal some of those to move up into the second round on Day Two.
  • Despite taking Isaiah Simmons last year, the Cardinals are interested in Zaven Collins. Arizona is still figuring out what position to play Simmons. The Cardinals were once in play for a trade-up to No. 7, but that seems to have faded.
  • I think Washington stays put and takes an offensive tackle – if a top one falls – or linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
  • New Orleans may have to trade up into the teens if it wants to get CB Caleb Farley, who multiple teams view as the best corner in the draft if not for his back injury.
  • No one believes the Ravens will stay and pick at No. 31.
  • It only takes one team to make me look like a fool, so I don’t say this with the most conviction: I will not at all be surprised if Gregory Rousseau and Christian Barmore don’t go in the first round.
  • I do not believe a sixth quarterback will be drafted in the first round. No one is that desperate.
  • UNC running back Javonte Williams could surprise some as the second RB off the board tonight or Day Two.