Falcons a ‘Golden Spot’ for a Young Quarterback: Analyst

Justin Fields

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images Justin Fields of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide on January 11, 2021.

With the 2021 NFL Draft little more than three weeks away (April 29-May 1), it seems a forgone conclusion that the three teams selecting ahead of the Atlanta Falcons in the first round are going to take quarterbacks. That leaves Atlanta with the opportunity to draft tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 overall selection—or any other non-quarterback from this year’s draft class.

Or, the Falcons can still take a quarterback, as there will be several other top prospects available even with Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson presumably going to the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Never mind the third QB—to be named later, by the San Francisco 49ers—who recently traded up to choose a quarterback they apparently like a whole lot.

Yet in his most recent Football Morning in America column, Peter King opined that at least one of the quarterbacks who figures to remain available at No. 4 would find Atlanta to be a great landing spot.

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King: ‘It’s more about where you go, not how high you go’

In an ideal world, [Ohio State’s Justin] Fields goes to a team with no pressure to play right away and a good teacher of the position,” writes King, pointing to “Atlanta (head coach Arthur Smith) at four, New England (offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels) at 15 or with a trade-up, or New Orleans (Sean Payton, though the Saints pick 28th).

“Before the draft, players want to be taken as high as possible,” adds King. “Then they find out it’s more about where you go, not how high you go. The golden spot for a young quarterback is Atlanta. Smith’s a good teacher, and Matt Ryan [is] a perfect tutor for a season or two.”

That’s why Atlanta may also be a good fit for Trey Lance of North Dakota State, who might have the best arm and athletic ability of any quarterback in this draft, and could also benefit from a redshirt year or two, having started a total of 17 games in college, all of which were victories.

Yet as King reminds us, it’s hardly a sure thing that the Falcons will draft a quarterback in the first round, as the team is effectively cap tied to Ryan for at least two more seasons, thanks to repeated contract restructurings, most recently just last month. That’s why the Falcons could go with Pitts, or with an offensive tackle or wide receiver.


Trading Down for Defense is Another Option

Alternatively, the Falcons could trade down five spots or more and address the defensive side of the ball, where there are more than a few positions of need. That would allow Atlanta to accumulate a few more premium picks—in this year’s draft and/or next—building on the allotment of nine selections (including three compensatory picks) they already have in pocket for 2021.

Of course, it’s also worth remembering that Atlanta has just one quarterback on its roster, so the Falcons will almost certainly select a quarterback at some point in the draft. After all, if you’re thinking about backups (only), quarterback remains the No. 1 need on the team.

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