The Falcons haven’t drafted a quarterback in the top 5 of the NFL draft since drafting Matt Ryan at third-overall in 2008. That could change this year with Atlanta scheduled to pick at No. 4 in the 2021 NFL Draft. While several mock drafts have the Falcons selecting Ryan’s future replacement at No. 4, there are plenty of other ways Atlanta could go.
According to CBS Sports, these are the top 10 prospects of this year’s class:
- Trevor Lawrence, Clemson QB
- Penei Sewell, Oregon OL
- Ja’Marr Chase, LSU WR
- Zach Wilson, BYU QB
- Micah Parson, Penn State LB
- Justin Fields, OSU QB
- Jaylen Waddle, Alabama WR
- Kwity Paye, Michigan DL
- Kyle Pitts, Florida TE
- DeVonta Smith, Alabama WR
Clemson signal-caller Trevor Lawrence is likely to go first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the others after that could be selected anywhere at any time within the top-10, or even later. Looking at Atlanta’s current situation, it might not be the smartest choice to select a quarterback at fourth-overall.
The Falcons Already Have Their Starting QB
Matt Ryan won’t be going anywhere in 2021, which means he will be the Falcons’ starting quarterback for another season, at least. So, if the Falcons did draft a quarterback at No. 4 overall, the rookie would sit behind Ryan for a year before taking over the show.
Falcons’ new head coach and quarterback whisperer, Arthur Smith, will be calling the shots and plans on running a similar offense to when Niners’ head coach Kyle Shanahan was Atlanta’s offensive coordinator in 2016. That same year Ryan completed 69.9% of his passes for 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He was named MVP and led the Falcons to a Super Bowl appearance against the Patriots.
The Falcons won’t be moving on from Ryan this year due to their mess of a salary cap, however, that’s not such a bad thing. He is still in his prime and with a new sheriff in town, the Falcons could be headed towards a playoff berth. Still, Atlanta will need to add a game-changer or two in their lineup to be worthy of NFL picks.
What the Falcons Should Do at No. 4 Overall
With Matt Ryan set to be the Falcons’ starting QB in 2021, Atlanta should address another need at No. 4 or trade back to acquire more picks. The Falcons are in the midst of a rebuilding stage and it shows in their standings on NFL futures to win it all, so the more picks they get, the merrier they will be.
The Falcons’ needs before drafting their future signal-caller are an edge, cornerback, running back, safety, and offensive lineman.
Atlanta drafted a cornerback with their first pick last season, AJ Terrell, but he is the only reliable starter left on the depth chart. Ryan could also use some major help on the o-line after getting sacked a season-high 55 times last season. And even adding a veteran tight end like Kyle Pitts in the mix, who can also play at wide receiver, might be a better value than drafting a QB first.
Of course, the Falcons could even consider trading back to get North Dakota State QB Trey Lance on top of acquiring more draft capital, but drafting one at No. 4 is not their best bet when they can gain so much more with a move back. And if they don’t move back still waiting until the second round to draft a signal-caller isn’t a bad option either since the quarterback talent runs deep in this year’s draft class.