The Year of the Quarterback helps the Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons could end up benefiting from so many quarterbacks being targeted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft
By now most fans with a passing (see what I did there?) interest in the NFL Draft are aware that this could be “the Year of the Quarterback.” The hype has been there since last year’s Rose Bowl and the play of the University of Southern California’s Sam Darnold.
Depending upon how many underclassmen declare and what NFL General Managers think of the QB group, the 2018 Draft could equal or exceed the fabled Class of 1983. That year featured John Elway, Dan Marino, Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason, Jim Kelly, and Ken O’Brien (Steve Young technically could have been part of that class, as well).
This coming April could have six to ten signal callers go in the opening round. Darnold, a third-year sophomore, has long been touted as possibly being the top pick of the Draft. UCLA’s Josh Rosen, a true junior, is considered a first round lock by most evaluators. Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State, a senior with classic size and stature, is highly regarded.
Undersized redshirt senior Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma draws comparison to Drew Brees (and unfortunately sometimes Johnny Manziel). Josh Allen of Wyoming, a redshirt junior, is widely recognized as a first-rounder. Another prospect who has generally been considered a likely first round pick all along is Washington redshirt senior Luke Falk. Finally, there is Lamar Jackson of Louisville, a dual-threat true junior that scouts either love or hate — and if he falls to a team that loves him in the first round, he’ll go there.
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Now add to that group three three recent fast-risers — Clayton Thorson, Riley Ferguson, and Drew Lock. Thorson is a redshirt junior from Northwestern who has populated some mock first rounds over the course of the year. Ferguson, a king-sized senior from Memphis, has seen his stock steadily improve all season long. Finally, Missouri’s Lock, a junior, is generating more and more buzz that he’ll declare for the draft, which prospects generally don’t do unless they think they’re going to go high.
So how does the potential presence of these ten quarterbacks in the 2018 Draft help the Falcons? After all, they’ve got Matt Ryan, right? And he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Matty Ice is only 32 years old, and he’s only missed two regular season games in his entire career. It’s pretty safe to say he’s got five to seven years left in his career, if not more, so there’s no need to draft his immediate replacement, or even his eventual successor. If Atlanta isn’t going to draft a quarterback in the first round come April, why care about how many first-round caliber QB’s there’ll be?
The presence of all these quarterbacks likely drives the value of players at positions the Falcons do need down. Right now Atlanta’s three biggest needs look to be defensive tackle, offensive guard, and free safety. Based on the standings after Week 11 of the NFL season, they’d be picking 22nd overall. Let’s look at the teams picking in front of them:
Cleveland – the Browns pick 1st and 12th (from the Texans) and have a decision to make about DeShone Kizer
San Francisco – the Niners pick second and did just acquire Jimmy Garrapolo (though at this moment he’d be a free agent when the season ended).
New York Giants – the Giants pick third and pretty clearly need to find the heir to Eli Manning.
Indianapolis – if Andrew Luck is fine, then the Colts will go in another direction with the fourth pick. If he’s not fine, they’ll have a decision to make about Jacoby Brisett.
Denver – the Broncos pick fifth and have to figure out if Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, or Paxton Lynch are their future at quarterback.
Chicago – the Bears pick sixth and believe they have their franchise QB in Mitch Trubisky.
Arizona – the Cardinals pick seventh and almost HAVE to find Carson Palmer‘s successor here.
Cincinnati – picking eighth, the Bengals probably feel fine about Andy Dalton
New York Jets – with the ninth pick the Jets have to stop screwing around with the guys like Geno Smith, Christian Hackenbergs and Bryce Petty and get a legitimate franchise quarterback.
Oakland – the Raiders pick tenth and feel just fine with Derek Carr, thank you very much.
Los Angeles Chargers – the Chargers pick eleventh and could be in the market for Philip Rivers‘ replacement.
Miami – the Dolphins pick thirteenth and have a decision to make about Ryan Tannehill.
Tampa Bay – the Buccaneers pick fourteenth and appear set with Jameis Winston.
Washington – picking fifteenth, the ‘Skins will pretty much have to take a QB here if they let Kirk Cousins go in free agency.
Dallas – with the sixteenth pick I think the Cowboys will look at something other than quarterback, given the presence of Dak Prescott.
Buffalo – the Bills pick seventeenth and don’t appear convinced that Tyrod Taylor is the answer.
Green Bay – with Aaron Rodgers returning from injury next year, the Packers will address other positions with the eighteenth pick.
Seattle – the Seahawks pick nineteenth and have Russell Wilson.
Detroit – the Lions pick twentieth and aren’t ready to move on from Matthew Stafford just yet.
Baltimore – the Ravens pick twenty-first and are happy with Joe Flacco.
That’s nine teams in front of the Falcons who could realistically look at drafting quarterbacks. Also, don’t discount the possibility of a team picking after Atlanta trading up to get a potential franchise field general. The Jaguars have a decision to make about Blake Bortles. Drew Brees isn’t going to last forever in New Orleans. Sam Bradford and Case Keenum are short-term answers in Minnesota and the Vikings really don’t know what they have in a post-injury Teddy Bridgewater. The Patriots no longer have an heir to Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger seemingly talks more and more about retirement in Pittsburgh.
Should the underclassmen declare and all ten of the aforementioned prospects be highly regarded by the right teams, they would cause many of the top guards, defensive tackles, and free safeties to fall, perhaps right into Atlanta’s lap. Imagine Quenton Nelson in a Falcons uniform (I know many project him as a top 10 or even top 5 pick, but guards are often undervalued come Draft Day). Perhaps Will Hernandez? What about Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick at safety next to Keanu Neal? Christian Wilkins, Maurice Hurst, Taven Bryan, Derrick Nnadi, DaRon Payne, or Vita Vea next to Grady Jarrett?
Next: What the 2017 Falcons’ Draft Could Have Been
Not bad for not needing a quarterback in a quarterback-loaded draft, is it?