The Atlanta Falcons are in for major changes, that is clear. Whether that is a rebuild or a retool is yet to be seen.
If it is a rebuild for the Atlanta Falcons as many expect it will be, with the new coaching staff, front office, and aging faces of the franchise (Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Jake Mathews) the expectation for major change is logical.
With the fourth overall pick in hand, the Falcons are in the perfect situation to add serious talent and begin the next regime of this franchise. There are several ways the Atlanta Falcons can go with this pick that make a ton of sense depending on how the franchise views the future.
While the long-term success of this team is key, the immediate can’t be ignored.
Arthur Blank is not getting any younger and he has long wanted to bring a super bowl title to Atlanta. Wasting several years on a rebuild may rub him the wrong way. The staff also has a lot to prove, tanking for the future is not a great way to start their tenure.
A combination of an eye to the future as well as immediate success is the most logical response.
For the Atlanta Falcons, a rebuild does not start at quarterback.
The 2021 quarterback draft class is shaping up to be the strongest in a long time.
With Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones all viewed as guys that can be franchise quarterbacks. Having five such players come out in one year is rare. History tells us they won’t all be league-altering but it’s too soon to tell who will and won’t succeed.
At pick four, the Atlanta Falcons are in a prime position to grab the best non-QB in this 2021 NFL Draft. If rumors are to be believed, and there is plenty of speculation about pick three, the QB options for the Atlanta Falcons will be Lance or Jones with Lawrence, Wilson, and Fields expected to go top three.
While jumping on the position now makes a ton of sense there is also a downside to starting a rebuild at the most important position.
The Atlanta Falcons have plenty of holes on the roster and while coaching and bad luck may have been a factor, this team went 4-12 last season. Is dropping a rookie quarterback, no matter how talented, onto a losing team the best option?
Drafting a quarterback and building the team around them is a viable option. However, there is a risk. Matt Ryan was pressured on 24.6 percent of his dropbacks, 12th worst in the NFL in 2020.
The Falcons’ top target, Julio Jones, is likely headed into his last season.
Jake Matthews, the franchise left tackle, has maybe three years left as well. With an offense losing key players the risk of developing bad habits and injury increases for a young dynamic quarterback is not worth the risk.
Bad situations can lead even good players to underperform and derail careers.
The defense has been abysmal for years, even under Dean Pees a complete turnaround is optimistic at best.
If the belief is that this roster is devoid of talent and in for a rough time going forward a quarterback is not going to fix that. Granted whoever they take is going to sit for the 2021 and potentially the 2022 season depending on how the Falcons want to approach Ryan’s contract.
Can the Atlanta Falcon’s supporting staff be rebuilt that quickly?
Is wasting the advantages of a rookie contract during a rebuild the best option?
The draft is more than one round and there is potential to hit on players as the draft progresses over the next few years. There is also potential that the team will miss.
Continuing to string along a talented quarterback without team success for the next decade isn’t an option.
One of the biggest advantages of a rookie quarterback is the savings on the contract.
Sitting for one year makes sense, two is ok, after that the expectation has to be top-tier starter production. Unless the Atlanta Falcons think they can be a legit contender for a super bowl in 2022 or 2023 taking a quarterback now does not have to be the best option.
Building the team first is a very viable way to go.
Retooling this defense and finding long-term answers on the left side and center of the o-line and running back before drafting a new quarterback is a smart approach.
If the Atlanta Falcons can build this team to a point where a dynamic quarterback is a missing piece and THEN add that piece, they can maximize their championship window.
While the 2021 quarterback class is strong and the 2022 class is not, things are bound to change. A year ago, Zach Wilson was just a guy, now the expected number two pick. Mac Jones, the presumed number three pick, had thrown around 100 collegiate passes.
There will be players to rise before the draft next year. With Ryan’s contract looking as it does the 2023 class also comes into play and at this point, it’s any ones guess on how that will look come draft day two years from now.
YES, the quarterback position is strong this year and makes sense and should be an option for the Falcons at four. However, thinking and expecting it to be the only option is foolhardy and could leave a lot of people disappointed.
If the Atlanta Falcons are smart, they will add draft capital for the future, giving them ammunition to be aggressive to get the quarterback they want when the rest of the team is ready.