The Atlanta Falcons last had a top five draft selection in 2008, when they snagged Matt Ryan. With a brand new regime incoming, they may well be picking in the top five once again.
With a 30-27 victory last night, the Chargers went from 4th in the 2021 NFL Draft order to 9th. That inevitably moved the Falcons from 7th to 6th, with the Panthers and Cowboys also sitting at 4-9 heading into Week 15. With the Falcons having to play the Buccaneers at home this weekend minus Julio Jones and Ricardo Allen, among others, and then following that up with road games against the Buccaneers and Chiefs, they realistically could leapfrog both and go as high as #4. I don’t think they’re going to outstink the Jets, Jaguars, or Bengals.
What they’ll do with their draft selection, regardless of whether they end up at #4 or #8, will occupy a lot of our time and attention this offseason. Matt Ryan’s immediate and long-term future with the team is a subject of considerable debate, and quarterbacks like Zach Wilson out of BYU and Trey Lance and North Dakota State would be available and could sit for a year or two behind Ryan. Alternatively, the Falcons could try to get one of the draft’s top pass rushers, a top cornerback like Caleb Farley, or much-hyped linebacker Micah Parsons, either at the spot they’re picking or by trading down a bit.
We still have three weeks to go before their pick is baked in, but it’s looking very likely that Atlanta will be picking in the top ten when all is said and done, and the difficulty of the schedule suggests they may very well return to the top five for the first time since they picked Ryan. The future of the franchise won’t necessarily hinge on that one pick, but it’s going to be critical that the Falcons get it right and get out of the deep rut they’re currently stuck in.