For some Falcons fans, it is pretty much draft season. With draft season comes a consistent barrage of mock drafts and draft analysis. In a recently released mock draft by Pro Football Focus, writer Austin Gayle slotted a quarterback to the Falcons at their current draft spot, 4th overall, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields:
No non-quarterback picked at No. 4 overall in 2021 will take Falcons from a four-win team to a Super Bowl contender with a 36-year-old Matt Ryan under center and on the books for more than $80M in 2021 and 2022 combined. I’m sorry. So, even if the Falcons’ front office is still confident in going the distance with Ryan, adding an heir apparent at the quarterback position with the — ideally — rare opportunity they have drafting inside the top five should be an easy decision.
PFF’s 10th-ranked signal-caller in terms of passing grade in 2020, Ryan offers trade value if Atlanta’s brass can find a suitor or can continue to start ahead of a rookie quarterback with what should at least be an improved coaching situation and two top-flight wide receivers (Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley).
Fields has his fair share of concerns as a prospect, but he’s still the No. 3 overall player on PFF’s board and the first-ranked college quarterback in terms of PFF passing grade over the past two seasons (2019-20).
A decent contingent of the Falcons fan base are Georgia Bulldogs fans, so Fields is someone that those individuals are quite familiar with. At 6’3 and in the neighborhood of 225 pounds, Fields carries NFL size that allows him to be one of the more league-ready prospects in the draft from that aspect. Fields also has a skill set featuring with athleticism, strength, and the ability to make plays in the passing game and as a running quarterback, something many fans have been clamoring for.
Fields is considered a top-3 overall prospect in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft by most draft analysts, as well as myself. It is a sure bet that aside from anything catastrophic, Fields will being up being a top-5 pick. It will be interesting to see what direction the Falcons go in the offseason as far as either drafting their heir apparent at quarterback in a prospect like Fields, or look to address the defensive side of the ball with their first round selection, but this is not an outlandish pick.
Quarterback is likely an option, regardless of who the new head coach and general manager may be, as the Falcons look for insurance and perhaps a long-term replacement for Matt Ryan. In that case, Fields is a definite possibility, as is BYU quarterback Zach Wilson or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Both of those last two names possess elite athleticism, while one may be more ready for an NFL playbook (Wilson) while the other may need a little seasoning (Lance).
Of course, just because the class has a few top quarterbacks doesn’t mean Atlanta’s definitely taking one. If the Falcons were to target a defender at 4th overall, keep a very close eye on linebacker Micah Parsons out of Penn State. Parsons is a generational talent and is easily the best defender in the entire class, no matter the position. While linebacker may not be a necessary need for the Falcons, Parsons invokes Luke Kuechly comparisons and his addition can elevate the linebacker position for the Falcons and turn a really good unit into an elite one.
The Falcons will have a lot of promising options at #4, but this won’t be the last time you hear the name Justin Fields between now and April.