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Trading down in the 2021 NFL Draft is back on the table for the Falcons

Atlanta wasn’t a team that liked to move down under Thomas Dimitroff, but for the first time in forever, that may no longer be true.

NFL: APR 25 2019 NFL Draft Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In all the buzz about the upcoming Falcons draft, which has only grown despite the team having no settled general manager and no settled draft position at this point, the focus has been squarely on what Atlanta might do with their first top five draft selection since the 2008 class that brought them Matt Ryan and set up the best decade-plus in team history. There’s discussion about drafting Matt Ryan’s successor, chatter about top defenders like Micah Parsons, intrigue over “generational” tackle prospect Penei Sewell, and even the usual mock drafts landing yet another top wide receiver in Atlanta.

A possibility that will likely gain steam as the weeks go on is one that has mostly been background noise to this point, probably due to it being a little less flashy and because it was never more than a pipe dream in the Thomas Dimitroff era. I am, of course, referring to trading down.

Dimitroff, affectionately referred to as Trader Thomas in the fanbase when fans were actually feeling affectionate toward him, was famous for making moves on draft day. The vast majority of those moves were trades up for players the front office coveted, and Dimitroff never did make a habit of moving down on draft day to pick up a bounty of picks, a strategy favored by teams like the Patriots. Those aggressive trades led to the team landing stars like Julio Jones and useful contributors like Sam Baker, but they also sometimes left Atlanta scraping for enough picks to stack quality depth, which led to the team being decimated by injuries and weak at key positions multiple times.

There are drawbacks to moving down, too, with the Browns providing a particularly instructive example of what happens when you pass up on a potential generational talent for a bunch of picks that are less surefire bets. But I think many fans have stumped for building the team with a plethora of picks for a while now, and with Atlanta confronting a bit of a cap crunch this offseason and needing help across the roster, the desire to move down from a top five selection if Atlanta isn’t picking a supposed slam dunk prospect like Parsons or Sewell or a quarterback of the future is probably only going to grow.

With Dimitroff out of town, that possibility is back on the table for the first time in a very long time. Every year we wrote articles in March and April dismissing the possibility of a trade down outright, but for the first time in ages, I doubt we’ll be doing that this year. There are strong cases to be made for a variety of paths at the top of the draft in 2021, but there’s little question in my mind that the team could put a war chest of selections to great use with the right front office in tow, and that there’s a need to nail a bunch of picks with massive holes at defensive end, running back and guard, as well as real needs at safety, cornerback, and wide receiver.

The simple truth is that until a new GM comes aboard and we can scrutinize their draft track record (if they have one) and public comments, any and all possibilities remain open. The nice thing is that within a couple of days we’ll know the team’s final draft position, and within a few weeks after that, we should have that new front office on board so we can take the speculation to new heights.