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The Falcons are leaving QB on the table while generating smoke aplenty around the #4 pick

Is it a quarterback, a top tight end or wide receiver, a trade down, or none of the above?

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Most front offices are coy. Many front offices deeply frustrate fans eager to learn what their team is going to do because they leave so many possibilities open that it’s impossible to tell where they might go, especially when you’re trying to create some intrigue and anxiety around your draft selection. That was certainly true in the Thomas Dimitroff era, and it’s playing out again with Terry Fontenot at the helm.

While Atlanta digs slowly out of its cap abyss and navigates what will be a busy but not exactly thrilling free agency period, everyone involved with the team and watching from afar knows the draft is the big deal for the Falcons. They have nine selections in this upcoming class, enough to nab 3-4 starters and stock depth, and they have the #4 selection. That’s the highest pick they’ve had since 2008, when they picked Matt Ryan at #3, and it presents a number of roads for this franchise to take.

Atlanta is still likely deciding who they’ll end up with and whether they’ll move from #4, but they can’t be displeased that a number of conflicting reports, rumors, and perceptions exist. That has been heightened recently with the restructure of Ryan’s deal creating renewed uncertainty about his long-term status in Atlanta, their big presence at Trey Lance’s pro day, and ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller’s prediction in his newsletter that the Panthers would have to leapfrog the Falcons to get Justin Fields.

Yes, I’m predicting a trade here. The Panthers have been super aggressive this off-season and need to move up to get their quarterback of the future. And that means jumping in front of the Atlanta Falcons, who I believe are all-in on Fields.

Oh, and you can add rumors about JaMarr Chase and Kyle Pitts to the pile, too.

All of this is good, because teams that badly want a quarterback or Pitts have to consider moving up to snag them at #4. If Atlanta has any interest at all in trading down, the more smoke around their intentions, the better. You never want rivals, especially the Panthers with their desperate thirst for a quarterback, to know exactly what you’re up to.

The most persistent signs, for what it’s worth, concern the Falcons still being interested in a quarterback, though that doesn’t mean it has to be at #4. If the reports about the team’s reluctance to restructure Matt Ryan and their interest in this crop of quarterbacks is genuine—and we have no indications to the contrary at the moment—then that’s still something we can’t rule out at all. This is from The Athletic’s Tori McElhaney this morning:

So, don’t burn those mock drafts just yet, because the Falcons believe they should take a look at a QB in the draft, whether that’s at No. 4 or trading down (as will look at soon in our second Falcons mock draft). Either way, the Falcons are fully planning on drafting a quarterback in 2021.

I don’t believe we are any closer to actually knowing the team’s plan with their top pick than we were a few weeks ago, and the signing of a potential bridge safety and a trade for a backup tight end have done nothing to clarify things. That’s enough to drive any fan crazy, but for the Falcons, that uncertainty is nothing but good for business.