It seems like only a week ago the Falcons were looking at so many possibilities in the upcoming draft. The Jets, the holder of the 2nd overall draft slot, were talking up current quarterback Sam Darnold. The Dolphins, the holder of the 3rd overall draft slot, took a quarterback in 2020. That means the Falcons had a shot at every quarterback in the NFL draft outside of Trevor Lawrence.
Now? Not as much.
Terry Fontenot, the new general manager and proponent of taking the best player available, is looking at a completely different scenario. The Jets have since locked in on Zach Wilson at 2. The 49ers, who traded up with the Dolphins, are rumored to be in on Mac Jones or Trey Lance. The only thing we know is that the Falcons can pick anyone in this draft, except for the three quarterbacks going in the first three spots.
That sure makes the best player available less likely to be a quarterback. It also hurts the idea that the Falcons must take a quarterback because of the value this high in the draft. Regardless of what the Falcons do, they would end up with the 4th best quarterback in the draft. Is the fourth best quarterback worth that spot, knowing the rookie would be unlikely to play in 2020?
Those reasons for drafting a quarterback are not as strong as they were when the Falcons could have been adding the second best quarterback. Fontenot would have to really like one of the remaining quarterbacks to fit his drafting strategy. That feels less and less likely to be true with those top quarterbacks gone.
For the Falcons, they may be stuck looking at other positions at four. There are some talented players there, such as Kyle Pitts and Penei Sewell, followed by a slew of talented wide receivers and corners that look like a reach at 4th overall. Atlanta’s options really are limited.
Where those options aren’t limited is a trade down. It first looked like there may be less trade value with fewer quarterbacks available. However, the desperation of the Carolina Panthers may be very valuable. The Panthers have been in on nearly every top quarterback this offseason, striking out on trades for Matthew Stafford and stuck with other veterans like Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson not moving anytime soon. The Panthers are also expected to be in on trade up from their 8th overall draft slot.
The Falcons will obviously not trade with the Panthers for fear of giving a division rival a franchise quarterback for the next 15 years. If another team is hoping to land a starting quarterback this year, they have only one safe option: trade with the Falcons or risk getting leapfrogged by the Panthers.
There are simply no good options for other teams. Teams that need a franchise quarterback like the Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders, Washington Football Team, and the Chicago Bears have to get ahead of the Panthers. Those teams can hope a quarterback falls into their laps, but for many, including Washington and Chicago, it means risking the entire 2021 season. For the others, it means risking looking at quarterbacks again in 2022.
The Panthers are certainly desperate to move up. In retrospect, failing to secure the 3rd overall pick was a major blunder. Instead of securing the third overall quarterback, they may be trading up to get the 5th best quarterback. That’s a bad spot to be in.
Fontenot has to be looking at value. He needs to replenish this roster and he can’t spend anything in free agency. Teams desperate to come away with a quarterback in this draft should be offering plenty of picks to move up to 4. However, if the 49ers don’t make it clear who they plan on taking at three, we may not hear about a trade until draft night.