The worst thing about being an Atlanta Falcons fan right now is that they have not made their first-round pick yet.
Debates about what the Falcons should or shouldn’t do with the fourth-overall draft pick have raged about for some time now, some of them quite intense! This road won’t get any easier with the draft still a good month away, but it’s high time we finally just lay the cards on the table and underline the fortuitous position the Falcons find themselves in this year.
It’s not that we don’t all have takes about what the pick should or shouldn’t be; we do! Some folks are pushing so hard for a quarterback that they bristle if you even suggest the Matt Ryan restructure might keep him here longer. Some folks have already ordered Kyle Pitts jerseys. Some folks do those mock drafts and give the Falcons like 15 draft picks extra for trading down seven times throughout your football LARPing (mock drafts are LARPing for football nerds; don’t worry, I do them, too), all in the service of building the best team around Ryan. Some of you sit quietly, sipping your tea and quietly pining for Penei Sewell.
Being mad online about the Falcons is a local pastime that’s gone international with fans chiming in from all over the world, but it feels especially spicy this time around. It’s probably because we’ve all been indoors for a year and the team has stunk to high heaven since 2018, and they finally have a chance to legitimately turn things around and have only signed a handful of useful depth pieces and a rotational running back in free agency. It’s the uncertainty for the future that kills you, coupled with your vehement vision of what future that should look like.
No, none of us know what the Falcons should do in April with that fourth pick. No, there is no completely right answer as to what that should be, at least not one that will be evident until years down the line. You can make a deeply convincing argument about why it’s time to draft Ryan’s successor just like you can make a deeply convincing argument about why taking the best player available is always smartest. You can summon legitimate reasons for Pitts, Sewell, Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, what have you.
It’s because the top of this draft class is loaded with talent, and it’s a good year to need that kind of talent to get you back on track.
The situation with a team like the Falcons this year is that they really could go any number of ways and find that decision to be “justifiable.” They could nab Ryan’s successor because they love that individual quarterback and feel pretty safe that he’s going to be really good and worthy of this pick. They could find that in a non-QB and want to get him in the room. They could feel that about no one and want more draft capital for later on when that feeling might strike.
They can draft a quarterback and totally be in the right to do so. They can draft a pass catcher and it make total sense (even a wideout). They can trade down and go defense at basically any position, and you’ll say, “yeah, that makes sense.” As long as they don’t draft a special teams player, literally almost anyone projected to go early in the first round would make total and complete sense.
This is probably the pool of players the team will be choosing from if they stay at four: you pick from, perhaps, some combination of Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Penei Sewell, Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, maybe DeVonta Smith and Micah Parsons. Dang!
There are no guarantees on any of those players, of course, but this is an unusually promising group of players. If those three QBs, Sewell, Pitts and Chase are the guys you are whittling down from, you really can’t say you have it bad. Potential franchise QB or non-QB player with Hall of Fame potential. What’s there to gripe about outside of who to actually pick? And if they all come with this type of hype, you have to feel good about the choices, right?
Of course, not drafting a quarterback in this draft class could bite you in the butt one day, just like drafting the wrong QB or passing on one of these potentially elite non-quarterbacks. Any move could go well or not; who’s to say. That’s the risk with sending your pick in; you might get it right, you might get it wrong. But for all the hand-wringing and worry, the Falcons have a great chance to add a really good player when they pick in the first round this year that will help the future of the team.
It’s sure to be divisive as these things are, but when you’re in a position debating which respected draft prospect your team is going to take, that’s not a bad place to be in. It’s good food for thought as this long month dwindles down and we get closer to finding out who the pick might actually be.