Even here at The Falcoholic, the debate about what the Falcons should do with the #4 pick is pretty spirited. There are plenty of writers on staff who think quarterback will be the selection, a few who are pushing for the trade down, and a couple of guys who already ordered their Kyle Pitts jerseys. That probably won’t backfire.
We’re bringing some of those perspectives to the table today with a thought exercise, one in a series we’ll run here before the draft. If the Falcons don’t intend to select a quarterback at #4 and don’t trade back, who should they pick?
Here’s what we came up with.
I really wanted to go with Kyle Pitts (as I’m sure others will do) because he may legitimately have All-Pro potential, but the same might be true of Sewell - and he plays one of the premium positions in the NFL. Right now, the Falcons don’t appear to need another offensive tackle with Jake Matthews still a solid starter on the left and Kaleb McGary growing into the role on the right side. However, if Fontenot is serious about going with the best player available, Sewell may fit the billing. Sliding him or Matthews inside to left guard would probably be the initial move, but he gives you yet another young player on the offensive line for a head coach who knows how important the offensive line is. His immediate fit may not be perfect, but over the long run, he could prove to be a player that is on your roster for 10+ years. - David Walker
I tried to pick someone other than Kyle Pitts and failed miserably
I expect Pitts and Sewell to be popular picks here. In order to provide some different perspective, I tried to find another pick that really made sense. We can ignore need entirely assuming Terry Fontenot goes best player available. That should really open up the opportunity, right? Wrong. The problem is there aren’t many “can’t miss” talents at the top of the draft. I think the value is lacking at top corners like Jaycee Horn, Caleb Farley, or Patrick Surtain and top pass rushers like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah or Micah Parsons. I even considered shoehorning in a wide receiver like Ja’marr Chase, where the talent matches the pick and the Falcons likely needing to replace Julio Jones in the future. Is Chase a better talent than Pitts? I tried making the argument but it takes some real mental gymnastics. I think Pitts is clearly and easily the best player available at 4. - Matt Chambers
I’m pretty convinced that the Falcons are going to either move down from #4 or select a quarterback, so it takes a little work to get myself out of that headspace and into thinking about alternatives. Over time, I’ve gone back and forth on whether, if they did neither of those things, the pick would be Micah Parsons, Penei Sewell, or Kyle Pitts, and we’re in a waxing Pitts moment.
The arguments I’ve found most persuasive for Pitts from fellow fans and draftniks can be summed up as a combination of talent, fit with Arthur Smith’s offense, and long-term need. With Hayden Hurst on board and immortal blocker Lee Smith joining up, the team has a short-term plan at tight end that should work just fine. Adding a potentially generational tight end talent to the mix gives Smith more options to work with, lifts an offense that could shed Julio Jones and Hurst as soon as 2022, and gives Matt Ryan and/or the long-term successor the team drafts for him in 2021 or 2022 a dream weapon for any quarterback. It’s not the biggest immediate need, but if Pitts is going to be as special as he’s billed to be, he’ll be an impact player immediately and a key piece of the future of the Falcons’ offense. - Dave Choate
Bring me Ja’Marr Chase
At #4, the Falcons should take either Kyle Pitts or Penei Sewell, if they don’t go quarterback. But for the sake of being different, bring me Ja’Marr Chase. Chase is arguably the best wide receiver in this year’s draft and the thought of Chase, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley on the same offense is thrilling. Chase dominates defensive backs at the catch point, out-muscling them and using his elite hands to bring down contested balls. In this scenario that would only happen in Madden 21, Chase could be impactful out of the gate while also taking over a larger part of the offense with Ridley once Jones retires. It’s not going to happen, but boy would it be fun. – Evan Birchfield
Let’s not get too cute: Penei Sewell
I understand the intrigue of taking a Kyle Pitts, and yes, it would be so fun to watch this offense in action with Julio, Ridley and Pitts terrorizing opposing secondaries. During last week’s Falcoholic Live show, we spoke with Nathan Cooper of Sports Info Solutions, and his evaluation of Sewell is that he is the 1B best prospect in this draft along with Trevor Lawrence. That evaluation just reaffirmed my opinion of the standout Oregon tackle.
Sewell has all the makeup of a generational prospect at a premium position. He has no glaring weaknesses to his game. He was the first true Sophomore to ever win the Outland Trophy and also a Unanimous All-American, all at the tender age of 19. He’s a guy who can anchor Atlanta’s offensive line for the next 15 years. The counterargument is that the Falcons have two tackles on the roster whom they invested heavily in already. Sewell is versatile enough to start his career as a right tackle and transition to left tackle in the coming years when we get to life after Jake Matthews. While Kaleb McGary has been an OK starter who showed improvement in Year 2, he’s not close to being good enough to justify passing on someone of Sewell’s caliber if the Oregon man is there for the taking at pick 4. Go full BPA with Sewell and figure out the rest later — he’s too good to not take (assuming you don’t go quarterback of course). —Adnan Ikic
If the Falcons aren’t taking a quarterback at 4, it means they’re committed to the best player available at that spot. The more I watch and learn about the 2021 NFL Draft class, the more I’m convinced that the best non-QB available is Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. He’s an insane athlete with great measurables, advanced route-running ability, and competent skills as a blocker. It’s rare for me to go with the cliche of “generational prospect,” but Kyle Pitts is legitimately in that category.
Not many TEs go in the top 10, far fewer have ever reached the top 5. Pitts is worth it. His fit in an Arthur Smith offense designed to maximize the position also adds intrigue to the selection. Nobody used TEs more effectively to manipulate the defense and create mismatches in 2020 than Smith. In Kyle Pitts, Smith would have an absolute matchup nightmare on his hands. If he’s as good a head coach and offensive mind as we all hope, Pitts could be a transcendent player in this scheme who could take Atlanta’s offense to unforeseen heights over the next 5-10 years. Is he the biggest need? Absolutely not, but he is the best value at 4th overall if QB is off the board. — Kevin Knight
Since everyone else has already written the words, Kyle and Pitts, I won’t. (Damn!) If anything, this exercise has convinced me even further that quarterback is the right position at the #4 spot. That’s off the table, though, and it’s why Ja’Marr Chase is my guy here. I am not as high on Sewell as most people, and it kind of comes down to receiver vs. tight end here for me. In this regard, I’m going to experiment a little with NFL roster construction. It’s possible we’re underrating Chase at this point, so let’s add someone with an insane skillset to a wide receiver unit that also features a legitimately good starting trio with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. Here’s the kicker, though. You don’t suddenly turn into a spread offense to get them on the field.
I’m playing this offense like hockey lines. One thing Raheem Morris liked to say about the Falcons receivers was that he wanted “clones” of the guys when they made substitutions. This is taking that logic to the next level. Get multiple, extremely talented players with different talents and shuffle them every few plays to keep the offense as fresh as possible. It makes defenders prepare for everything, and it resets the explosiveness of the offense constantly. I truly believe Chase is a generational prospect at wide receiver, and the Falcons could benefit immediately and for the next decade by taking him. - William McFadden