Everyone with even a passing interest in the NFL Draft is trying to figure out what the Falcons will do in a couple of weeks. The three paths they might take, as we’ve established, are quarterback at #4, a best player available at another position like Kyle Pitts or Penei Sewell at #4, or a trade down, and nobody outside of that front office is quite sure which one they’ll choose.
There have been plenty of reports and rumors, and we’ll add another one to the pile this morning from longtime NFL reporter Peter King. As our friend Aaron Freeman noted, King’s big takeaway is that he believes the Falcons “will not force” a quarterback at #4, and seemingly suggests that Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is the most likely pick if Atlanta’s not wedded to a QB. Here’s the relevant passage:
They will not force a quarterback. Lots of people around the league feel they’ll just sit and take Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. That could be pre-draft logical thinking without any real knowledge. The Falcons know they have a perfectly fine quarterback in Matt Ryan (at $23 million, $23.75 million and $28 million owed in cash over the next three years), entering his age-36 year, figuring he’s got several seasons of above-average play left. When I say they won’t force a quarterback, I mean that GM Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith share this view: They’re not going to enter this draft thinking, “This might be the last year for a while that we’ll be in position to take a good quarterback prospect, so let’s grab one now.” No. They’ll take a quarterback if they love one. Like, really love one. They understand that forcing a quarterback could lead to misery.
Reading between the lines here, this does not seem to be a report originating from the Atlanta front office, but is seemingly a mix of opinion and conversations with other league sources, likely ones also making educated guesses about Atlanta’s plans. It does, however, reflect league thinking and is a pretty logical read on the team’s plans. Their interest in Pitts seems genuine given Arthur Smith’s love for tight ends and Pitts’ status as a once-in-a-long-while prospect at the position, and it goes without saying that a front office that has pledged to pick the best player available isn’t necessarily going to snag a quarterback if they have three players rated above him. I think quarterback remains a likely option, but nothing King suggests in his column is out of step with our expectations.
The backdrop of the piece, of course, is all about quarterbacks, and both the leaguewide need and desperation for solutions at the position. We don’t know the team’s long-term plans for Matt Ryan, but simply having a capable quarterback under contract puts this team ahead of several franchises who are relying on stopgaps or have deep uncertainty going forward, which is why I still think the #4 pick could be an attractive landing spot for a team desperate to get their next franchise guy. That leaguewide desperation is a good reminder of why the Falcons are probably considering a quarterback in the first place: It’s the one position where being without a transition plan can plunge you into a years-long morass, one the Falcons used to find themselves in quite often.
The open question for the Falcons is whether they do love one of the quarterbacks who will be there at #4, and whether that love would be strong enough to preclude them from moving down if they get a godfather offer from a desperate team. That’s the unknown piece that will keep us guessing right up until draft night, in all likelihood, and King can only offer us the sense that this team may well elect to bring in another weapon with the highest pick they’ve enjoyed in over a decade.