Earlier this morning, I wrote that none of us are quite sure what the Falcons will do with the #4 pick. The upside of that for Atlanta is that nobody around the league seems to have any idea what they’re going to do, either.
There are, however, countless rumors and ideas floating around here, some of which will end up bearing a resemblance to reality when the dust settles on the team’s first round pick, regardless of whether that’s at #4 or later thanks to a trade down. Let’s round up what’s being discussed and rumored in the increasingly dizzy final days before the draft.
The league thinks the Falcons are taking Kyle Pitts
Peter King remains one of the better-connected reporters in the NFL, but the massive turnover in the Atlanta organization clearly has him relying on sources outside of the Falcons to get a sense of where they’re going. By and large, those sources seem to think the Falcons are going with Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
Why? The dots are easy to connect. Arthur Smith’s offense purrs when it’s utilizing a pair of capable tight ends, and Pitts and Hayden Hurst is a lethal combination in the short term. Over the long haul, if the Falcons aren’t committed to snagging a quarterback at #4, Pitts could be a lethal red zone weapon and one of the toughest matchups in the NFL if he reaches his sky-high potential, making life easier for Matt Ryan and allowing the offense to run smoothly even if the team ultimately moves on from Julio Jones. That and the team’s pledge to take the best player available apparently has many front office types around the NFL seeing Pitts to Atlanta.
King readily admits that those sources seem to be guessing, and he’s not the only one who respects the Falcons for keeping their draft plans mum to this point. In Mike Sando’s most recent piece at The Athletic, he quotes a league executive who says the Falcons “could do anything” with the pick, but he’s also leaning Pitts.
The team is taking a very close look at Justin Fields
Most of the criticism of Justin Fields to this point has been, in my humble opinion, insubstantial. That’s not to say that there are not flaws in his game, but those flaws do not in any way convince me that he’s not the second-best quarterback in this draft class. I don’t know where he is on the team’s draft board, but I don’t doubt for a second that Atlanta has a healthy level of interest.
That’s why they’re attending Fields’ second pro day, this time with quarterbacks coach Charles London, wide receivers coach Dave Brock, and assistant director of college scouting Dwaune Jones taking the place of Arthur Smith, Terry Fontenot, and Dave Ragone. If San Francisco is legitimately interested in selecting Mac Jones or Trey Lance third overall—and we don’t know that yet, either—then Fields at #4 could provide Atlanta with a quarterback I suspect they really like or a team desperate to get Fields paying a handsome price to move up. It’s worth noting that in Sando’s article, the anonymous NFL GM he’s talking to has the Falcons snagging Fields. I don’t buy that Fields is actually going to suffer a big draft day slide, but if he makes it by the 49ers, Atlanta’s got some attractive options to mull over.
The team’s love for Trey Lance is a whisper on the wind
Of course, if San Francisco chooses Mac Jones at #3, there are folks out there who think it’d be Lance and not Fields who winds up in Atlanta.
Really interesting tidbit from Louis Riddick here, especially at the end saying “After knowing Arthur Smith for 15 years and standing next to him and Terry at North Dakota States pro day, they like Trey Lance a lot” pic.twitter.com/dVYvbUIMm4— Adamski (@Damski32) April 14, 2021
This is not the first time we’ve heard rumors that Lance is the most intriguing quarterback for Atlanta, and a logical one if they are interested in quarterback because his potential is so impressive and he’d likely benefit a lot from a year spent learning before taking over the starting job.
Interest in trading up to #4 still feels legitimate
The Patriots and Broncos are hanging out at Justin Fields’ pro day today. That’s surely part due diligence—if Fields somehow fell to either of those teams, I imagine they’d be ecstatic—but I also think it’s fair to say they just have a healthy interest in the top quarterbacks available. I’m still not willing to rule out those teams—and others, including Washington—ultimately electing to make a strong play to move up to #4.
Both teams have reason to do so. The Broncos may well give Drew Lock one more year, but he does not seem to be the long-term answer for the franchise, and they’re starting to assemble enough quality pieces elsewhere on the roster that a new general manager may well be tempted to try to fast track his way to contention with a new quarterback. The Patriots, meanwhile, just splurged in free agency, seem eager to get back to contention post-Tom Brady, and don’t appear to have a long-term solution on their roster either. Keep an eye on both.