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Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Kyle Pitts or trade down? Evaluating the Falcons options with the 4th pick

The #Falcons have a unique opportunity to reshape their team with the 4th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. @FalcoholicKevin takes a closer look at each option—QB at 4, non-QB at 4, and a trade down—and break down the arguments for and against each.

Capital One Orange Bowl - Virginia v Florida Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Falcons have the chance to drastically reshape their team in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. It’s rare for a team to have a top-5 pick—unless you’re among the perennial cellar-dwellers of the NFL—and rarer still for there to be so many good options available. Atlanta has a unique opportunity to completely change the course of their franchise by nailing this selection.

The issue is that there are a lot of different options for the team to consider with the 4th overall pick. I’m sure you’ve heard them all over the past few months:

The Falcons should take a quarterback at 4 and plan for the future beyond Matt Ryan

The Falcons should take a generational non-QB talent at 4, like TE Kyle Pitts or perhaps OT Penei Sewell

The Falcons should trade down to pick up a massive stockpile of picks

All of these options could work out well for Atlanta, both in 2021 and beyond. But determining which move is best? That seems to be up to personal opinion, and it’s begun to starkly divide the fanbase.

In an effort to make sure all sides have their voices heard in the great 4th overall pick debate, I’ll do my best to discuss each of these options in great detail in the video below. I’m sure most fans know that I am personally in favor of drafting a QB at 4—particularly Justin Fields—but I’ve consulted with supporters of each option to try and fully understand and explain the reasoning behind them.

Check out the video for an in-depth discussion of each option. We’ll also have an audio-only podcast version up in the near future.

I know our loyal readers also like to have this all in written format, so I’ll do my best to summarize the key arguments for each option:

QB at 4: Justin Fields or Trey Lance

  • Falcons must make a decision on Matt Ryan’s future in 2022, and the team has a unique opportunity to draft his successor at 4th overall
  • A franchise QB is the single most valuable asset a team can acquire—reasonable to think Smith/Fontenot could have the position at the top of their board
  • Rare to be able to “sit and wait” and have a top QB prospect available, Falcons only need to spend a single 1st on the prospect—less risky overall compared to what teams like the 49ers have to do
  • Opportunity to sit for a year is a boon to the rookie, and Falcons get the chance to thoroughly evaluate him before making a decision on whether to move on from Ryan in 2022
  • While rookie QB contract benefits won’t be fully realized, Falcons still get major cap relief in 2023 and 2024
  • Chances of having a top-5 pick again are very low—this opportunity is unlikely to repeat itself. If Falcons wait on QB, they’ll most likely have to give up significant resources in a trade-up or spend a ton of cap space on a free agency signing

Non-QB at 4: Kyle Pitts or Penei Sewell

  • Smith/Fontenot could easily view Ryan as having between 3-5 high quality years remaining
  • If that’s the case, surrounding Ryan with a blue-chip talent on offense like Pitts/Sewell could be the best way to compete in 2021 and put building blocks in place for Ryan’s future successor
  • Objectively, the best chance for the Falcons to win a Super Bowl in the next 2-3 years is by adding a transcendent talent like Kyle Pitts
  • Player would be able to contribute immediately and help the team compete in 2021, unlike a QB who would almost certainly not start until 2022
  • Reasonable to think that the Falcons could have Kyle Pitts as the BPA at 4, depending on which QBs are taken, and Smith/Fontenot have made it clear they’d like to target BPA when possible
  • This selection means the Falcons are keeping Ryan, which means an extension would be coming in 2022. Would give the team more cap flexibility in 2022, but not as much in 2023/24

Trade down

  • Many of the same arguments apply here as for a non-QB at 4
  • However, instead of electing to add a single blue-chip talent, the team might view a trade down offer of significant value as a better option for competing in the near future
  • Offer would need to be big (at least one future 1st and multiple Day 2 picks) and the team would need to actually hit on the extra picks to make it worthwhile (see: Browns picks received in the Julio trade)
  • With the team strapped for cap space over the next few seasons, loading up on rookie contracts could be the best way to alleviate that issue
  • This move would allow the team to bolster the roster with many additions instead of relying on just one, and would also serve to “stock the cupboard” for Ryan’s successor
  • Also worth nothing that future 1sts (in 2022 and perhaps 2023) could be integral to engineering a potential trade-up for Ryan’s successor without gutting Atlanta’s draft capital

I’m sure that I’ve missed some of the arguments for each option, but I’ve tried to cover the main points of each in good faith. As you can see, there are legitimate reasons behind each strategy and all three could help the Falcons get closer to the goal we’re all seeking: a Super Bowl trophy in the near future.

I’ll close by saying: please try to respect your fellow fans over the final few days of this very eventful draft season. We all want the same thing: to see Atlanta succeed at the highest level—even though we don’t necessarily agree on the best way to do that.