Every year since the 1980s, Bob McGinn has polled NFL scouts, general managers, and evaluators heading into the NFL draft about the draft class and top prospects. Before moving to purely anonymous names, even former Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff showed up from time to time.
McGinn polls the evaluators about who they like the most, who they hate, and generally give lonely scouts an outlet to complain about players or the NFL in general. The evaluations are fun to look at, both before and after the draft, as the accuracy of those rankings don’t always play out.
For instance, AJ Terrell was the fifth ranked corner in last year’s draft, with many, evaluators questioning his performance against LSU. Terrell struggled with Ja’Marr Chase, the consensus top wide receiver in the 2021 draft. Terrell performed much better than anticipated or advertised.
Regardless of last year’s corner evaluations, there are some interesting points made about this year’s quarterback class.
During these hours of interviewing, not one scout said this was a great group of quarterbacks. Yet, so many teams high atop the draft are fully prepared to risk everything on prospects such as Wilson, Fields, Lance and Jones.
This is interesting despite the significant number of quarterbacks expected to go early in round 1. One scout told McGinn the need and value for a quarterback has risen so sharply that a number of quarterbacks with “thin” resumes are already topping draft boards. Some of these top quarterbacks were even in competition to start on their college team just 12 months back.
Another scout astutely noted the Kansas City Chiefs waited five years before finding their quarterback of the future. Andy Reid was able to trade a 2nd round pick for Alex Smith, develop the rest of the team, then grab Patrick Mahomes and give him the perfect scenario to develop: learning from a veteran then starting for a talented team.
That’s not to say that is the only option, or any team that waits is guaranteed to grab a Mahomes, but it helps to remember that there is more than one path forward for a franchise.
We sometimes see rookies pop like Justin Herbert. Other times, we see players like David Carr, Joey Harrington, RGIII, and Sam Darnold struggle on bad teams and lose their ability to play.
The Falcons, if they grab a quarterback 4th overall, are certainly looking at either Justin Fields or Trey Lance.
Fields was considered a possibility at 2 a few months back, but what followed was a surprising lack of interest in the Ohio quarterback. Scouts noted that Fields has the physical tools and traits you would want but had concerns over how pro-ready that Ohio scheme has made him. Reading through the assessments, it appears evaluators believe Fields will need to sit for a year.
Scouts are even more concerned about Lance, the developmental quarterback with limited playing time in an noncompetitive division. It boils down to Lance’s lack of experience and rough edges. One evaluator said Lance should start in his rookie year for experience while another believes he is three years out. Reading through the assessments, it appears evaluators believe Lance is a complete wildcard that will need to make major improvements.
The pick between both quarterbacks may come down to personal preference, including a coaching staff’s belief in its ability to develop either quarterback. What it means for the Falcons is still unknown. The Falcons will be starting Matt Ryan in 2021, maybe even in 2022. Based on how some veteran quarterbacks have held up in recent years, Ryan could still start in 2026 and beyond.
If Arthur Smith is dedicated to finding a quarterback of the future with his top pick, he is definitely picking between Fields and Lance. Fields looks like the more talented and polished prospect, yet Lance looks built to play in Smith’s offensive scheme. After reading through the evaluations, it is kind of clear why there is no consensus what player goes after the first three picks.