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Who will the Falcons take in the first round of the NFL Draft?

The draft is here, and so are our final predictions for the Atlanta Falcons in the first round.

2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Day 1 of the NFL Draft is finally, mercifully here. The Falcons will make their highest pick since selecting Matt Ryan with the third-overall pick in 2008, and the organization may once again opt to select a quarterback in the first round.

Atlanta could also grab one of the top skill players in this draft, tight end Kyle Pitts being the media favorite among them, or it could trade back and accumulate more picks for later in the draft. Whatever route they take, it will reveal much about this new regime’s plans for the future.

But what about our plans for the future? Here are our final predictions for what Atlanta will do with the No. 4 pick.

2020 NCAA Division I Football Championship Photo by Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Draft QB Trey Lance

The draft is nearly here yet I am still only guessing what the team will do. I think the Falcons would like a small trade down (such as with Miami), trade Julio Jones, and set their sights on 2023 when cap space finally opens up and Tom Brady is theoretically retired. Only a few days ago I would have guessed Atlanta would go for Kyle Pitts and try their best with whatever remaining window there is. Rumors around the team’s desire to trade down and to trade Julio suggest they aren’t looking at 2021 but 2022 and 2023. If that’s the plan, Lance would be a great selection with a worrisome floor but absolutely elite ceiling. - Matt Chambers

Draft QB Justin Fields

If they don’t get that blockbuster offer to move down, Atlanta’s going to be faced with what our Cory Woodroof has repeatedly called a franchise-altering decision. In the end, I think the route they take will be Fields, assuming as I am that he’s still available.

Fields is being unjustly picked apart this offseason, but he is a highly skilled, smart quarterback who I truly believe will thrive with the right landing spot, and the Falcons will give him a smart offensive coach and a strong supporting cast over the long haul. Fields has proven again and again that he can do everything you need your quarterback to do at a high level, has succeeded in pressure-packed environments against tough competition, and will come into the NFL with a real chip on his shoulder if the Jets and 49ers elect to pass on him. Even though the circumstances are different in 2021 because Matt Ryan is still here and still quite good, I believe the Falcons learned from 2008 that you don’t miss out on a player who can be your franchise quarterback for more than a decade, because your chances of snagging that guy down the line can be very slim. The only question is whether Fields is the guy for Atlanta, and while no one knows where they stand today, I think he’ll be the pick when the dust settles. It’s not like I’ve ever been wrong before. —Dave Choate

Draft QB Justin Fields

It’s really tough to pin down what this team will do, and they’ve been downright masterful in concealing their true intentions. Nobody in the NFL really knows what the Falcons plans are at 4. While Kyle Pitts seems to be the prevailing opinion from analysts, Atlanta has rarely made the “consensus” pick in the first round. My own record of predicting their first-rounders is extremely spotty—they usually end up taking prospects I had mocked to them in the second with their first pick.

All that being said, my gut is telling me QB at 4 and it has been for most of the offseason. The max restructure for Matt Ryan threw a bit of a wrench in things, but it’s clear the team viewed that as their best move to clear cap space for the roster and not as a long-term commitment to Ryan. I think the best path forward for this team is a short-term rebuild, and unfortunately that rebuild includes a rookie QB and moving on from franchise icons like Ryan and even Julio Jones over the next few seasons.

The reason for QB at 4 is simple: there’s likely to be an incredible prospect available there. I’ve discussed my reasons for valuing a player like Justin Fields—who I view as the second-best QB in this class—at the top in many other pieces. Suffice it to say, if Fields is available at 4, I do not think Atlanta will be able to pass on him. I think there’s a small chance for a trade down with Miami or Detroit still, but I believe Fields would still be the target in that scenario. —Kevin Knight

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Draft QB Justin Fields

It may not be the decision that is favored by most of the fan base but it is a logical one. Even with a restructured deal for Matt Ryan that has him in Atlanta for maybe a year or two. The enticing aspect about this draft is that the Falcons can go a variety of ways at fourth overall. Selecting Fields would make sense. As would selecting Trey Lance, Kyle Pitts, or Penei Sewell. A trade down of some sort would also be smart and probably the more favorable option for me, but that possibility seems more narrow by the day. It’s likely a coin toss between the best QB available or Pitts. Which I can see either side winning. However, I will play it safe and tab Fields as the chosen prospect. - Eric Robinson

Draft QB Justin Fields

Trevor Lawrence is going to Jacksonville, the Jets seem to be in love with Zach Wilson and the 49ers look like they’re going to Galaxy Brain this by picking Mac Jones or Trey Lance at 3. The value of being able to select the second-best QB in this draft, and someone who would most likely be the top pick in the 2022 draft, at pick Number 4 will probably prove to be too enticing to pass up for a new GM. Atlanta will have their opportunity to solidify life in the post-Matt Ryan era and to take what could possibly be QB for the next decade after Ryan. - Adnan Ikic

Draft TE Kyle Pitts

Part of me wonders if the most obvious answer to this question might also be the correct one. The buzzers have been going off about Pitts probably being an Atlanta Falcon for the last few days, negated only by Pitts himself saying he thinks the first four picks will be a quarterback. The only person to have any reason to provide a ruse would be Pitts, if only to hide where he’s actually thinking he’ll go. To me, he’s going to be the pick. Here’s why.

The Falcons just hired a former tight ends coach who might have the opportunity to work with a player who, one day, could be called the greatest tight end to ever play the game. They have a general manager who saw rigorous success with a franchise that kicked the can on the quarterback position with an aging Drew Brees for multiple seasons. The Falcons might very well go QB, but part of me thinks they’ll just stick with what they know to start things out. They know they’ve got a workable QB who can win games in Matt Ryan, and they know how high Pitts’ floor is, much less his ceiling. I think they’ll bet on themselves and just take maybe the safest player in this year’s class. - Cory Woodroof

South Carolina vs Florida

Draft TE Kyle Pitts

I understand the thought of taking Justin Fields, assuming he’s available at No. 4. I understand that the best time to get your next franchise quarterback is before you need him. But I don’t care, give me the generational talent in tight end Kyle Pitts. He will not only be an impactful player individually, but his presence in this offense will benefit everyone who hits the field with him. Inserting Pitts into an offense that has Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Davis, Hayden Hurst and Matt Ryan is defensive coordinator's nightmare. – Evan Birchfield

Draft QB Justin Fields

I’ve learned throughout previous drafts that NFL teams are very good at making everybody feel like they are losing their minds in the weeks leading up to the draft. This is all intentional and isn’t likely to stop anytime soon. Therefore, I’ve come to believe the players you hear most about are the players a team is least likely to pick. That’s not to say the Falcons wouldn’t take someone like Pitts, but I think Justin Fields has been purposefully bashed in the public eye. I think NFL teams understand his immense upside. Fields isn’t just a great athlete, he’s deadly accurate as a passer and can make all throws with touch or velocity. It’s been suspiciously quiet on the Fields front for a while now with Atlanta, which is exactly why I feel he’s been the team’s guy all along. - William McFadden