Publishing mock drafts in July is like wearing snowsuits in July: Premature and probably reckless. Nonetheless, the earliest ones are sometimes an indicator of names we’re going to hear linked to our favorite teams repeatedly in the months ahead, so it’s worth jotting those names down while shaking our heads in disgust.
Unsurprisingly, the days of will-they-or-won’t-they with the quarterback position is not over simply because the Falcons passed on taking Justin Fields or Mac Jones at #4. Regardless of how Matt Ryan performs this year, we’re probably in for another draft season where the team is heavily linked to signal callers, and Bleacher Report kicked us off the other day with Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral going to Atlanta at #10.
Corral is a natural thrower with a tight delivery, which creates easy velocity. The quarterback also has a good feel in the pocket with more than enough escapability to create in the running game or when he scrambles. Corral finished with 506 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
The 2021 Outback Bowl MVP has the skill set scouts look for in today’s quarterback. His movement skills accentuate his pocket passing with the ability to adjust on the move and vary his arm angle.
Corral’s post-snap decisions are concerning, though. He finished last season with 14 interceptions—11 of those came against the LSU Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks. Otherwise, the Ole Miss signal-caller posted a 24-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio against the rest of SEC competition. As long as Corral’s decision-making improves, he could easily be a top-10 selection.
It’s still an open question just how interested the Falcons were in players like Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance, but ultimately they did not view Justin Fields as a player worthy of taking at #4. They’ve publicly affirmed their commitment to Matt Ryan multiple times both before and after the draft, but there were rumblings from The Athletic in particular that the team was not keen to re-work #2’s contract and lash themselves to the Matt mast beyond this season. The last part of the writeup alludes to Ryan’s cap charge:
The Atlanta Falcons can’t waste another chance to address quarterback after passing on Justin Fields this past spring. The organization can halve Matt Ryan’s $48 million salary-cap charge next season by releasing the veteran with a post-June 1 designation, per Over The Cap.
Of course, this is all moot if Ryan has a big bounceback year in an Arthur Smith offense, at which point the team will likely either swallow the cap hit in 2022 or consider an extension that lowers his cap charge significantly. If Ryan is excellent and this offense hums, talk of him exiting the only NFL franchise he’s ever played for will likely die down, and we’ll see these kinds of mocks less often. If he doesn’t excel, perhaps the Falcons see things the way Bleacher Report does and elect to pick a new franchise quarterback while cutting Ryan and saving about $24 million versus a dead cap charge of $24 million. I have to say I’m still skeptical they’ll do that, but if things go south this year and the Falcons are a huge disappointment again, I suppose we can’t rule that out.
As Jake Gordon wrote at SportsTalkATL, if that scenario does play out the Falcons could do a lot worse than Corral, who has an electric arm and is a quality athlete who could develop into a terrific player with time, patience and work. He would not seem to be a player you would immediately dump Ryan for regardless, and if the Falcons did draft him I would think there’s a better-than-even chance that Ryan fills the role many of us had prescribed for him in 2020 and serve as a bridge starter. Again, though, we’re talking about a situation I’d rather not see, which is this team coming off yet another lousy season with question marks surrounding the position and a then-37-year-old Ryan with a gigantic cap hit, so we’ll just put Corral down as an interesting name and hope we don’t end up in a bleak spot.
Don’t expect to see the quarterback-to-Atlanta mocks to disappear entirely no matter how Ryan fares, but if he and these Falcons can improve considerably in 2021, they’ll likely at least die down. Corral would be a very interesting addition to the Falcons, but as I’ve said throughout this offseason, I hope Atlanta’s losing ways end this year and they’re not picking in the top ten again.