At this point, it’s a meme. Most years I’d write an article or two about trade down rumors in the first round and then gently remind everyone that it’s not going to happen. This year, while it’s still not necessarily the likeliest outcome, I’m keeping that door open a crack.
That’s because of the confluence of a relatively new front office with a limited draft track record for us to go on, a sense that this class has plenty of value late in the first round and early in the second round, and the fact that the Atlanta Falcons just have a lot of roster holes they’d presumably love to plug with high upside young players on somewhat affordable deals.
Under Thomas Dimitroff, trade downs did happen, but never in the first round. Dimitroff pulled off a coup moving from #50 to #52 in the 2016 NFL Draft, scoring Deion Jones and picking up a sixth round pick that turned into Wes Schweitzer, but his move from #63 to #75 lost them a shot at Dion Dawkins and gave them Duke Riley, Brian Hill and Damontae Kazee. Way back in 2012, they moved down in the third round and snagged Lamar Holmes and picked up a pick that turned into Jonathan Massaquoi, and in 2009 they moved down in the fifth round and wound up with Garrett Reynolds and a pick that became Vance Walker. His track record was a mixed bag, is what I’m getting at, but later on in the draft Dimitroff was willing to move down snag additional selections. Not so in the first round, which he traded back into twice and traded up in three times over the years, with the Julio Jones trade being the defining and most fruitful move of that bunch.
Fontenot is an entirely different general manager running a different front office, however. The Falcons clearly loved the #4 spot a year ago, with Kyle Pitts landing in their laps there, but the consensus for the 2022 NFL Draft seems to be that the value beyond the first handful of picks and into the second round is relatively flat. If there isn’t a player the Falcons absolutely must have at #8—if they determine the best player available for all intents and purposes ends up bing additional picks and a guy you can get 3-10 selections later, let’s say—then it wouldn’t shock me to see them make a move. Nobody in Flowery Branch is cloudy-eyed about the number of this team’s needs.
Given that Atlanta’s stated intent is to try to win now while also setting themselves up effectively for the future, additional chances to add talent seems like a course they’ll strongly consider. That’s especially true if this team wants to add early round talent at as many positions as possible, or take a swing on their quarterback of the future, as there figures to be teams itchy to get into the top ten to snag a prospect they love. Those teams get itchy every year.
We all know better than to declare the Falcons are going to trade down, but circumstances this draft season would seem to point to it being likelier than it has been in well over a decade. With so many possibilities still wide open and with all of us still figuring out this front office’s priorities, this is the rare season where I’m not going to wave away the possibility of a trade down until the team tells or shows us they’re not doing it.