It hasn’t been long since some enthusiastic trades pushed around Atlanta’s options at the top of the draft. Only two years ago, the San Francisco 49ers traded a lot to move up to the third overall spot of the draft. In a rare (and unexpected) scenario, the first three picks in the draft all went quarterback — Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance.
With the team’s rumored favorite Lance off the board, and apparent mild interest in Justin Fields, the Falcons decided against adding a quarterback and took Kyle Pitts at 4.
Similar to this point in the 2021 offseason, there isn’t much clarity at the top of the draft after the top-ranked quarterback. It was thought Lawrence and Fields were the clear top options in 2021; now Bryce Young and CJ Stroud as the top options in 2023. Now Anthony Richardson and Will Levis are gaining steam like the 2023 versions of Wilson and Lance.
The recipient of one of those 2021 quarterbacks, the Chicago Bears, sit at the top of the NFL draft. There were questions about Chicago’s interest in a quarterback or perhaps taking the top non-quarterback. Per the very loud rumors, Chicago plans to stick with Fields — and trade its top pick.
The Bears are in a unique spot because there is a credible case right now for several teams in the Top 10 to consider a jump (large or small) up the board for a QB:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) February 27, 2023
9. Panthers https://t.co/lipfOwd4D6
While the real rumor is Chicago’s desire to trade down, and Atlanta is mentioned by simply connecting the dots (with quarterback as a potential need), either way, this could impact the Falcons. They are going to continue to be connected to the top pick until they make a trade for a quarterback, sign one, or declare Desmond Ridder the starter. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport made that clear on Thursday when he casually threw the Falcons into a mention of teams that could trade up to the top pick, saying “the Atlanta Falcons, still in need of a quarterback, obviously that would be one to watch.”
From our coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine: On the possiblility of a Trade at No. 1... or No. 3. Or both. And the latest on the veteran QB market. pic.twitter.com/iMYnvQR7Eg— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 2, 2023
The Falcons could certainly try trading up. Moving to 1 seems unlikely, but so did the Deshaun Watson fiasco. I can’t really predict the route a team that tried so desperately to trade for a quarterback just last year might take. Still, it seems more likely that Atlanta making a shorter trade up if a player like Will Anderson Jr. or Jalen Carter fall to 4 or 5. They’re being linked to the top pick, by all appearances, less because they’ve indicated some interest and more because analysts and reporters think they need a quarterback.
I still don’t like the idea of trading up in either scenario. That feels like a bad move considering the long list of needs, and burning precious resources is what got the last guy fired. With that said, the Falcons frustratingly rarely seem to listen to bloggers.
Fontenot has more often said he’s a fan of trading down. While that hasn’t happened often, Fontenot has an opportunity to leverage the Carolina Panthers’ draft position at 9 should one of these quarterbacks drop. For instance, if the Houston Texans, drafting at 12, want a quarterback taking a draft day slide (a la Fields), they need to jump the Panthers. That would seemingly mean that it’s the 8th pick or nothing.
Regardless of what the Falcons end up doing, Chicago dealing the top pick makes things a lot more interesting for Atlanta and all the other teams in the top ten.