Justin Fields, Ohio State
Atlanta Falcons NFL Draft

Falcons 2021 NFL Draft strategy entirely dependent on being in quarterback market

There’s a reason why writers have given the offseason another more fitting title — silly season. It’s the time of year where rumors and hypotheticals run rampant across the entire league, especially for the teams near the top of the draft board.

Even holding their highest first-round position heading into the draft since 2008, the Atlanta Falcons shouldn’t be above creating rumors and hype. To maximize their 2021 draft return, the Falcons’ silly season plan must include scouting all quarterbacks with first-round grades and at least appearing to be willing to select one.

It’s unclear as of early March what the New York Jets are going to do at No. 2. The Jets are reportedly “shopping” Sam Darnold, and if they trade the former top pick, then every mock draft will have BYU quarterback Zach Wilson heading to the Jets with the second selection.

Our staff is anticipating the Miami Dolphins then dealing the No. 3 choice to another quarterback-needy team who wants Justin Fields. Should that happen, the Falcons must create the illusion that either Trey Lance or Mac Jones are possibilities at No. 4 to drive up the price of their own pick.

But there’s another scenario where the Falcons could create a ton of value at No. 4.

Unlike my colleague, Scott Kennedy, I’m not nearly 100 percent convinced signal callers are going to sweep the top three picks. That hasn’t occurred since 1999 and has only happened twice in the Super Bowl era. 

Will the 2021 class prove to be the best quarterback draft since 2004? Or 1984? Maybe. I’ll leave that to the draft experts to debate, but I do remember tremendous hype for the historic 2018 quarterback class and in that year, signal callers didn’t even go 1-2.

The fact that the 2021 class doesn’t have a defensive stud such as Chase Young, Nick Bosa or Myles Garrett will help raise quarterback values. There isn’t a can’t-miss running back like Saquon Barkley either.

Even still, quarterbacks sweeping the top three picks would be major history and the run on quarterbacks could end there. No NFL draft has ever begun with four quarterbacks in the first four picks.

So let’s run through another hypothetical where the Falcons can maximize value at No. 4. 

The New York media may be ready to run Darnold out of town, but the Jets are merely listening to offers at this point. They haven’t appeared to make a decision at No. 2, and honestly, that’s in an effort to drive up the price of the No. 2 pick. It’s already working.

Miami trading out of No. 3 makes a ton of sense, but it’s not a foregone conclusion either. They could stay and pick who the organization considers the best receiver in the class to give Tua Tagovailoa a badly-needed weapon. 

If either of those things happen, one of the top three quarterbacks will be available for the Falcons at No. 4. Even in the event the Falcons are committed to Ryan, if the organization spends the six weeks prior to the draft publicly saying they are in the quarterback market, the No. 4 pick is suddenly very, very valuable. The Falcons could give up No. 4 and fetch a few nice picks to move back just a few spots.

In my opinion, that’s the perfect draft scenario for the Falcons, but if Fields drops to No. 4, plenty of Atlanta fans will want to bring him back to Georgia. Should the quarterbacks not run the table in the top three, Fields to the Falcons is certainly a possibility. But sticking with Ryan and moving back to acquire more picks to add depth makes a lot of sense.

While the first pick is all but official, a lot can still happen with the second and third selections in the 2021 NFL Draft. What occurs with those picks will influence how the Falcons handle their draft and thus the future of the franchise.

But regardless of what happens, the Falcons will not rule out taking a quarterback. There are a couple different scenarios where building hype among any of the top four signal callers will help Terry Fontenot in his first draft.

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