The Atlanta Falcons missed out on the top three quarterbacks in the 2021 draft class. The best three prospects behind center went in the first three picks while the Falcons stayed put at No. 4 and drafted tight end Kyle Pitts.
Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema sees the first round in the 2024 NFL draft unfolding in a similar manner. Only this time, Sikkema predicts the Falcons won’t pass on the fourth-best quarterback prospect.
In his latest 2024 NFL mock draft, Sikkema had quarterbacks Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels sweeping the top three spots in the draft. Then at No. 9, he projected the Falcons to pick Washington signal caller Michael Penix Jr.
“Penix has put together a monster season with one game to go,” Sikkema wrote. “The sixth-year gunslinger with an unorthodox throwing style has racked up 40 big-time throws this season, the most of any FBS quarterback. That includes five in the conference championship game against Oregon and six in the Sugar Bowl against Texas.
“The Falcons desperately need a new quarterback to get behind. If it’s not a free agent or a player like Justin Fields in a trade, Penix should be on their radar in the first round.”
Ironically, Atlanta could have drafted Fields at No. 4 overall in 2021. Instead, they picks Pitts. Three years later, Fields may be on his way out with the Chicago Bears. Thanks to a trade with the Carolina Panthers, the Bears hold the No. 1 pick.
Ahead of the 2021 draft, though, the Falcons still had Matt Ryan. So, the fan base was split about whether Pitts or Fields was the right choice.
There will surely be a debate among Falcons fans whether Penix is the right quarterback to choose. But there’s no debate that the Falcons must do something about their quarterback situation.
Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke have combined to complete 60.9% of their passes for an average of 7 yards per attempt in 2023. They also have 15 touchdowns versus 15 interceptions.
Ridder led the Falcons to 2 fourth-quarter comebacks. But he also recorded 11 interceptions and 11 fumbles this season.
The ninth overall pick is a difficult place to try and draft a quarterback. The best signal caller prospects are typically gone after the top 5.
But with the need so great behind center, Atlanta fans should expect lots of mock drafts involving quarterbacks for the Falcons over the next few months. That will be the case regardless of where Atlanta is picking in the first round.
With Washington set to play Michigan in the national championship, Penix still has one game left in his college football career. But through 14 contests this season, Penix has thrown for 4,648 yards and 35 touchdowns.
He has averaged 9.2 yards per attempt with a 66.7% completion percentage as well.