The Falcons are now in full rebuild mode after trading Matt Ryan to the Colts in exchange for a measly third-rounder. Not only will Atlanta incur a record-breaking dead cap hit in 2021, but they’ll also be looking to fill a void at the most important position in all of sports. Reports have already surfaced of the Falcons’ interest in Marcus Mariota, but he should only be seen as a bridge quarterback.
Eventually, as Arthur Blank has pointed out, there will be a sunset for Ryan in Atlanta. That day is today. Now, the Falcons succession plan is imminent. It could involve drafting a quarterback in 2022, and Atlanta’s front office is certainly doing their due diligence on the class. I’d be shocked if the Falcons didn’t select a signal caller in next month’s draft. The regime has to take the next step forward, which begins with finding the quarterback of the future. Or, it could come from the 2023 class. Either way, quarterback will be in play for the Falcons at every pick in every draft going forward. Here are some options from this year’s crop:
The Falcons met with Willis but so did every single team in the league, formally and informally. Atlanta is a soft spot for Willis, though, as a native. The Falcons asked him which signal caller he idolized growing up, and the answer was predictable. “Michael Vick,” Willis said. He also elaborated on which team he’d like to be drafted by.
“I feel good about going to any team. Not everybody gets to go to a team, so I feel blessed in that facet,” he said. “I’m just trying to make a team at the end of the day. You can’t make all these goals that you can’t keep. I hate that, so I’m just trying to get there and make a team first and then you can learn and try to do something after that.”
On Monday, Kenny Pickett’s Pro Day was attended by every major player for a quarterback in this year’s draft — Falcons included. They also met with Pickett during the combine in Indy, where they asked questions regarding his play recognition, among other things.
“(The Falcons were) putting the film up there with me detailing the offense and just learning my IQ,” Pickett said. “(They asked) good questions about how I like to learn. So that, hypothetically, if I was going to go there, they would know how to install plays and teach me early on how to help streamline the process.”
Those are two of the top prospects at their positions in this year’s draft, but there are several others that could intrigue the Falcons. Here is a rundown of each prospect from Jake Gordon’s pre-combine big board.
6. Sam Howell — North Carolina
Sometimes Sam Howell flashes that he could be an NFL star, but sometimes he makes some very puzzling throws in an RPO-Heavy offense. I almost put Howell in the project quarterback division, because while he has good athleticism and a nice arm, he needs a lot of work before he’s ready to make the jump to the NFL. He can get off platform easily, and he doesn’t possess a lot of the nuance that the position requires when it comes to manipulating defensive backs with his eyes. Regardless, the physical tools are absolutely present, and he could develop into a Baker Mayfield type player that can get a good team to the playoffs.
5. Carson Strong — Nevada
If Carson Strong had even average mobility outside of the pocket, he’d easily be QB1 in this class and one of the best quarterbacks I have watched in a while. Strong has had multiple knee injuries, and he wasn’t asked to do much outside of the offense at Nevada. While he has a rocket arm, great size, and pinpoint accuracy at times — he simply isn’t enough of a finished product with athletic upside for me to get excited about him just yet. Make no mistake, he has the best arm in this class — the question remains if he can develop his footwork and understand an NFL offense enough to use it.
2. Desmond Ridder — Cincinnati
I find myself torn on Desmond Ridder at times. Before he came back to Cincinnati for his senior season, I wanted the Falcons to take a crack at him in the 2021 Draft. He shows good leadership, solid arm strength, and good mobility outside of the pocket. One thing that really impressed me was his play against elite competition. Even in South Bend against Notre Dame and against Alabama in the College Football Playoff, Ridder didn’t look like the moment was too big for him. I like his makeup, and I think he’s going to make an NFL Franchise very happy. I don’t know if I would start him from day one, but personally — I wouldn’t do that to any rookie quarterback.
1. Matt Corral — Ole Miss
I called my shot at the beginning of the year, and I’m sticking to my guns — Matt Corral is the best quarterback in this class. I like the toughness he displayed this season, and it was clear he was very popular among his teammates. Even though he got hurt in his last game, it’s obvious that it meant something to him. While I don’t have very strong opinions on opt outs, he wanted to lead his team one more time and I respect that. Corral will have to adjust to an NFL offense, but he has an absolute hose for an arm and can move well outside of the pocket. He’s a smaller prospect at 6’1, so sitting behind an established quarterback with at least a decent offensive line would be ideal. I think he has the most potential in this class to lead his team to the playoffs in year one or two.