Arthur Blank wants to add another version of Matt Ryan, but does that prospect exist in this draft?

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For the first time in more than a decade, the Falcons will be looking to draft a franchise quarterback. Atlanta traded Matt Ryan to the Colts for a measly third-round pick after the Falcons notoriously failed in their pursuit of the controversial Deshaun Watson.

Arguments can be had about whether or not the timing of the trade was right; though, several executives around the league have insisted it came a year too late. I believe the Falcons should’ve fully committed to the rebuild as soon as Julio Jones forced his way out of Atlanta last spring. The financial makeup and personnel of the organization certainly warranted it.

However, Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank’s desire to stay relevant and his bond with players forced the team into trying to make it work with Ryan in his twilight years. Now, Blank is indirectly pushing the front office to add another version of the greatest quarterback in franchise history.

“It’s not always about the next 12 months,” Blank said. “It’s about, you know, can you transition your organization to the next 15 years? And add another version of Matt Ryan. … This is not like checkers, you can’t play at 100 years old, and Matt will be 37 in May.”

If it were that simple, the Dolphins would have gone out and found another Dan Marino. The Jets would’ve just found another Joe Namath. And the Browns would’ve simply replaced Otto Graham. But it’s not that simple. It’s the most important position in all of sports, which means it’s inherently the most difficult to get correct.

Blank’s desire to find the next Matt Ryan is noble, but is that prospect even in this year’s draft class? To compare, here are some profiles of Ryan when he was coming out of Boston College.

Strengths: Smart and understands how to read a defense…Is a natural born leader…Solid technique and mechanics…Displays great poise…Good touch and timing…Able to buy time in the pocket…Throws well on the run…A hard worker                                    Weaknesses: Arm strength is only average…Still throws too many interceptions…Accuracy can be streaky…Struggles with the deep ball…A bit of a gunslinger who will play too recklessly at times…Not very mobile and won’t beat you with his feet…May have some minor durability issues…Isn’t a great athlete…May not have a huge upside.Notes: Really emerged as a top pro prospect as a senior, propelling his team to a great season even though he was surrounded by ordinary talent…Physical tools aren’t special but they’re adequate across the board and his intangibles are second to none…A safe pick who should become a solid starter at the next level but probably isn’t a franchise signal caller.

Todd McShay

As a prospect: “Matt Ryan doesn’t have the arm strength of a JaMarcus Russell, and he isn’t a dynamic open-field runner, but he is clearly the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year’s draft class. He has better-than-average arm strength, he’s accurate and he understands the game. A lot has been made of the amount of interceptions he threw during his senior season at Boston College, but it’s important to remember that he didn’t have a strong receiving corps and that BC put the ball in the air far more often in 2007 than in years past.”

My NFL Draft

Positives: Mature and intelligent signal caller oozing with intangibles. Has a bit of a lanky frame but is solid and strong, height allows him to see the field. Has good arm strength and zips the ball to his receivers with outstanding velocity on short-intermediate passes, hitting them in stride, leading to YAC. Good upper body/throwing mechanics. Shows good touch on his passes. Goes through his progressions and will distribute the ball to the open receiver. Will do whatever it takes to get the ball where it needs to be, even if it means taking a hit. Not rattled by pressure. Has great accuracy when he takes what the defense gives him. Underrated athlete with great pocket awareness and ability to avoid the rush. Can throw on the run very well. Outstanding leader in and out of the huddle. A winner.

Negatives: His deep passes sail on him too frequently. Is a gunslinger and tries to do too much, which leads to interceptions… must learn to work with what he is given. Lower body mechanics needs work… shoddy footwork at times. Needs to improve his decision making when flushed out of the pocket. May develop fumblitis.

Outlook: The type of football player who you know was born to be a quarterback. If Ryan can refine his footwork and improve his deep passes, he will be the complete package. Has absolutely everything you look for in an NFL signal caller in terms of mental approach and has good enough physical tools to get it done. Will likely win at least one super bowl before his career is over. Is at least as good a prospect as Philip Rivers was coming out in 2004.

Obviously, Blank doesn’t mean he literally wants a 6-foot-4, 225-pound clone of Ryan. He wants that reliable, durable leader of a signal caller that Ryan was for more than a decade in Atlanta. Many of the scouting reports on Ryan center around the same idea — better intangibles than tangible attributes and the most pro-ready prospect of his class. So, is there a quarterback in the 2022 class that emulates those characteristics?

Malik Willis is almost the opposite. If it were purely based on potential, he would undoubtedly be the top prospect in this class. Willis possesses excellent mobility, but more importantly, he has a cannon of an arm — easily the best in the class.

Desmond Ridder is a seasoned quarterback that displays maturity, awareness in the pocket, and poise. He certainly has the tools to develop into the best quarterback in this class.

Kenny Pickett is the prospect that most closely resembles Ryan’s scouting reports, in my opinion. Pickett clearly doesn’t have the highest ceiling of this crop of quarterbacks, but he’s undoubtedly the most pro-ready. He doesn’t have the live arm that Willis does but can make the right reads and possesses enough arm strength to make most throws on the field.

Willis is that boom or bust prospect and is my favorite of the bunch, but Pickett and Ridder’s respective scouting reports more closely mirror that of Matt Ryan when he was coming out of college.



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