Could Falcons trade back into 1st round of draft for quarterback of the future?

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For the first time in more than a decade, the Falcons will be searching for a franchise quarterback come draft time after notably trading long-time starter Matt Ryan to the Colts for a third-round pick.

This crop of quarterback prospects isn’t as impressive as the 2021 class, but history tells us that at least one of the incoming rookies will work out for an organization. It’s the most important position in all of sports, so inherently, it’s also the most difficult to get right.

The Falcons hold the 8th overall pick and have been mocked both Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett with their first-rounder. Personally, I wouldn’t be thrilled with either player at that pick. Positional value aside, Willis and Pickett aren’t top-tier prospects — closer to mid-first round grades than top ten.

If Terry Fontenot sticks to his best player available draft philosophy, I’d be willing to bet Atlanta passes on the position with their first-round pick. However, that doesn’t rule out selecting one later in the draft.

Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder, and Matt Corral are in the next tier of signal callers and have been mocked anywhere from the end of the first round throughout the second round. Could the Falcons grab one of these three prospects with one of their second-rounders or potentially trade back into the first?

In Bruce Feldman’s latest mock (subscription required), the draft pundit has Atlanta doing precisely that for the Ole Miss product.

31. Atlanta Falcons (trade with Cincinnati): Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss

First-round quarterbacks are often boom or bust, and Corral has that vibe about him in a big way. He’s a polarizing prospect who continually improved under Kiffin and was dynamite in 2021. At the combine, he measured 6-foot-2, 212 pounds; some NFL coaches thought he bulked up just for that because he wasn’t running. Corral cut down his interceptions from 14 in 2020 to five in 2021. He also ran for 11 touchdowns and 614 yards in 2021 for a Sugar Bowl team. Against Tennessee in Knoxville, Corral ran for 195 yards. The previous year, he torched Alabama, going 21-of-28 for 365 yards. Corral’s maturity is concerning for some.

The Coaching Intel

“He was alright in the interview. He knew his offense, but there are still some concerns about his maturity. He’s had a bumpy path and has come out on the other side. He and Lane get along famously, but what are you getting into with him? He’s gonna be expected to be the leader of a bunch of men with families.”

“He has a really quick release and has some ‘wow’ throws on tape, but he plays with so much risk. He has such a short memory — which can be good — but you see him throwing picks and think, can you reel it in just a little to get out of here with a win? He’s a much better runner than I expected. He’s tough. He held up against some big hits, but those hits in the NFL are gonna be a lot worse.”

“His mindset is different — he’s like a middle linebacker playing quarterback. This is a football-playing joker. He’s not fazed by anything. He thinks he can make every throw, and honestly, he can.”

Regardless of the pick, this scenario is the one that I see as the most plausible. I love the idea of selecting an elite-caliber, non-quarterback prospect early in the first round and using the draft assets acquired from the recent trades of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to land a potential franchise quarterback. Sure, Corral isn’t as pro-ready as some of these other prospects, but he’s got the moxie to be the guy. There is more than one way to find Matt Ryan’s successor, and selecting one at the end of the first round is undoubtedly on the table for Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith.

Photographer: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire

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