Following the Falcons loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, the club moved into a familiar draft position. If the season ended today, they would be picking inside the top 10 for the fourth consecutive year.
In each of Atlanta’s three seasons under Arthur Smith, the club has owned a 4-6 record through the first 10 games. For three straight seasons, the Falcons have picked inside the top 10, and they currently sit with the 9th overall selection, according to Tankathon.
With back-to-back 7-10 finishes under the current regime, the Falcons have owned the 8th overall pick in the 2022 and 2023 cycles in which they landed Drake London and Bijan Robinson, respectively.
Though Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith weren’t responsible for the record that ended with the 4th overall pick in 2021, they oversaw the selection of Kyle Pitts, making him the highest-drafted tight end in league history.
In three straight drafts with a need at quarterback, the Falcons took three skill position players. It would be asinine to do it a fourth time, right? Well, I wouldn’t put anything past this regime.
With seven games left to play, the Falcons have a chance at a playoff berth. In that same breath, the club could still end up with the 1st overall pick. Yes, that is mathematically possible.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN looked at the top draft pick scenarios, and believe it or not, the Falcons stand a 0.1% chance of landing the 1st overall pick and a 0.8% chance of landing one of the top two picks.
The Falcons are the last team that landed the top pick at least 10 times across the 10,000 simulations; they finished as the worst team 13 times. To get there, they would need to lose out and see the Patriots, Cardinals and Giants all pick up at least two more victories. The Panthers would need three wins, but the Falcons can help the cause by losing to them when they play in Week 15.
Must-lose games on the schedule: at Panthers (Week 15), vs. Colts (Week 16), at Bears (Week 17). Even a single win from the Falcons down the stretch would take them out of the running for this pick. If they had held on to their late lead against the Cardinals last week, they would have knocked themselves out of the race and kept Arizona atop the rankings.
Losing every single game from here on out seems improbable, even for the Falcons, but it’s not impossible.
Are they tanking? Can they tank? I don’t think they are, but it would explain a lot of this organization’s more curious decisions. Why would Arthur Smith lament “toxic groupthink” in defending quarterback Desmond Ridder, insist the film proved criticism of the second-year passer to be invalid and then bench Ridder the following week? Why would the Falcons deemphasize top-10 picks Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson to highlight Jonnu Smith and Tyler Allgeier? I’d like to draw a line through Smith’s curious choices, but I doubt we’re looking at the him playing 4D chess to land a quarterback.
Again, it may seem like it, but the Falcons are just incompetent. They are not tanking.
What would they do with the No. 1 pick? Draft another running back? A blocking tight end? The Falcons clearly view value differently than many other people around the league, so there’s always a scenario in which they do something off the board with the first pick. Given that Ridder has been inconsistent and new starter Taylor Heinicke is 30 years old, however, this pick would almost certainly be used on a quarterback, even if Atlanta then refused to let him throw the football inside the red zone for six weeks.
This isn’t even a question. The Falcons will be taking a quarterback if they somehow end up with one of the first two selections; Drake Maye or Caleb Williams would be heading to Atlanta after draft night.
What would happen to the incumbent QB? Ridder has taken too many sacks and turned the ball over too often to excite many teams so far. He isn’t about to drop out of the league, but no team is going to move a quarterback they like to carve out a spot for Ridder in their starting lineup. He would likely end up as the backup behind whichever rookie the Falcons prefer.
Desmond Ridder might not be a franchise quarterback, but he’d make for an excellent backup. Capable of playing in a pinch and extremely supportive of the starter in any way he can help.
Photographer: David Jensen/Icon Sportswire