The Falcons’ 7-10 record last season doesn’t truly reflect how underwhelming the roster was in 2021. With such mediocre personnel, Atlanta undoubtedly overperformed expectations. And even though the Falcons upgraded certain areas, they got worse in others. The pass rush should improve in 2022, but Atlanta notably downgraded at quarterback — the most important position in sports.
Seven-to-eight wins is the absolute ceiling for this squad, which will put the Falcons in a position to grab another elite-caliber prospect in next year’s draft. Will Anderson might be the best player in college football this season, but the crop of quarterbacks is what has scouts buzzing. Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, and Will Levis headline the class in what has the potential to see as many as six quarterbacks drafted in the first round.
Despite the Falcons landing Desmond Ridder in the third round, fans can absolutely expect a signal caller to be in the cards for Atlanta. A mid-round pick is hardly a significant investment. However, nobody inside Flowery Branch is looking that far ahead, particularly Arthur Smith.
The first-time head coach ridiculed the thought that the team might be looking toward the 2023 NFL draft. The Athletic‘s Jeff Schultz spoke with Smith, asking if he and Terry Fontenot had discussed next year’s draft class, which he scoffed at, “This is a waste of your time and my time if you want to talk about ’23.”
“It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard — that a team would try to not win football games. If you don’t, there’s going to be consequences. OK, you’re at the top of the draft — I got it. But you’re in a very transactional phase of the National Football League right now. Trades in the draft. Trades for quarterbacks. It’s a different landscape than when Jimmy Johnson took over the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. It was pre-free agency. The famous Herschel Walker trade. They blew it up and went 1-15, and … it was a long rebuild. That is not the same NFL as today. Back then, people would’ve given their first born before they gave their picks away. People are still going off old narratives, and it’s comical. Any good team knows how to rebuild every year.”
Despite the recent allegations of Stephen Ross incentivizing losing, no NFL franchise is purposely throwing games, especially a first-time head coach trying to establish a culture of sustainable winning. They won’t admit it, but it seems the Falcons are surely pulling their punches — taking on record-setting dead money to build for the future.