This week, Peter King reported that the Falcons were “leaning” towards taking a quarterback with the fourth overall pick. Other people around the league seem to believe that to be the case as well. Now, of course, this could be exactly what Terry Fontenot and the new regime want the other 31 teams to think because it would create a bidding war for the 4th pick, allowing the Falcons to collect more draft capital in a potential trade back scenario. However, for several reasons that we’ve talked about throughout the offseason, Atlanta could feel now is the time to select their quarterback of the future.
The only way the Falcons shouldn’t take a quarterback with the fourth overall pick is if they believe Matt Ryan still has 3-5 good years left. We know Atlanta is tied to Matty Ice for at least the 2021 season, and he will likely be their guy again in 2022 because of his dead cap hit. But after that, the Falcons can get out from under his contract with minimal damage.
Still, I’m not so sure that is going to be something they want to do. Even at 35 (he’ll be 36 next season), Ryan has shown no signs of slowing down in recent years. In 2016, he was the MVP of the league. The following season, he finished as PFF’s second-highest rated quarterback. In 2018, he likely would have been in the MVP conversation again, tossing 35 touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions; however, the Falcons weren’t very competitive, so his numbers were swept under the rug by the national media. The last two seasons haven’t been nearly as pretty, but that can be attributed much more to Dirk Koetter’s incompetence as a play-caller rather than a decline in Ryan’s play due to his age. And when Julio was on the field last season, Ryan was still one of the best in the business.
in case you need a reminder:
— Aaron Freeman (@falcfans) March 31, 2021
Ryan is still undoubtedly a top-10 quarterback in football, and physically, he has shown no signs of slowing down. Let’s also not act like he’s a player that has benefitted tremendously from his physical attributes. Ryan’s success is largely due to the fact that he is an ace above the shoulders — cerebrally, there are very few quarterbacks as good as him. I see no reason why he can’t continue to be an upper-echelon quarterback for the remainder of his contract, especially under an elite play-caller.
Arthur Smith is one of the bright offensive minds in the game today. He brought life to the Titans offense with the running game and then turned Ryan Tannehill into a Pro-Bowler. Re-establishing the run will take mountains of pressure off of Matt Ryan, keeping defenses on their toes and allowing receivers to run more freely. With all the weapons at Smith’s disposal, he will surely turn the Falcons into one of the top offenses once again.
It wasn’t long ago that people were ready to write off Aaron Rodgers under Mike McCarthy. Fast forward a couple of seasons, and he has led the Packers to back-to-back NFC Championships and won an MVP award under Matt LaFleur. He’ll turn 38 next season, and I don’t think there’s a single person out there that believes he’s anywhere close to finished. The scheme is always the most important aspect of an offense, and just like LaFleur transformed the Packers’ offense, Smith will do the same thing in Atlanta with Ryan.
With that being said, the Falcons wouldn’t be misguided to take a quarterback with the fourth overall pick. There’s nothing wrong with preparing for the future, especially since the new regime doesn’t plan to select anywhere near this high in the future, and the quarterback class is as strong as ever. Hell, even the Packers took Jordan Love with their first pick last year.
The Falcons have plenty of options. They can select their quarterback of the future, add another weapon to their offense by taking Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase, or even trade back and collect a haul of draft capital to fill the numerous holes on their roster. Fontenot now has less than a month to make the most critical decision of his career, but he has flexibility since Ryan still has a few good years left in the tank.
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