Falcons: Ranking the top non-quarterback prospects Terry Fontenot could take at #4

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The quarterback rumors are heating up as the presumptive conclusion the media is drawing is that Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones will be the first three off the board — in that order. There’s no telling whether it will actually play out that way, but the Falcons are sitting on a goldmine with the fourth overall pick. I talked about the fortuitous position the new regime finds itself in last weekend.

The non-Trevor Lawrence quarterback prospects will likely be taken in the first ten picks as there are quarterback-needy teams like Denver, New England, Carolina, and Philadelphia. Regardless of who is taken in picks one through three, there will be two of the top five quarterback prospects left by the time Terry Fontenot and the Falcons are on the clock in April. Any two of Zach WilsonMac JonesJustin Fields, and Trey Lance will likely go back-to-back to the Jets and the 49ers.

That leaves two high-profiled prospects for the Falcons to either take themselves as a successor to Matt Ryan or auction off the chance to draft a franchise quarterback. Given that there are now multiple teams feeling the pressure, a handful of teams will fight for two quarterbacks, which only increases the value of the fourth overall pick.

Per the San Francisco deal, trading up will cost considerable draft capital — at least two first-round picks and a third-round pick. For a first-year regime, this is an incredible chance to put a foundation in place through the next few drafts.

Multiple sources are saying the Falcons are in on this crop of quarterback prospects. According to Peter King, the Falcons are leaning the way of one of those quarterback prospects, but it could all be a smokescreen to generate a buzz surrounding the fourth pick to improve the trade value.

Trevor Lawrence goes one to Jacksonville. Wilson two, probably to the Jets. Mac Jones or Lance to San Francisco at three. I keep hearing Atlanta’s leaning QB, with logic having Lance sitting behind Matt Ryan for two years, then playing.

The Falcons are in a great position to set up the team’s future by selecting the franchise’s next quarterback or bringing in a haul of draft capital. Still, there is another alternative: taking the best non-quarterback prospect available. Jake has already ranked the quarterback prospects, but I will rank everyone else now.

1. Kyle Pitts

Pitts understands the game from a quarterback’s perspective, so he knows defenses, spacing, and where to be at the right time. He’s positionless, able to align on the boundary, in the slot, or with his hand in the dirt. He’s as good of a route-runner as any receiver in this draft with great burst out of his break, giving him elite change-of-direction skills for a person of his size. Pitts is as good after-the-catch as he is before, a rare and tremendous red-zone threat. Excellent at beating one-on-one press, but also great at finding the soft spot in zones. The former Gator, much like Julio Jones, makes normal 50-50 balls, closer to 60-40 in favor of Pitts.

Much like Julio Jones or Calvin Johnson were going to thrive in whichever situation they landed in, Pitts has the same potential as a prospect. He and Hayden Hurst would provide Arthur Smith with a deadly two-tight end formation that would keep defenses in their base personnel or force them into sub-packages to which Smith would just run the ball against lighter boxes. The “F” tight end means Pitts is used outside, in the slot, and in-line in multiple ways.

2. Penei Sewell

It should really be 1a, 1b, and 1c with these three prospects, but Sewell is edged out by Pitts because of the plug-in-play potential the latter offers. Sewell might have as ridiculously high of a ceiling as Pitts, but his floor isn’t as high. Matt Ryan is coming off his third season in a row being sacked more than 40 times — 131 sacks since 2018. That grotesquely high figure is due, in part, to Dirk Koetter’s system and Ryan throwing it more. More passing plays=more sacks. Arthur Smith’s run-centric offense will provide some relief for Matty Ice, but the offensive line still needs bolstering if Atlanta wants their aging veteran as healthy as possible.

Sewell thrives in both phases of blocking. He is a better run than pass blocker, but it’s splitting hairs — he’s great at both. Sewell is that freakish combination of size and athleticism that regular people like you and me don’t understand. The man is a refrigerator that moves like a cat. He has shown to have the raw power to drive people off the ball alone or in double teams and the lateral agility to block in motion. These attributes directly associate with what power and zone running schemes demand of offensive linemen — power scheme=downhill blocking; zone scheme=lateral quickness, blocking in motion.

3. Ja’Marr Chase

Ja’Marr Chase is close to Kyle Pitts in terms of receiver prospects; they could be considered 1a and 1b. My biggest gripe about DeVonta Smith is the seemingly “unimportant” fact that Ja’Marr Chase was better than his counterpart while he was younger. If you can’t understand why Chase dominating at 19 years old is more impressive than Smitty at 22, I can’t help you. Justin Jefferson had one of the best rookie seasons I’ve ever seen from a wide receiver, and he was decidedly not the best wide receiver on the 2019 LSU team, Chase was.

The former LSU Tiger is smooth and fluid in and out of his breaks, while quickly releasing into his pass routes, it doesn’t take him long to get to top speed. His burst helps him separate from opponents, but his ability to make every route look the same at the stem creates more separation. Chase’s ability to track passes and fight through contact displays his concentration, depth perception, and football IQ. He made bad throws look catchable in college by playing with great awareness, body control, and instincts. He’s WR1, and it isn’t particularly close.

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