In his first year as Falcons’ general manager (2021), Terry Fontenot will likely be wanting to cement his flag into the ground — so to speak — by drafting the new foundation of the franchise. That’s no surprise with Atlanta selecting higher – No. 4 overall – than they have in over a decade. Ironically, the last time the organization had a higher selection in the NFL Draft was in 2008 when it took Matt Ryan with the third pick.
There are endless ways Fontenot can approach this offseason, addressing needs through free agency, planning for the future; the door to practically any future is in front of him. Whichever route Fontenot takes, the single most important moment of this entire offseason hinges on the fourth overall pick.
It is a treasured place to be in, and for a first-time general manager who has only ever known life from the end of the draft, it’s a monumental task to get it right. Getting it right doesn’t mean taking your favorite player; it means getting the best prospect to help your franchise now and in the future. Since we aren’t in the building, we can only speculate where Arthur Smith and Fontenot are placing those preferences on best prospects.
Personally, I don’t think the organization can go wrong with taking any of the four quarterback — Mac Jones, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson — prospects. Penei Sewell or Kyle Pitts are also viable with the fourth pick. Pitts is the most plug-and-play prospect in this draft, and I believe Sewell is a close second — both of whom have incredibly high ceilings thanks to their physical gifts.
Franchise quarterbacks are hard to come by, and trading up to select one usually costs a ton of draft capital. But, I’m a firm believer that Fontenot should even trade up to select a quarterback in this draft if he thinks another quarterback-needy team will poach his prospect. Trading up with the Jets or 49ers would have to be considered now because Fontenot won’t settle on a quarterback prospect that falls to four.
Falcons fans can also expect the organization not to be drafting this high in the foreseeable future. Nobody is undefeated quite like father time. Matty Ice needs a successor. But how could someone argue with the possibility of selecting potential Hall of Famers like Sewell or Pitts? It is the difficult decision Fontenot and Smith are tasked with. There will be people who say they can just trade back to acquire more picks. Regardless of what Fontenot decides to do, the decision will follow him for the rest of his time in Atlanta.
A quarterback, trading down, or anything in between, Fontenot will be graded purely off this fourth overall pick. His predecessor, Thomas Dimitroff, took Ryan with his first pick as a general manager. That obviously turned out well for the Falcons. I suspect a similar move from Fontenot in April, taking the franchise’s future quarterback. But again, does he really need to? Which prospect would he take? Can he trade down and still grab his “guy”? There are so many moving pieces to an NFL franchise. Everyone should be excited to see how the draft in April unfolds. It will determine what the next decade in Atlanta looks like.