Falcons: The different outcomes for drafting a quarterback at #4

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It is well-known that the Falcons could be in-line to select Matt Ryan‘s successor this April in the NFL draft. Two different things could occur from choosing one of the quarterback prospects. For this instance, it doesn’t matter which prospect you imagine because Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, or Mac Jones all could sit behind Matt Ryan.

Every scenario will start the same way; Terry Fontenot selects Ryan’s successor, and they go into training camp as the #1 and #2 quarterbacks on the depth chart. But this is where the circumstances differ. Matty Ice can mentor the rookie, but if he thrives in Arthur Smith‘s offense, there would be no reason to move away from the veteran. Similar to what is transpiring in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers just won the league’s MVP after Brian Gutekunst selected his heir apparent, so why would the Packers let Jordan Love take the reigns just because they invested so much in him — they wouldn’t. Rodgers will be the starting quarterback in Lambeau until his play declines significantly or his contract expires, whichever happens first.

This is the same approach the Falcons and Fontenot could take in Atlanta. Even if Ryan doesn’t return to 2016 MVP-level play, he will certainly be more productive than a rookie for at least the first year in Smith’s new offense. If he blossoms in the new scheme, the Falcons can be competitive. Like Jordan Love, whoever the Falcons select will sit behind Matty Ice until the former Boston College Golden Eagle declines.

The second scenario begins the same way; Fontenot selects Ryan’s successor, and he sits behind Matty Ice for his first year in the league. But what is different in this scenario is Ryan struggles in Smith’s new offense. Media, fans, and maybe voices from within will be clamoring for the fourth overall pick to get a chance. Still, Fontenot and Smith are far too smart to bench Ryan, so they finish out the season with the veteran, allowing the rookie to garner experience in blowouts. Going into the second offseason together, there might be whispers of an open quarterback competition — which is good. Now in his second season, the heir apparent will officially have his chance to take the job from Ryan. Even if it doesn’t happen in the offseason, it could occur before the trade deadline.

The most significant question mark in this scenario would be when to trade Ryan for assets. Going into the second offseason, if their play is close enough for an open quarterback competition in training camp, then I would say trading Ryan at that point is when his value will be the highest. If Fontenot waits until mid-season, Ryan’s value could diminish altogether, especially if he’s benched — similar to how Carson Wentz‘s value declined after he was replaced by Jalen Hurts.

I don’t think the second scenario is more likely than the first, but eventually, there will be a point where Ryan’s play declines before his contract expires — in my opinion. So there could be a third scenario where Ryan plays two good seasons in Smith’s offense then gets traded in the third offseason after mentoring his successor. Fontenot will show the now third-year quarterback the organization is committed to him while potentially getting the long-time Falcon to a team only missing a quarterback — similar to Tom Brady or Philip Rivers last offseason — allowing Ryan to compete for a Super Bowl.

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