Most analysts have the Falcons taking one of Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Kyle Pitts with their fourth overall pick. It should be noted that I do think each of the aforementioned prospects is possible for Atlanta, but I wanted to explore the idea of Terry Fontenot not taking one of the highly profiled prospects that most mock drafts have the Falcons taking. Below are a few notable reports and rumors of who the team has been interested in.
- Adam Schefter report: Multiple teams attempting to trade up with the Falcons.
- Louis Reddick report: Arthur Smith likes Trey Lance a lot.
- Mike Sando report: Anynoymus general manager projects Falcons take Justin Fields.
- Steve Wyche report: Falcons should draft for need.
- Peter King report: “Thinks” Atlanta will take Kyle Pitts.
- Rich Eisen Show: Thomas Dimitroff says Justin Fields would be his choice.
- Michael Lombardi report: WFT will trade up for Trey Lance.
- Colin Cowherd take: Matt Ryan has many years left, Kyle Pitts.
Every major analyst has pegged the Falcons to take Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Kyle Pitts, so who are the other prospects that have a chance to be taken fourth overall?
Mac Jones is the betting favorite to go third to Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch’s 49ers, but is it possible Fontenot sees Jones as the perfect replacement for Matt Ryan? To me, Jones has the most desirable intangibles of this crop of quarterbacks.
Jones is the complete opposite of Fields; he overachieves in the mental part of the game but has physical limitations — Tom Brady-Esque. His football IQ is off the charts; Jones excels in reading coverages and blitzes, redirecting his protections or receivers to counter how defenses attack him. He just has natural leadership that teammates gravitate towards — an absolute ace above the shoulders.
There are several examples of the former Alabama quarterback being a pure gamer whose competitive drive is second-to-none in this class of quarterbacks. Trey Wingo noted a story of Jones as a scout team quarterback where he kept throwing touchdowns against Nick Saban’s first-team defense, to which Saban told him to cut it out. Jones responded, “Tell your defense to stop it.” This takes unbelievable confidence to stand toe-to-toe with one of the best college football coaches of all time as a practice squad player.
Former teammates DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle have been outspoken about their preference to play with Jones over former fifth overall pick Tua Tagovailoa, which should be taken with a grain of salt. It is important and says a lot about how his teammates feel about him, but they had a ton of success with Jones, so of course, they’d feel this way. Jones is obsessed with football and being prepared — a film junkie — which normally correlates to success in the NFL regardless of the physical limitations.
I have been outspoken on Kyle Pitts and Penei Sewell being the two prospects I think the Falcons should be choosing between. Pitts and Sewell both have incredibly high ceilings due to their athleticism, but why is everyone talking about Pitts more so than Sewell? The Falcons need more offensive line help than they do at skill positions, and the two prospects are graded so closely that the positional value Sewell has a tackle and guard trumps Pitts as a wide receiver and tight end. It is entirely possible Fontenot, who has a history in New Orleans of bolstering the trenches through the draft, makes the former Oregon Duck the first pick of his tenure.
The only thing that points to the Falcons being interested was the report from D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that stated Atlanta would be sending members of their front office to watch Sewell at Oregon’s Pro Day, and also had a virtual meeting with him.
It is purely speculative, but I don’t understand the lack of media interest. Is it because it isn’t a sexy position like quarterback or a flashy tight end? The former Oregon Duck is 6’4” and 330-pounds from Malaeimi, American Samoa, could be the best player in the draft. He lit up his pro day, posting an elite RAS of 9.32 and measured in the upper percentile of nearly every statistic. His foot speed and agility are real on film and in this three-cone time, which only 12 guys have ever matched at his size — per @MathBomb.
The fact is, the young man is 20 years old and hasn’t reached anywhere close to his peak. He mauls people in the run game, both off the line and in space. His agility comes to light when he pulls or reaches and makes incredibly swift movements to gain leverage. His pass protection is his “weakness,” which is just not as great as his run blocking — allowing just one sack over 1,376 snaps. It would be on the franchise who drafts him to develop and maximize his physical gifts by refining his technique. The Falcons offensive line coach Dwayne Ledford is a well-respected developer in offensive linemen’s realms, most recently at Lousiville with Mekhi Becton.
Patrick Surtain II
The crop of defensive players in this draft isn’t what it has been in the past with the top-end talent, but there is still elite potential with Patrick Surtain II, who will surely be the first defensive prospect taken off the board. Cornerback is a premium position in football, and I would argue that it is the third most important position in today’s NFL. If Surtain can develop into a physical cover corner like Jalen Ramsey, nobody would have much to say if the Falcons took him fourth overall, especially with the lack of talent at the position on the team now. This is from my prospect feature on Surtain:
Surtain’s combination of length, patience, and hand usage have him highly regarded as the best corner in this draft class. He thrives in press-man coverage, where he scours over any underneath routes. He always seems to play slow, in a good way. No matter how fast the receiver is that he is shadowing, Surtain always looks relaxed in his technique — it’s awesome to watch. But the patience is matched with reactionary quickness.
He is a student of the game, and his mental is as impressive as his physical attributes. Surtain knows exactly when to react and when not to overreact, and he can also be handsy — which isn’t bad — but knows how much he can get away with and what he can’t. He is a three-year starter at Alabama and has experience in the slot and boundary, though he is more valuable as a boundary corner.