It’s no secret; the Falcons hold the keys to the draft. The first three picks will certainly be quarterback, quarterback, quarterback, but who goes after? The rumor mill is flowing, and there are reports and beliefs from draft analysts that the Falcons will select Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Kyle Pitts, or even possibly trading back. The latest is from Peter King of NBC Sports, who believes the Falcons will not “force” a quarterback and will likely take the generational tight end out of Florida come this month’s draft.
They will not force a quarterback. Lots of people around the league feel they’ll just sit and take Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. That could be pre-draft logical thinking without any real knowledge. The Falcons know they have a perfectly fine quarterback in Matt Ryan (at $23 million, $23.75 million and $28 million owed in cash over the next three years), entering his age-36 year, figuring he’s got several seasons of above-average play left. When I say they won’t force a quarterback, I mean that GM Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith share this view: They’re not going to enter this draft thinking, “This might be the last year for a while that we’ll be in position to take a good quarterback prospect, so let’s grab one now.” No. They’ll take a quarterback if they love one. Like, really love one. They understand that forcing a quarterback could lead to misery.
• They would love a trade that enriches them. I doubt they’ll find one. But for two future first-round picks, they’d be compelled to take the long view. I don’t see that happening. I love Peter Schrager, and he had the Patriots trading up from 15 to four to take a quarterback in his Friday mock; I can see the Patriots trading up to pick a passer, but I can’t see them denuding two drafts to do so. But that’s what makes this fun. Schrager will be Nostradraftus if it happens. Also don’t see the Bears, in desperationville, doing it.
• If there’s a transcendent player they love, like Florida TE Kyle Pitts, they’ll take him. Do the Falcons truly NEED a quarterback? No. They’ve got a good one for, say, the next four years. It will take a new contract to keep him for that long, and that’s slightly problematic. But they must be thinking right now: Other than Tampa Bay, there’s a void atop this division right now, and we can be a playoff team in 2021 with Julio Jones (32), Calvin Ridley (26), Russell Gage (25) and Hayden Hurst (27) at key targets by simply adding the best tight end prospect in years (decades?) in Pitts. Best tight end in the 43-year history of Mel Kiper grading drafts. Tough to turn that down, even if the Falcons have many other needs.
If you haven’t read the handful of articles we have written about what Pitts offers, below is a bit of insight into the unicorn of an athlete. The on the field measurements are easy to see. He can win in every phase of a route regardless of alignment. He can win with his hand in the dirt, standing up in the slot or on the boundary, at the line of scrimmage, at the route stem, and the point of attack. There really isn’t anything Pitts can’t do, and is my favorite prospect not named Penei Sewell.
The 6’6″, 245-pound freak ran his 40-yard dash in a remarkable 4.44 seconds, recorded a 10’9″ broad jump and a 33.5-inch vertical leap. However, the most impressive measurement had to be his wingspan, which is over 83 inches and is longer than any other wide receiver or tight end that has been measured at the NFL combine in the last 20 years.
The Falcons have continually been mentioned and attached to multiple prospects, and to me, all the reports seem a little inauthentic. Though King doesn’t say the belief comes from the Atlanta front office, he’s extremely connected in the NFL and heard it from somewhere to draw this conclusion. King correctly predicted the Julio Jones pre-draft trade as well. Many teams will say and do anything to gain a leg up in the draft, including spreading rumors like this.
The only comment I have about this particular rumor is there seems to be a rumor or belief about every prospect except for Penei Sewell. There seem to be arrows pointing towards every other possible option — quarterback, Pitts, and trade down — other than the tackle out of Oregon. Again, this is purely speculation, just as King’s Pitts take was, but it is something to think about.