With the Matt Ryan era ending in Atlanta this week, the #1 priority for the Falcons has shifted — they need to find their next franchise signal caller. Obviously, that’s much easier said than done. We’ve seen organizations like the Browns, Jaguars, Jets, and several others struggle to find a franchise quarterback for well over a decade, and those are organizations that are constantly picking inside the top five. There’s no guarantee the Falcons ever pick that high.
Even with Marcus Mariota, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Atlanta reel off 4-5 wins, which would likely prevent them from taking a well-groomed prospect like Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud in next year’s draft. And even if they do get lucky enough to land one of those top-flight prospects, there’s no guarantee that either Young or Stroud pan out to be a franchise quarterback. A lot has to go right for an organization to find its signal caller of the future. The Falcons got extremely lucky last time around with Matt Ryan, but that’s unlikely to happen again, so it’s best to take a throwing darts approach until one begins to look the part.
With that in mind, it is hard to imagine the Falcons completely ignoring the position in the upcoming draft. Sure, there are no surefire prospects on the surface, but at the very least, the team has to take a stab at one in the later rounds. If I had to guess, the Falcons take a quarterback with one of their second-round selections, but if they were to take one with the eighth overall pick, I could be convinced by Malik Willis.
I’m the last person who is going to call themselves a QB guru — although I did have Mac Jones as my QB2 last season behind only Trevor Lawrence, and that’s looking like a pretty solid take so far… but I digress. From everything I’ve read and what I’ve watched, Willis is a prototypical boom or bust prospect.
The physical attributes are all there. Willis can throw bombs, looks the part at 6’1″, 225 pounds, and can flat out fly, allowing him to extend plays when they break down. At his best, he’s a star NFL quarterback. Unfortunately, the tape doesn’t show that all the time. He’s often inaccurate, especially down the field. There are plenty of plays throughout his college career where he misses wide open receivers. His lack of accuracy also hurts him when throwing into tight windows. Most quarterbacks selected in the top 10 are much better in these areas.
Willis’ bust potential shouldn’t scare the Falcons away, though. If it turns out he isn’t the guy, Atlanta will have another chance to draft a quarterback next year; just look at how the Cardinals handled things with Josh Rosen and Kyler Murray.
This team isn’t going to do anything of merit until they find a signal caller. It has to be the top priority heading into the draft, and I expect them to take one somewhere along the line. If Willis isn’t their top guy, then I have no problem with them passing on him. Frankly, I don’t even think he’s worth the 8th overall pick. But if he is the clear-cut QB1 on their draft board, or if Arthur Smith prefers any other quarterback much better than the rest, then they should undoubtedly be in play with the Falcons’ first pick.
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