Three years ago, I started this series where I take a stab at who exactly the Falcons will select when they are on the clock in the first round. The first time I tried, I nailed the Calvin Ridley pick, and admittedly, I was a bit cocky because there weren’t too many people expecting the Falcons to take a wide receiver with so many other apparent holes on their roster. However, I have been served a couple of slices of humble pie ever since. Chris Lindstrom and A.J. Terrell weren’t even on my radar, and they’ve both had promising starts to their career, suggesting I should never be an NFL general manager. But we already knew that, and it won’t stop me from giving it another go in 2021.
Since the Falcons are picking 4th in this draft, it should be much easier to narrow this down. There just simply aren’t many prospects deserving of going that high. I believe there is still a possibility the Falcons trade down; however, I don’t think they will end up finding the right deal, so I’m predicting they do end up picking at four.
With that in mind, I only see three realistic directions Atlanta can go with the fourth pick — one of the remaining quarterbacks, Kyle Pitts, or Penei Sewell. I’ll start with the latter.
There’s been a lot of chatter about the quarterback prospects and Kyle Pitts, but not too many people have linked the Falcons to Penei Sewell. We know the Falcons attended his pro-day and interviewed the top left tackle in this class, but outside of that, it’s been crickets, which can sometimes mean a team is very interested. The last regime never tipped their hand, and it was almost always the prospect that nobody was talking about that ended up being picked by the Falcons. Obviously, this is a new regime, but I don’t imagine Terry Fontenot is in the business of dishing out information to the public. The less that people know before draft night, the better.
As we discussed on the Talkin’ Birdy podcast, the offensive line may be the biggest need for the Falcons entering the draft. Matt Hennessy and Matt Gono are currently projected as starters; they have barely any experience, and the depth behind them is non-existent. Atlanta MUST draft at least one starting-caliber offensive lineman in the first few rounds, and Sewell isn’t just starting-caliber; he has the potential to become an All-Pro very early in his career. This is from First Pick’s Cory Kinnan:
Where doesn’t Sewell win?
A near-perfect prospect, Sewell wins with his hands with frequency, he shows the discipline and focus to land his punch and follow through directly into the chest of his opponent to compromise his base. He packs a powerful initial punch and latch follow through, showing a willingness to finish in the run game to clear running lanes for the likes of C.J. Verdell.
Sewell is a technician below the waist as well, showing a pristine pass set and quick feet. He plays with a wide base and a great initial kick step to put himself in the best position over the man across from him. His feet are always moving, this writer has not seen a rep where Sewell’s feet are not actively churning.
I’m aware the Falcons have two starters already at offensive tackle, but I firmly believe Sewell could play left guard for a few years and be extremely successful, then kick outside to left tackle when Jake Matthews’ time is up. Sewell has also spent time practicing at right tackle prior to the draft, so if McGary fails to take the next step, Sewell could take his spot, and I do believe McGary could potentially be better suited inside. Picking Sewell would immediately turn the Falcons offensive line from a weakness to a glaring strength, which is critical in an offense like Arthur Smith‘s that needs to run the ball to be effective.
The other non-quarterback prospect in the mix is Kyle Pitts, and based on reports; he’s the overwhelming favorite to be taken by the Falcons with the 4th pick, which is a bit fishy to me. There’s no way Fontenot wants to be tipping his hand, especially when he’s acknowledged trying to trade back in the draft. I don’t believe anybody really knows what the Falcons are going to do yet, even the Falcons, so any reports that suggest Atlanta is 100% sold on Kyle Pitts are fraudulent. With that being said, it’s difficult to ignore just how deadly he would be in Arthur Smith’s offense surrounded by Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Hayden Hurst. This is from our own Alex Lord’s profile on Pitts:
Pitts is positionless. He can align on the boundary, in the slot, or with his hand in the dirt. He’s as good of a route-runner as any receiver in this draft with great burst out of his break, giving him elite change-of-direction skills for a person of his size. Pitts is as good after-the-catch as he is before, a rare and tremendous red-zone threat. Excellent at beating one-on-one press, but also great at finding the soft spot in zones. The former Gator, much like Julio Jones, makes normal 50-50 balls, closer to 60-40 in favor of Pitts.
Drafting Pitts would signal the Falcons commitment to winning now with Matt Ryan, and as long as they address the offensive line on Day 2, this group would be nearly unstoppable every Sunday. The Falcons may not be able to stop anybody themselves, but they damn well may be able to outscore everyone. Taking Pitts would also give the Falcons more flexibility with Julio Jones if they really are looking to trade him.
Last but not least, the Falcons could take a quarterback. I’m not going to get into the strengths or weaknesses of each potential prospect, but it looks like two of Mac Jones, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance will be available. My personnel preference is Mac Jones, but I think he will go third to the 49ers, leaving Fields and Lance. This option really comes down to one thing — does the new regime believe one of these two quarterbacks can lead the franchise successfully for the next 15-20 years. If the answer is yes, there is absolutely no question what the Falcons should do — take the quarterback. However, I am going to say the answer is no.
For whatever reason, Justin Fields has developed a bad wrap among NFL franchises, which cannot be ignored. These types of issues aren’t just made up. Teams go through countless hours of research to form an opinion on one’s character, interviewing everyone a prospect has come in contact with, from middle school coaches to college teachers. There’s a reason these concerns have been made public, and I just don’t see Terry Fontenot trusting a prospect with some potential red flags regarding work ethic.
If the Falcons do go quarterback, I think it will be Trey Lance. He has an unbelievable amount of potential but could probably use a couple of years to season behind Matt Ryan. He makes the most sense for the Falcons timeline; however, I think the bust potential is still extremely high with Lance, which causes Terry Fontenot to draft the best non-quarterback available, and as much as I hate going with the national media — because they are wrong way more often than they are right when it comes to the NFL Draft — I see the Falcons taking Kyle Pitts with the 4th pick in the draft. He’s the safest option, which is important for a first-year general manager, and he gives the Falcons a legitimate identity heading into the 2021 campaign.
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