National Football League

What should the Atlanta Falcons do with the NFL Draft's No. 4 overall pick?

April 7

It looks like the 2021 NFL Draft will resemble nothing we've seen before in league history.

With the recent flurry of trade activity ahead of the first round on April 29, it's expected that the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers will select quarterbacks with the first three picks. 

A trio of QBs going 1-2-3 has happened only twice in the draft, most recently in 1999.

However, this year, the NFL appears to be on the cusp of not only repeating that rare feat but also doing it one better, with another rookie quarterback potentially hearing his name called at No. 4.

With the Jags, Jets and Niners all but locked in on QBs, all eyes are now on the owners of the fourth overall pick, the Atlanta Falcons.

What will the Falcons do?

They're not short of options, that's for sure. If they're looking to draft their quarterback of the future, they'll have to wait and see which of the incoming QBs is left at No. 4.

Trevor Lawrence is the clear-cut first overall pick, and the Jets' fascination with Zach Wilson is no state secret.

The Niners are more of a wild card, with various reports pointing Kyle Shanahan's team toward Mac Jones, Justin Fields or Trey Lance.

That means the Falcons would likely have their pick of whichever of the remaining top-flight QBs the Niners don't select.

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It'd be a gamble, no doubt, and a situation that perhaps new general manager Terry Fontenot and new head coach Arthur Smith would prefer to avoid.

Plus, it's not as though incumbent Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan's production has fallen off a cliff.  Despite Atlanta's 4-12 record this past season, Ryan put up numbers nearly identical to his career averages. 

The 35-year-old Ryan completed 65.0% of his passes for 4,581 yards, throwing for 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a passer rating of 93.3 in 2020.

For his career, he averages a 65.4 completion percentage, 4,353 yards, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 94.5 passer rating per 16 games.

With that, Brandon Marshall of "First Things First" said Ryan remains the answer – not the problem – in Atlanta.

"Matt Ryan gives you the best opportunity to win right now and to win big. ... Matt Ryan is the answer. ... I'm always going to go with the veteran, savvy quarterback over the rookie quarterback when you're talking about winning right now."

Hear why Brandon Marshall and Nick Wright believe Matt Ryan is the answer in Atlanta.

Nick Wright echoed that stance, albeit for a different reason.

"If you're drafting at four, and you are by definition getting ⁠— according to the people in front of you ⁠— the fourth-best quarterback, you're not going to get the best value that you can get for that pick. When instead you could get, literally, the best player at any other position."

If the Falcons want to ride with Ryan and pick a premier non-quarterback, they'd be spoiled for choice.

At wide receiver, Ja'Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith are game-changing talents on the outside, and Kyle Pitts is considered one of the greatest tight end prospects in decades.

Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater are highly regarded offensive tackles, and then there's a whole bevy of defensive talent Atlanta could target to improve a leaky defense.

Atlanta also has the option to move down from the pick, and the Falcons don't appear short of suitors.

Could a surprise team offer a sweet enough deal to move Atlanta down the board? ESPN's Marcus Spears offered up Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots as a possibility.

"If that opportunity presents itself, and [Belichick] can find a way to get up there to get his quarterback of the future ⁠— with bringing in Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry and trying to recreate this offense for Josh McDaniels ⁠— you're damn right he's going to do it and find a way to get it done."

It's not often that the No. 4 overall pick has this much intrigue attached, but the upcoming draft is poised to be anything but run-of-the-mill.

The Falcons are on the clock, in a sense, and the world is watching – bird watching.

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