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2021 NFL Draft rumors: ‘Real possibility’ Atlanta Falcons take quarterback with No. 4 pick

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 CFP National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft rumors are buzzing with the 2021 NFL Draft closing in and plenty of the focus is on this year’s quarterback class. Trevor Lawrence will be the No.1 overall pick, but speculation remains about where the other top passers will land as teams look to land their franchise signal-caller.

When the offseason began, many wondered whether Matt Ryan had a future with the Atlanta Falcons. But, following the hire of Arthur Smith as head coach, the organization made it clear they planned for him to stick around. But with the No. 4 overall pick, Atlanta might be in a unique situation to find its heir to Ryan.

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The 35-year-old quarterback just restructured his contract, creating an even larger cap hit for the 2022 season. While that would seemingly make it more likely that he remains the Falcons’ starting quarterback for a few more years, a recent rumor points in another direction.

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According to Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline, there is a “very real possibility” that the Falcons will draft a quarterback with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

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There is plenty of motive to draft a quarterback this year. Realistically, the Falcons won’t have a top-five pick next year based on this team’s projected 2021 outlook. So, that almost certainly takes them out of the mix for a top quarterback in a 2022 NFL Draft class that doesn’t look particularly appealing. But that’s not the only factor at play.

New regimes want their own guy leading the franchise. With a fresh general manager and head coach, the Falcons must be thinking about a future that doesn’t involve Ryan. Smith likely wants a quarterback who he can build his offense around for the next five-plus years and that can only be found if the team drafts a quarterback this spring.

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As of now, the New York Jets are expected to draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. Given BYU phenom Zach Wilson is regarded as the second-best passer in the draft class, he’ll likely be drafted by New York. Attention then turns to the Miami Dolphins at the No. 3 selection.

Miami will get plenty of offers for its pick, likely from the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers. Perhaps, feeling the pressure of a division rival being aggressive, Atlanta calls Miami and offers a Day 2 pick to jump up one spot.

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There are plenty of quarterbacks to choose from. Mac Jones doesn’t offer a ton of upside, but he is generating top-10 buzz. Meanwhile, Trey Lance offers some of the highest upside in the entire class.

With that said, Justin Fields might be the Falcons’ top target. There’s a case that he is the second-best player in the 2021 NFL Draft and the physical tools are undeniable. Plus, he grew up in the Atlanta region and would be an immediate hit with the fans. If drafted, Fields could sit behind Ryan for a year and then would take over in 2022.

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