Skip to main content

Atlanta Falcons expected to draft quarterback with No. 4 pick

Matt Johnson
NFL Draft: Justin Fields
Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) reacts after being defeated by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons hold the No.4 overall pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft and could make history when the selection is announced on April 29.

For the first time since 1999, quarterbacks are going to be the first three picks in the NFL Draft. It’s only happened twice in league history and there has never been a draft with four quarterbacks taken consecutively. That could all change in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Atlanta is taking calls on the fourth pick, fielding inquiries from quarterback-needy teams. While the Carolina Panthers aren’t involved after the Sam Darnold trade, there’s still plenty of competition. The New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Washington Football Team are all considered threats to trade up for a quarterback.

Read More: 3 Atlanta Falcons trade scenarios for the 2021 NFL Draft

If the Falcons are trading down, it’s a safe bet that NFL history will be made. Jumping to No. 4 overall is an obvious sign that a general manager has a franchise signal-caller in mind and he will be paying a significant price to land him. Even if the Falcons don’t move down the board, though, we might see a historic moment in a few weeks.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said this week on The Rich Eisen Show that many in the NFL believe the Falcons will draft a quarterback with the fourth overall pick.

Atlanta remains very high on Matt Ryan and he would unquestionably be the team’s starting quarterback for the 2021 season. While the team would be ignoring a short-term need and immediate talent that would help win now, this could also be a unique opportunity to build for the future.

Related: NFL mock draft 2023 – CJ Stroud, Bryce Young headline outstanding 2023 NFL Draft class

Who will the Falcons draft with the No. 4 pick?

For several weeks, the Falcons were reportedly divided on what they want do with their first-round pick. At the time, general manager Terry Fontenot wanted to seize on the team’s high selection by drafting a quarterback for the future. But head coach Arthur Smith believed Ryan still had several good years of play left in the tank.

Both men are now on the same page with a vision of what they want to do. While it’s unknown which path they’ve chosen, NFL executives clearly believe that Atlanta will be selecting its quarterback of the future.

2021 NFL Draft big board: Ranking top 100 prospects

Given Atlanta’s approach and Smith’s scheme, is fairly safe to rule out Mac Jones. While he could be a quality starter, he doesn’t offer the long-term upside to match Trey Lance or Justin Fields. Given his recent contract restructure, Ryan should remain the Falcons’ starting quarterback through the 2022 season. In short, Jones doesn’t fit that timetable.

There’s a strong case to be made for either Fields or Lance. On the one hand, Fields is a Georgia native and is the player this city and fan base could rally around. There’s also a compelling argument for him as an elite prospect, one that might be deserving of the No. 1 overall pick in a year without Trevor Lawrence.

Related: Ranking Atlanta Falcons 1st-round pick options in 2021 NFL Draft

Lance comes with more risk. He played just one game, a rough showing against Central Arkansas, this past season. So, evaluators are largely grading him on his phenomenal 2019 season. He threw 28 touchdowns, rushed for 1,100 yards and tacked on 14 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore. But there are legitimate concerns about how his skills will translate from the FCS level to the NFL.

Atlanta Falcons mock draft: 7-round 2021 NFL Draft projections with trades

It won’t be long before months of questions are finally answered. But it’s certainly evident that we could be witnessing history when the 2021 NFL Draft arrives.