Atlanta Falcons could select heir-apparent to Matt Ryan in 2021 NFL Draft

Sep 26, 2020; Provo, UT, USA; BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1) warms up before the start of their NCAA college football game against Troy Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Provo, Utah. Mandatory Credit: Rick Bowmer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

We heard NFL rumors linking the Atlanta Falcons to a trade of Matt Ryan late last season. Once Atlanta brought in head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot, those rumors died down.

Specifically, Smith is an offensive-minded coach. The Falcons are going to want to give it another go with Ryan and Julio Jones being the catalysts on offense while the last-place team improves on defense in the draft. At least, that’s what we thought.

Fontenot might have just thrown some cold water on that idea in talking to the media recently. Ryan and Jones aren’t going anywhere. But April’s NFL Draft might change things.

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Atlanta Falcons could select Matt Ryan’s heir-apparent in 2021 NFL Draft

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

“Whether we’re talking about free agency or whether we’re talking about the draft, we are going to add to every position,” Fontenot said. “We’ll build strength. We’re not afraid to build strength,” the general manager told NFL Media. “We’re going to add to every position. It’s about adding. We want a culture of competition, and (coach) Arthur Smith has said it: We want to bring in smart, tough, highly competitive football players that are going to fit this culture. And we’re going to do that at every position, whether it’s QB or whether it’s WR…You look at (former Packers GM) Ron Wolf. You always bring in quarterbacks. You need to bring in quarterbacks.”

Selecting No. 4 overall in the draft, the Atlanta Falcons will be in a position to go quarterback. Either Justin Fields (Ohio State) or Zach Wilson (BYU) should be available to them. Of course, that’s dependent on the Dolphins not trading out of the No. 3 pick with another quarterback-needy team.

It also must be noted that there’s no value in going defense with the fourth pick in a draft that’s heavily slanted in the favor of offensive players early on. If the Falcons don’t find a suitable trade-down partner, finding Matt Ryan’s heir-apparent could make the most sense.

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Matt Ryan contract complicates things further

Atlanta Falcons GM doesn't rule out selecting 1st-round QB in 2021 NFL Draft
Jan 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If all things were created equal, the Atlanta Falcons might look to trade Matt Ryan. All things are not equal. Already in a less-than-stellar cap situation, Atlanta would take a ridiculous $49.94 million dead cap hit by trading Ryan. Even if the team made said trade after June 1, it wouldn’t be worth it.

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The likeliest scenario here is that the Falcons look quarterback with the fourth pick and let the youngster sit behind Ryan for a year or two.

Of course, that’s dependent on the 35-year-old Ryan wanting to play a mentorship role for a team that’s not in playoff contention. Things could change on a dime if the Atlanta Falcons do in fact select a quarterback with the fourth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.