Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith scoffed at the notion the team is already looking ahead to the 2023 NFL draft.
The Athletic's Jeff Schultz asked Smith whether he and Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot have discussed the 2023 draft class, to which Smith responded that the line of questioning was "a waste of your time and my time":
"It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard — that a team would try to not win football games. If you don’t, there’s going to be consequences. OK, you’re at the top of the draft — I got it. But you’re in a very transactional phase of the National Football League right now. Trades in the draft. Trades for quarterbacks. It’s a different landscape than when Jimmy Johnson took over the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. It was pre-free agency. The famous Herschel Walker trade. They blew it up and went 1-15, and … it was a long rebuild. That is not the same NFL as today. Back then, people would’ve given their first born before they gave their picks away. People are still going off old narratives, and it’s comical. Any good team knows how to rebuild every year."
"Yeah, we're planning on losing as many games as possible" isn't exactly the message a coach will want to send his players in the offseason.
Nobody at the Falcons would admit it, but it sure seems like Atlanta is building for the future at the expense of the present.
After going 7-10 in 2021, the franchise traded starting quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts and spent the seventh-least amount ($63.6 million) in free agency, per Over the Cap. The roster isn't going to be significantly better than it was last year.
Coming out of the draft, the Falcons were 29th in Bleacher Report's power rankings. Five wins is their over/under at DraftKings Sportsbook, which also lists them with the longest odds (+8000, $100 bet wins $8,000) of winning the NFC.
Being terrible this year would mean potentially having an opportunity to select Alabama's Bryce Young or Ohio State's C.J. Stroud in the 2023 draft. Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski projected Stroud to go second overall to Atlanta.
Perhaps Smith's squad will exceed expectations. Finishing near the bottom of the NFL would set the table nicely for 2023 and beyond, though.
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