Falcons Rumors: Atlanta 'Leaning' Toward Drafting QB with No. 4 Overall Pick

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2021

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance throws at the school's football NFL Pro Day Friday, March, 12, 2021, in Fargo, North Dakota. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton- King)
Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

The San Francisco 49ers leapfrogged them in the 2021 NFL draft, but the Atlanta Falcons' priorities in the first round may remain the same.

NBC Sports' Peter King reported the Falcons are "leaning QB, with logic having [Trey] Lance sitting behind Matt Ryan for two years, then playing."

The 49ers now sit at the No. 3 spot after having parted ways with their 2021, 2022 and 2023 first-round picks. ESPN's Adam Schefter spoke to a source who said that Jimmy Garoppolo "is here to stay" and "our guy this year."

But generally a team doesn't act that aggressively—when it's originally slotted at No. 12 no less—unless it is looking to add a quarterback.

That could put the Falcons in a tough spot, but they wouldn't necessarily be reaching for a QB if the Niners, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets all target the position, too. Four quarterbacks (Lance, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Zach Wilson) were ranked among the top eight prospects in Bleacher Report's Big Board 1.0.

As King wrote, Ryan isn't going anywhere in the immediate future despite Atlanta starting over with a new head coach (Arthur Smith) and general manager (Terry Fontenot).

Parting ways with the four-time Pro Bowler would be a costly venture in 2022 as well. Cutting him before June 1 would trigger $40.6 million in dead money while saving just $8.1 million, per Spotrac. As a post-June 1 cut, the savings would increase to $23.8 million, but the dead money would still spread across 2022 ($24.9 million) and 2023 ($15.6 million).

Rookies are typically slotted into the starting job at some point during their first season. Eli Manning's two Super Bowl rings couldn't prevent him from getting benched in favor of Daniel Jones.

But the Kansas City Chiefs showed with Patrick Mahomes how a gradual approach can work. And of all the incoming QB prospects, Lance probably needs a year to learn more than anybody. He has just one full season of starting experience under his belt, and he made just one appearance during the fall football season after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the FCS to adopt a spring calendar.

If Lance is still on the board, then the North Dakota State star would be a nice fit in Atlanta.