By: Chris Moore (Twitter: @fantasy_moore)
Drafting a QB an option for Atlanta?
While Atlanta has committed to Matt Ryan over the years, you have to think a new successor is in the plans this offseason for Atlanta. Matt Ryan is 35 years old, heading into his 14th NFL season in 2021. With the Falcons currently owning the 4th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, there’s a pretty good chance Atlanta selects Matt Ryan’s successor in the draft. The Falcons just hired their new head coach Arthur Smith this offseason; it’s clear Atlanta is in rebuild mode. Rebuilding the team into a contender starts with getting the right quarterback, and I expect Atlanta to do so in this year’s draft. Let’s get into my top three draft quarterback targets for the Falcons.
While it’s clear Atlanta won’t have the opportunity to draft Trevor Lawrence, they might be able to land the second-best QB prospect in this year’s draft class in Zach Wilson. Wilson was a star for BYU last season, breaking out in his third college season. Wilson displayed elite accuracy as a passer in his junior season, completing 73.5% of his passes. Wilson threw for 3,692 passing yards and 33 passing touchdowns in 2020 while also rushing 70 times for 254 yards and ten rushing touchdowns. Wilson was a dual-threat quarterback who led BYU to an 11-1 season, including a bowl win against UCF.
Wilson has been on the rise ever since finishing his 2020 season, and many expect him to be the second quarterback taken in this year’s draft class. While I believe there is a chance the Jets could draft Wilson with the second overall pick, the Falcons would be lucky to have Wilson drop into their laps at 4th. If Wilson is still on the board when the Falcons are on the clock, I believe there isn’t a chance the Falcons pass on the prospect. Over the last couple of weeks, it was reported that some NFL teams even have Wilson as their number one ranked quarterback over Trevor Lawrence. While that claim is arguable, I think it’s clear Wilson is the second-best quarterback in this draft class and the best available option for the Falcons in the draft.
Justin Fields makes a lot of sense for the Falcons. Fields was viewed as the 2nd best quarterback prospect coming into the 2020 season, but with Ohio State only playing seven games in 2020 due to COVID, it was hard to judge Fields’ campaign in 2020. Fields had games where he did struggle and performances like against Clemson, where he looked like an elite quarterback prospect. There are no doubt Fields has the talent to be an excellent quarterback, but I do believe he needs more time to develop.
The Atlanta native will be a good draft decision for Atlanta if they miss out on Zach Wilson. Fields were still impressive in 2020, throwing for 2,100 yards and 22 passing touchdowns in only eight games. Fields finished 2020 with a 70.2% completion rate while also rushing 81 times for 383 rushing yards and five touchdowns. While he might not be viewed as the best quarterback prospect in the draft class, Justin Fields is still a great pick.
Trey Lance is one of the most exciting draft prospects in this year’s draft class. Lance only played one game in 2020 due to North Dakota State’s season canceled due to COVID. Lance was a superstar in 2019 for North Dakota State, throwing for 2,786 yards and 28 passing touchdowns. Lance has shown throughout his collegiate career he is a threat with his legs, rushing 169 times for 1,100 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns in 2019. Lance’s rushing stats have led to many experts comparing him to Ravens superstar Lamar Jackson. Lance was very impressive in 2019, and you can make a case his stock would have rose even more in 2020 if he played a full season.
While some may view Lance as the 4th best quarterback in the class, QB needy teams could value him higher than Justin Fields. I think Lance be an excellent fit for the Falcons if they view him as a better prospect than Fields. Both quarterbacks will most likely be on the board when Atlanta is on the clock, giving the Falcons an interesting decision when it’s time for them to make their selection.