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Trey Lance or Justin Fields? Or should the Falcons trade the No. 4 pick? Mailbag - The Athletic


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Don't shoot the messenger guys...I don't write 'em. I'm just dumb enough to pay for 'em.  :tiphat:

 

by Tori McElhaney for The Athletic

 

After nine months on the beat, my first mailbag is finally here! Thanks for being so patient with me. I know mailbags are always a highlight of coverage at The Athletic but if I’m being completely honest, I am only just now getting to the point where I have some time to answer your questions.

I came on the beat at the start of training camp, and the Falcons have kept me on my toes since (a coaching and GM search will do that to you). But with the draft three weeks away and the Falcons quiet in free agency, I’ve been able to sit down and hear you all out, which was something I very much enjoyed doing.

The Falcons are such a wild card in this year’s draft. There’s no precedent for what Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith will do come draft day, and a lot of your questions alluded to that. So, let’s dive in! I’ve kept you waiting long enough.

We’ve now seen reports that we could still take a QB, take Pitts, or trade down. Which is the smokescreen?

Troy R.

Ha! All of them.

No, I am kidding … but only slightly.

What the Falcons do at No. 4 greatly depends on what happens before them with the 49ers at No. 3. I think if the right quarterback falls to Atlanta, Fontenot takes him. If not, I am thinking they’ll have contingencies built in and I see that being trading down more so than taking Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. That could change as the weeks move forward, but that’s where my head is right now. So, to a certain extent, they’re all smokescreens because the way I see it, the Falcons are still weighing their options. The smoke may not clear until the day of the draft, and I’m preparing for that.

Who are your top 3 players for Atlanta to target with their 2nd round pick and why?

Shane M.

If Travis Etienne or Landon Dickerson falls to the top of the second round, the Falcons have to look to grab one of them. Dane Brugler had Etienne as the No. 33 prospect in his draft guide. Atlanta has the No. 35 pick. It’s not crazy to think he still will be on the board. Etienne would join Mike Davis and that could be an exciting duo after seeing what Davis did last year with Carolina when taking over for Christian McCaffrey. Having Davis in the room also takes some pressure off Etienne if he needs time to adjust to the pro game. I also like Javonte Williams in the second round, too, for many of the same reasons I like Etienne. I think it’s more likely the Falcons could grab Williams in the second round than Etienne, but I am not counting it out. Dickerson may be a wishful-thinking pick. He would add some competition across the offensive line for Matt Hennessy and even at left guard, which is wide open right now. However, Brugler predicted Dickerson landing as the 21st overall pick, so the lineman may not be on the board for the Falcons. But if he is? Bring him to Atlanta.

Does Carolina trading for Sam Darnold change your views about the Falcons possibly trading down? Or were they never trading with Carolina anyway?

Anthony W.

Yes, my views on the Falcons trading down has changed, but not so much that I believe it’s no longer a viable option. It still is. What has changed in my mind is the market of the No. 4 pick now that Carolina has found its quarterback. Carolina and Atlanta weren’t likely to become trade partners, but Carolina’s desire for a quarterback influenced Denver’s decision at No. 9. Now, it’s not nearly as urgent for teams to pop into that No. 4 spot if they think a quarterback like Trey Lance, Justin Fields or Mac Jones could fall. As I wrote earlier in the week, Fontenot was in the position to really drive up a bidding war for that No. 4 pick. Now that Carolina is out of that conversation, it makes a potential trade less valuable for Atlanta than it otherwise would have been. Does this mean Atlanta won’t trade down? Absolutely not. It’s something the Falcons have always been open to doing, especially since there is an economic advantage to trading down.

Tori, Thanks for your coverage! Many fans are advocating for the team to trade down from No. 4 to accumulate extra picks to address needs on defense, but this is widely perceived to be a weaker defensive draft class at every spot except maybe CB. QB’s aside, can a team that has finished 18-30 over the past three seasons really afford to pass on elite talents like Pitts, Sewell or Chase to try to fill “needs”?

Kristina J.

Kristina, you really hit the nail on the head with this question because it’s the mother of all questions for the Falcons this offseason! This is what we all want to know, isn’t it? I think the answer to your question lays somewhere in how Fontenot and Smith see the current roster. If they believe they can win games now and be competitive in 2021 with what they inherited, they trade down. If they want to start building for a new future in 2022 and 2023, they draft an “elite” at No. 4. It seems simple enough when put that way, but the problem is we just don’t know what Fontenot and Smith are thinking. We don’t know if they’re risk-takers on draft day. We don’t know if they lean more heavily on finding diamonds in the rough like they’re attempting to do in free agency. We just don’t know right now because there is no precedent for this duo. I guess that’s what makes things interesting.

What is the likelihood of trading back, and also, what is the furthest you could see the team moving back? 15 to the Patriots? What would they have to give up in return? Bears? What about them? WFT? Etc. It just seems like the need for a QB is there and the price that would need to be met is almost unreal.

Evan J.

When I think of trade partners for the Falcons I think Denver, New England, Washington and maybe even Pittsburgh. I think the case could be made for all of these teams. Dropping below the top 15 may not be something the Falcons are willing to do, but if the price is right, they may not be able to pass it up. The trade the 49ers made to go from No. 12 to No. 3 is the best baseline we’ll be able to go off of. Of these four options, Denver may be the only team that could get away without offering a future first-round pick. However, if Fontenot is weighing a bunch of offers, he could potentially pull more out of Denver. But, as I said earlier, I do think Carolina’s recent trade changes Denver’s willingness to move up. It’s still likely, though, that everyone else listed would have to offer a future first-rounder for Atlanta to really weigh the offer.

In most ‘non local’ mock drafts the Falcons take Lance over Fields. On the flip side, most fans seem to prefer Fields over Lance. Do you have an explanation for this difference? What preference is warranted in your view?

Bernd B.

I love that this question was asked because I have seen this trend, too. When I look at it I think the narrative of Fields potentially returning to the state of Georgia just lends itself to the best story, and people love a good story. That’s why you’re seeing a preference for Fields locally. It’s that simple. It’s a juicy redemption story that is more exciting than picking up a guy like Lance from North Dakota State. There’s a connection with the state of Georgia and Fields that can’t be ignored. Now, which preference is warranted in my eyes? It isn’t a cop-out when I say I see both sides. If there’s anyone who wants to tell the story of Fields returning to Georgia, it’s me. Think of the story! However, drafting Lance could potentially buy Fontenot more time to part ways with Matt Ryan in a financially sound way. If it’s Fields drafted at No. 4, the first time Ryan throws an interception, there will be an uproar to see Fields. That probably wouldn’t be the case if Lance or even Jones is the pick.

Hello Tori… do you see a possible trade of Julio, Ridley or Jarrett to accumulate more draft picks and restock the roster with lots of young talent and also take a QB at # 4 or 2nd round?

Mike M.

Yes, to Jones. Maybe, to Jarrett. No, to Ridley (right now). If you would have asked me this at the beginning of March there is no way I would have included Jarrett as even a “maybe.” He would have been a hard “no.” But the Falcons haven’t touched his (or Jones’) contract, and that gives me pause. I have written so many times that I don’t understand why Jarrett hasn’t received a restructure or an extension. When I look at the cap breakdown, reworking Jarrett just seems the easiest way to get more funds now. Does this automatically mean Jarrett is out if the Falcons haven’t touched his contract? Absolutely not. The door is still wide open for that contract to be reworked or extended. But it is something to think about in the same way we may think about the Falcons trading Jones post-June 1.

What are we even doing? Is there even any point in investing ourselves into this team right now?

Ankeet C.

I mean … I am having more fun covering the Falcons now than I have at any point in the last nine months. Now is the time for speculation and guessing games and roster evaluations. The draft really starts with Atlanta this year. There’s so much to discuss about what Fontenot and Smith are thinking. I am still super interested in the Dean Pees hire. I know this fan base is jaded, for obvious reasons that don’t need to be listed here, but, dare I say, things are fun in Atlanta right now?

 

 

 

 

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26 minutes ago, 1989Fan said:

Interesting take on Grady. I think they would be nuts to trade him, and highly doubt they do, but it is odd they didn’t take the low hanging fruit for cap space by extending or reworking Jarretts deal.

I agree. And based on the most recent cap updates on the Falcons, I believe they rework Grady's deal in order to sign their draft class. I don't think there is any way at all that they trade him either.  

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35 minutes ago, 1989Fan said:

Interesting take on Grady. I think they would be nuts to trade him, and highly doubt they do, but it is odd they didn’t take the low hanging fruit for cap space by extending or reworking Jarretts deal.

Jarrett is prime candidate for possible extension, at worst restructure. Falcons don’t have to touch any one else’s contract till end of draft. I can see they want to draft and see how much they need to pick up a FA or Two after the draft. 

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55 minutes ago, 1989Fan said:

Interesting take on Grady. I think they would be nuts to trade him, and highly doubt they do, but it is odd they didn’t take the low hanging fruit for cap space by extending or reworking Jarretts deal.

Yeah I still think Grady is a solid no. Once they draft and have an idea what the draft class and potentially another free agent or two requires in $$, then they'll extend/restructure Grady. There's no hurry at all. Might be a month or two before it happens. 

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3 hours ago, fuego said:

Did you post that after reading the remarks the last one I posted got? lol. 

Lol. I don’t take it personally. And I agree for the most part about their Falcons coverage. It has fallen off since they let Jason Butt go. But I think David O’Brien’s coverage of the Braves is excellent as well as Chris Kirschner (Hawks) and Seth Emerson (UGA). I pay by the year so I might as well read it. I’m hopeful that Tori will get better as she continues to cover the team. 

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5 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

Lol. I don’t take it personally. And I agree for the most part about their Falcons coverage. It has fallen off since they let Jason Butt go. But I think David O’Brien’s coverage of the Braves is excellent as well as Chris Kirschner (Hawks) and Seth Emerson (UGA). I pay by the year so I might as well read it. I’m hopeful that Tori will get better as she continues to cover the team. 

I signed up for the $1 a month for the first 6 months. I'll be cancelling right before the next bill comes when it goes up to $7.99. I found I really didn't read it as much as I thought I would. And of course you post all the Falcons' stuff anyway. biggrin.gif.4d47f3fcc21c7930f28745d47c98ce29.gif

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19 hours ago, Herr Doktor said:

We certainly have a plethora of options.  It's good to be where we are.  As long as we don't do the crazy reach for borderline oline or Dline men, I'm good.

Especially D line! In all my many years, I’ve never seen such a horrible crop of linemen as this.

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2 hours ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

How many different ways can this be asked?  The answer is still no, trade down, be smart, gain 4 or 5 more picks over the next two seasons and draft BPA at the 1st round spot we trade down to.

So it is said, so it shall be written.

-WFW

So say we all!

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