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Schultz: Did the Falcons draft the best player (Kyle Pitts) but pass on the best choice (Justin Fields)? - The Athletic (By Request)


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Schultzie has spoken!!!!!

 

The Falcons had options, and none of them were bad. They could draft their next quarterback. They could accumulate extra picks with a trade down. They could take a tight end who already projected to be the next Tony Gonzalez/Kellen Winslow/Hall of Fame enshrinee, and the poor kid hasn’t even played an NFL down yet.

So, no — Kyle Pitts was not a bad choice. But was he the right choice?

That question is going to be asked from now until there’s a clear succession plan for Matt Ryan at quarterback, and if there’s one certainty after Thursday’s first round, it’s this: There are going to be as many people down here in Atlanta watching what Justin Fields does with the Chicago Bears as there are watching what Pitts does with the Falcons.

Fields, the former high school star from Kennesaw, apparently was never destined to stay here. It must be something about the way the stars are aligned above Georgia.

He went to Athens but couldn’t be assured of a starting job, so he left for Ohio State, where he threw 63 touchdown passes, ran for 15 more and went 20-2 as a starter, leading his team to consecutive College Football Playoff berths and a national title game. Then came the NFL Draft, when the Falcons passed on a chance to take their future starting quarterback when he was sitting right there in his parents’ living room. So much for that storyline. Instead, Fields found out he would be returning to the Midwest when he was picked by the Bears, who traded up from 20th to 11th to get him.

The Falcons instead opted for Pitts, doing what they said they would do — take the perceived best player on the board, regardless of position. New general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith entertained trade offers for the fourth pick, but they didn’t consider them “serious enough” in total value to give up a chance to select Pitts. Smith, whose creative offensive mind and affinity for tight ends no doubt led to this decision, called Pitts “a unique player.”

“We think we can play him in multiple spots,” Smith said. “I guess I do have a little bias towards tight ends, but we felt he was the best player available, and he checked every box.”

This may up being a franchise-defining draft for Fontenot and Smith. They will be, and should be, given the benefit of the doubt because they just arrived and deserve a chance to build the team the way they want. But if former GM Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn had drafted a tight end fourth overall — no matter how good he is — with all the holes on this roster and on the heels of a cumulative 18-30 record the past three years, they would’ve been crushed by fans and media.

Again, that’s not a statement on Pitts. He’ll do well in Smith’s offense. But the team’s salary-cap issues, and the fact that Ryan turns 36 in two weeks and will be 37 in 2022 when his cap number balloons to $48.66 million, are problematic.

Ryan is the only quarterback the team has under contract. There was a belief — or let’s change that to a narrative — that the Falcons’ high draft position and the quarterback quality at the top of this draft would lead them to draft his replacement. But right now, there’s no clear succession plan. Or is there? I asked Fontenot that question after midnight.

“We’re still working through that,” he said. “There’s still quarterbacks in this draft and again, even outside of the draft, after the draft … even going into the year, there’s times where there can be trades. Right now, we only have one quarterback on the roster, so the answer to that question is no. But I would say we’re still working through that process.”

Moments later: “There’s still a chance we can draft a quarterback. There’s still some good quarterbacks in this draft. We can draft a quarterback, or we can get out of the draft, and there could be a trade.”

We’ll see how this works out. For what it’s worth, I was aligned with the perspective of former scout and NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who last week called Pitts “dynamic” but said “I don’t know that that roster is ready to win a Super Bowl right now. … If they make the decision for next year and the year after, you take Pitts. If you’re making the decision for the future of the franchise, which extends beyond the decade, to me I think the smart thing to do would be to get that next quarterback.”

Five quarterbacks went in the first 15 picks (Mac Jones fell in New England’s lap at No. 15, because of course). Among those still on the board: Stanford’s Davis Mills, Florida’s Kyle Trask and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond.

For now, the Falcons are thrilled with Pitts. He’s a 6-foot-6 beast with 4.4 speed, hands like Velcro and the ability to play inline or outside. He had 43 catches and 12 touchdowns in only eight games last season for Florida. One general manager told me, “If fans criticize them for drafting Pitts because he’s a tight end, they should transition to another sport.” ESPN commentator Louis Riddick, a former player and front-office executive, said, “As a former defensive back, I would be scared to death to cover him.”

Pitts is expected to be that good, and Smith will use him everywhere. Many believe there has never been a tight end like Pitts. It follows that never has one been drafted this high. Only once in their history had the Falcons even drafted a tight end in the first round (Junior Miller, 1980, who had two early Pro Bowl seasons, then quickly fizzled after injuries).

We’ve seen how great tight ends like Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and George Kittle can change an offense. The Falcons are counting on that. But there’s still a major issue they’re going to have to resolve.

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Goober Pyle said:

Schultzie has spoken!!!!!

 

The Falcons had options, and none of them were bad. They could draft their next quarterback. They could accumulate extra picks with a trade down. They could take a tight end who already projected to be the next Tony Gonzalez/Kellen Winslow/Hall of Fame enshrinee, and the poor kid hasn’t even played an NFL down yet.

So, no — Kyle Pitts was not a bad choice. But was he the right choice?

That question is going to be asked from now until there’s a clear succession plan for Matt Ryan at quarterback, and if there’s one certainty after Thursday’s first round, it’s this: There are going to be as many people down here in Atlanta watching what Justin Fields does with the Chicago Bears as there are watching what Pitts does with the Falcons.

Fields, the former high school star from Kennesaw, apparently was never destined to stay here. It must be something about the way the stars are aligned above Georgia.

He went to Athens but couldn’t be assured of a starting job, so he left for Ohio State, where he threw 63 touchdown passes, ran for 15 more and went 20-2 as a starter, leading his team to consecutive College Football Playoff berths and a national title game. Then came the NFL Draft, when the Falcons passed on a chance to take their future starting quarterback when he was sitting right there in his parents’ living room. So much for that storyline. Instead, Fields found out he would be returning to the Midwest when he was picked by the Bears, who traded up from 20th to 11th to get him.

The Falcons instead opted for Pitts, doing what they said they would do — take the perceived best player on the board, regardless of position. New general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith entertained trade offers for the fourth pick, but they didn’t consider them “serious enough” in total value to give up a chance to select Pitts. Smith, whose creative offensive mind and affinity for tight ends no doubt led to this decision, called Pitts “a unique player.”

“We think we can play him in multiple spots,” Smith said. “I guess I do have a little bias towards tight ends, but we felt he was the best player available, and he checked every box.”

This may up being a franchise-defining draft for Fontenot and Smith. They will be, and should be, given the benefit of the doubt because they just arrived and deserve a chance to build the team the way they want. But if former GM Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn had drafted a tight end fourth overall — no matter how good he is — with all the holes on this roster and on the heels of a cumulative 18-30 record the past three years, they would’ve been crushed by fans and media.

Again, that’s not a statement on Pitts. He’ll do well in Smith’s offense. But the team’s salary-cap issues, and the fact that Ryan turns 36 in two weeks and will be 37 in 2022 when his cap number balloons to $48.66 million, are problematic.

Ryan is the only quarterback the team has under contract. There was a belief — or let’s change that to a narrative — that the Falcons’ high draft position and the quarterback quality at the top of this draft would lead them to draft his replacement. But right now, there’s no clear succession plan. Or is there? I asked Fontenot that question after midnight.

“We’re still working through that,” he said. “There’s still quarterbacks in this draft and again, even outside of the draft, after the draft … even going into the year, there’s times where there can be trades. Right now, we only have one quarterback on the roster, so the answer to that question is no. But I would say we’re still working through that process.”

Moments later: “There’s still a chance we can draft a quarterback. There’s still some good quarterbacks in this draft. We can draft a quarterback, or we can get out of the draft, and there could be a trade.”

We’ll see how this works out. For what it’s worth, I was aligned with the perspective of former scout and NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who last week called Pitts “dynamic” but said “I don’t know that that roster is ready to win a Super Bowl right now. … If they make the decision for next year and the year after, you take Pitts. If you’re making the decision for the future of the franchise, which extends beyond the decade, to me I think the smart thing to do would be to get that next quarterback.”

Five quarterbacks went in the first 15 picks (Mac Jones fell in New England’s lap at No. 15, because of course). Among those still on the board: Stanford’s Davis Mills, Florida’s Kyle Trask and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond.

For now, the Falcons are thrilled with Pitts. He’s a 6-foot-6 beast with 4.4 speed, hands like Velcro and the ability to play inline or outside. He had 43 catches and 12 touchdowns in only eight games last season for Florida. One general manager told me, “If fans criticize them for drafting Pitts because he’s a tight end, they should transition to another sport.” ESPN commentator Louis Riddick, a former player and front-office executive, said, “As a former defensive back, I would be scared to death to cover him.”

Pitts is expected to be that good, and Smith will use him everywhere. Many believe there has never been a tight end like Pitts. It follows that never has one been drafted this high. Only once in their history had the Falcons even drafted a tight end in the first round (Junior Miller, 1980, who had two early Pro Bowl seasons, then quickly fizzled after injuries).

We’ve seen how great tight ends like Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce and George Kittle can change an offense. The Falcons are counting on that. But there’s still a major issue they’re going to have to resolve.

 

 

Ladies and gentleman, Presenting the all star Jeff Schultz. 

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2 minutes ago, KRUNKuno said:

so the right choice was to pick a 2 year clipboard holder and waste his good contract years?

 

Green Bay says hello

It's like they're just completely ignoring the GB situation.

There's a difference between doing this crap on paper and doing it while maintaining a locker room.

Oh yea, and the whole cap situation....

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This line is what gets me...like this was THE ONLY TIME TO FIND MATT'S SUCCESSOR WE NEED TO DO IT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!  As Joe Thomas said yesterday on NFLN to Steve Smith "You act like Matt Ryan has 1 foot in a nursing home.  He has several great years left."

The Falcons are counting on that. But there’s still a major issue they’re going to have to resolve.

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Just now, nomak said:

He's an AJC dumbarse. The majority of time his 100% wrong.  Fields is not the 2nd coming to NFL QBs. Personally I believe he will struggle in the NFL...we shall see. 

How does Atlanta get such piss poor media coverage?  Like what did we do to deserve Schultz, DLed and company?

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