On Wednesday Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot have been feeling somewhat conflicted in terms of whether to draft a quarterback with the No. 4 overall pick. Per Mortensen, Fontenot has been leaning toward drafting Matt Ryan’s eventual replacement, with Smith in favor of selecting a non-quarterback.
But according to a new report by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fontenot and Smith are now “aligned” in terms of direction and have five potential first-round picks on their “draft radar screen.”
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OT Penei Sewell and TE Kyle Pitts
At the top of the list are Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, with the Falcons facing what Ledbetter describes as a “tough call” between the two.
To get an additional perspective, Ledbetter spoke to an unnamed, longtime NFL executive, who said: “He’ll make some plays, the tight end,” referring to Pitts. “He’ll be effective maybe 15 plays out of 65. The left tackle has got to be there 65 out of 65. When you really look it, it’s hard to [take Pitts] if the left tackle is legit,” though he conceded that passing on a playmaker like Pitts can be a difficult thing to do.
QB Justin Fields
As for the quarterback that remains on Atlanta’s radar screen, that would be Justin Fields of Ohio State, as it’s assumed that Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and one other quarterback—perhaps Alabama’s Mac Jones—will be gone before the Falcons have a chance to select.
Some NFL analysts consider Atlanta a “golden spot” for a potential franchise quarterback like Fields, as he would get at least a year of grooming under a good teacher in Smith.
But rightly or wrongly, Fields may be hurt by the fact that Ohio State quarterbacks have failed to distinguish themselves in the NFL. Moreover, Dwayne Haskins—who was selected No. 15 overall two years ago—failed to make it through two seasons with Washington, and is now a low-cost reclamation project of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
WR Ja’Marr Chase and CB Patrick Surtain II
Finally, there are two other prime candidates for Atlanta’s first-round pick, those being LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain.
“Chase, who’s 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds, dazzled the NFL scouts at his Pro Day workout before a crowd that included Fontenot, offensive coordinator Dave Ragone and wide receivers coach David Brock,” notes Ledbetter.
He’s also coming off a stellar season in which he caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns, including nine receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns in the College Football Playoff Championship game against Clemson.
Last but not least, there’s Patrick Surtain II, whose father was second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins and went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL, earning Pro Bowl honors three times.
At 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds, Surtain has ideal size for a cornerback. He’s also about as NFL ready as can be, thanks in part to the fact that he has spent the past few years practicing against the likes of 2020 first-round picks Henry Ruggs (Las Vegas Raiders) and Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos), not to mention Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, both of whom are likely to be first-rounders in the 2021 draft.
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