The Falcons have an obvious need for a long-term solution at quarterback after the team swapped Matt Ryan for the Colts for a third-round pick. Atlanta apparently found their gap signal in Marcus Mariota and signed the former Titan to a two-year deal. Although the Falcons have no prospect of developing behind Mariota in this draft, Atlanta can still draft a quarterback in the 2023 draft and make him sit a year behind the former Heisman Trophy winner.
The Falcons will be attached to each quarterback prospect until they finally take one, and although I do not see anyone in this class who is worth the 8th overall pick, I think there is value in taking one in the later rounds . Instead of swinging big on a signal caller at # 8, the Falcons could use a later pick on a QB that would allow them to move him further at their pace. That’s exactly what Todd McShay is getting the Falcons to do in his latest mock draft for ESPN (subscription required).
2022 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 is here – and this time it’s two rounds! https://t.co/Mbgab8yU2g
Todd McShay (@ McShay13) April 5, 2022
With the team’s first-round pick, the McShay Falcons get to pick Drake London, giving Mariota more than just Kyle Pitts to throw the ball to.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Drake London, WR, USC
The Falcons did not do a whole lot to clean up a dull receiver room in free agency. They are currently relying on Olamide Zaccheau and Damiere Byrd as their two top goalscorers for new quarterback Marcus Mariota. We’ve only seen teams use top-10 picks on pass-catchers in back-to-back drafts three times since 1967 (Atlanta took tight-end Kyle Pitts at No. 4 in April last year), but London is a perfect choice here . He is a former basketball player who can rule out defensive backs and make tough, controversial catches. London returns after a fracture in his right ankle, but should be ready to go to training camp.
As for the quarterback riddle, Atlanta could address the future there with one of four choices on Day 2, wait for a more exciting signal-calling class in 2023, or perform a combination of both ways.
Evan Neal was still on the board when McShay taunted London to the Falcons, which I can not get behind. Neal is a top-five prospect in this class regardless of position, and the Falcons have a serious problem protecting the quarterback and producing yards before contacting their running backs. Neal seems like a safe starter above average in this league in a much harder position to get right than the receiver.
McShay got the Falcons to take Lewis Cine out of Georgia next time, despite having two young safeties on the list in Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins.
43. Atlanta Falcons
Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
Cine’s instincts and ability to read recipients’ routes from a single-high adjustment stand out on tape. Atlanta allowed 6.7 yards per. dropback last season (26th) and it lost Duron Harmon in free agency, which opened a place in the secondary.
Cine would join a rather crowded security room with Hawkins, Grant, Erik Harris and Dean Marlowe. However, Terry Fontenot has been convinced that the Falcons will add strengths because of their best available draft strategy. Now for the choice of draft: McShay gets the Falcons to trade with the Bears to pick Sam Howell.
The Bears have only six 2022 picks and are missing a first-time player. So if Atlanta calls and offers a third party (No. 82) to move up from No. 58 to No. 48, new GM Ryan Poles will be fascinated. Chicago needs a receiver, but the Day 2 pool of pass-catchers is deep. And the Falcons, with nine picks this year, have little room to operate if they want to move up to get someone. This is especially true if that person is a quarterback.
48. Atlanta Falcons (via counterfeit trade with CHI / LAC)
Sam Howell, QB, UNC
Marcus Mariota is not a long-term answer – he may not even be the short-term one – and Howell is the last of five quarterbacks in this class with no real chance of developing into an NFL starter. Like Seattle with Matt Corral, that does not mean the Falcons found their guy. Howell offers them another option as they reset the list after the Matt Ryan deal. He needs to keep working on his footwork and foresight throws, but he is very precise on deep shots, has a quick release on shorter throws and brings a bit of mobility.
Here’s an overview of Howell from SportsTalkATL’s self-proclaimed quarterback guru Jake Gordon’s pre-combine store board.
6. Sam Howell – North Carolina
Sometimes Sam Howell flashes that he could be an NFL star, but sometimes he makes some very enigmatic throws in an RPO-heavy offense. I almost put Howell in the project quarterback division, because even though he has good athletics and a good arm, he needs a lot of work before he’s ready to take the plunge into the NFL. He can easily get off the platform and he does not possess many of the nuances that the position requires when it comes to manipulating defensive backs with his eyes. Either way, the physical tools are definitely present and he can develop into a Baker Mayfield-type player who can get a good team for the playoffs.
I would not mind taking any of those quarterback prospects in the second round because the Falcons are not coupling their wagons to them. If he does not knock out, it is not the worst thing in the world to invest in another round. I love the idea of taking a flyer on a view that could potentially grow under Arthur Smith and behind Marcus Mariota.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein / Icon Sportswire
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