The Atlanta Falcons are in a fascinating spot heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. They own the fourth overall pick in a quarterback-rich edition, but there is absolutely no way they can responsibly draft a signal-caller. There are options available that could make the team better at No. 4, but what Atlanta should be praying for is a chance to trade down.
Matt Ryan is entrenched at quarterback in Atlanta for at least two more seasons. If the franchise were to cut or trade him before the 2021 season, it would have a dead cap hit of $70.9 million. If the Falcons cut or trade him before the 2022 season they face a cap hit of $40.5 million. Neither scenario is tenable, which means they have to focus on improving the roster around Ryan. The franchise made its bed with his contract.
Atlanta's biggest needs in this draft are on the defensive side of the ball. The Falcons need to find an edge rusher and they need to find another cornerback and a safety. Their biggest offensive need comes along the line, as the group ranked 21st in Pro Football Focus' end of season rankings.
Of those needs, the only value pick at No. 4 would be Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, who is undoubtedly worthy of a top 10 pick. No defensive player in this draft is worth a top-five selection. If the Falcons don't opt for Sewell -- and they have already invested resources in Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary at tackle -- the only smart option is to trade down and stockpile assets.
Yes, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts would be a sexy addition to the offense, but from a rational perspective, he's not a need. They already traded second- and fifth-round picks to the Baltimore Ravens for Hayden Hurst and a fourth-rounder in 2020. Investing that much into the tight end position is not a smart way to build a roster.
With Trevor Lawrence expected to go No. 1 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Zach Wilson all but locked in to the New York Jets at No. 2 and the San Francisco 49ers definitely taking a quarterback at No. 3, the Falcons have power. With five first-round-worthy quarterbacks available, someone should be willing to trade up to No. 4 to ensure they don't get left without a signal-caller when draft music stops. That's what the Falcons have to be banking on.
Atlanta has a ton of holes to fill and getting a haul of picks to help fill them will be the best path forward for the organization. Pitts or Sewell would be nice, but rebuilding the defense rapidly would make the team much better in both the short and long term.