Atlanta Falcons can’t miss opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft
Although the salary cap continues to climb, it still places an opportunity cost on roster construction and the players that teams choose to pay.
Quarterback is the most important/influential position in football. If there’s an asterisk next to it on your roster, don’t plan on a Lombardi Trophy anytime soon.
There are two general directions teams go about winning as it relates to their quarterback:
A) Pay a “top” QB top dollars, pair with a play caller, and let them do the work
→ Chiefs, Buccaneers, Packers, Cowboys, Vikings
B) Play a QB on a rookie contract, build around them through free agency
→ Eagles, Jaguars, Chargers, Dolphins, Bengals
As you’re probably aware, the vast majority of franchise quarterbacks rarely ever sniff the open market. There will be mid-level talent available at the position this offseason, but is it really the group you want under center with long-term aspirations in mind?
The Atlanta Falcons currently hold the 8th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. They also possess the necessary ingredients under scenario B to justify selecting one of the top quarterbacks through trade or availability.
Atlanta Falcons’ Quarterback Situation
I have an analytical background, so EPA (Expected Points Added) is a staple. In short: EPA is used to derive a quarterbacks share of team-level production. On any given possession, how many points is the offense expected to score, given things like field position, down, and distance?
Marcus Mariota (0.04 EPA per dropback) and rookie Desmond Ridder (-0.05) each put up lackluster seasons. Although the Falcons passed at the league’s lowest rate, and head coach Arthur Smith displayed some head-scratching moments, it’s safe to say that the quarterback position still has an asterisk.
A rookie quarterback could allow the Falcons to focus on defense
Their offensive line and the duo of Kyle Pitts and Drake London as pass catchers are suitable for a new QB. However, the other side of the ball needs a makeover after ranking bottom-three in both run/pass defense.
Atlanta Falcons are near the top of the league in cap space
According to Over The Cap, Atlanta projects to have north of $61 million in effective cap space for 2023, second only to the Bears.
Chicago has holes all over their roster; they’ve been in a structural rebuild since ownership brought in Bill Polian to revamp the front office/coaching staff early last calendar year. The Falcons aren’t down that bad. They have the appropriate pieces in place to aid a rookie quarterback and also find themselves in a very winnable division.
Sure- you could acquire a veteran like Geno Smith, Derek Carr, or Andy Dalton and see improvement right away. However, would they eventually lead you to a conference title, or down a path toward a .500 record and a one-way ticket to NFL purgatory?
If Atlanta cares to build something sustainable with their young pass catchers, there’s little time to waste. The available cap can primarily be allocated towards defense and pass protection, while one of Bryce Young/CJ Stroud/Will Levis should be Plan A in this year’s draft.