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Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, J.J. McCarthy? Even through the draft alone, the Falcons have options at quarterback

The top quarterback prospects addressed the media Friday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, including possible names like J.J. McCarthy for the Falcons. 

INDIANAPOLIS — Question marks continue to swirl around the quarterback position for the Atlanta Falcons. Clarity did not come at the NFL Combine. Only even more possibilities.

General manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Raheem Morris made it very clear they are exploring every option out there when it comes to their 2024 quarterback. That includes the draft, trade and free agency. Each outlet has its own branches, too.

When it comes to the draft, the Falcons could move up, down or remain at No. 8 overall for the first round. Whatever they decide, there should be a quarterback available.

"It's a strong draft overall," Fontenot said Tuesday. "The quarterback position is strong, and you have some different types and guys that do it different ways. But it's a really good group, so it's very exciting. We're going to be talking to those guys actually over the next couple of days."

And the media got to Friday.

To start, top quarterback prospects include Caleb Williams (USC), Drake Maye (North Carolina), Jayden Daniels (LSU), Michael Penix Jr. (Washington), Bo Nix (Oregon), J.J. McCarthy (Michigan) and Michael Pratt (Tulane). Each one of those names fits the various situations the Falcons may find themselves in.

Williams is the consensus best pick in this year's group. In order for the Falcons to get him, they'd have to trade up. As it stands right now, the Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders and New England Patriots have the Nos. 1-3 picks in order.

"I don't think I'm not going to be No. 1," Williams said. "I think I've put in all the hard work, all the time, effort, energy into being that. I don't think of a Plan B. That's kind of how I do things in my life. I don't think of a Plan B. I stay on Plan A, and then if things don't work out, find a way to make Plan A work."

In 2023, Williams completed 266 of his 388 passes for 3,633 yards, 30 touchdowns and five interceptions. He was the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, winning in his first season at USC after transferring from Oklahoma following the 2021 season.


Maye or Daniels would be other choices in this scenario, assuming Williams does go No. 1. This route wouldn't require the Falcons moving all the way to the top of the board, but likely still up. Rolling with Maye in this hypothetical since he confirmed he met with the Falcons in Indianapolis, specifically quarterbacks coach T.J. Yates, who is a fellow North Carolina product. Yates can help Maye make the same transition he did back in 2011 after getting drafted by the Houston Texans.

"I think the biggest thing is learning how to prepare like a pro," Maye said. "I obviously haven't figured it out yet. I still had to go to class in between class and meeting times, so I think that'll be a little bit different.

"But also, making plays with my feet. Knowing when to check it down to the running, too. Be patient. I think guys try to drop bait on me and test my patience, so just being able to take the check down and move the chains."

Maye spent his whole collegiate career at North Carolina, capping his run off in 2023 with 3,608 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 269 completions and 425 attempts.


The path of least resistance is to remain at No. 8. Penix, Nix and McCarthy might all be around for the taking there. Multiple national media members, including the NFL’s Daniel Jeremiah in the latest mock draft roundup, have leaned toward McCarthy in this scenario.

"It's not something where I'm going to start being selfish now because I have to sell myself more," McCarthy said. "I'm going to sell myself on how much I care about my teammates. It kind of goes hand in hand with just who I am as a person, being selfless and always caring about the guy next to me more than myself. That's something that's innate. It's never going to change."

McCarthy's stock recently went up in January when he led Michigan to a national championship title. En route to that, McCarthy connected 240 of his 332 passes for 2,991 yards, 22 touchdowns and four interceptions throughout the 2023 season.


The candidate pool gets bigger, but less deep, if the Falcons trade down. Those highlighted are just three of many incoming rookies looking for a place to land come April 25-27, either in Atlanta or elsewhere. And they're arguably the best options depending on how the Falcons proceed.

"I think it's really good for all of us to know that there are options in free agency, there are options via trade and there are options within the draft, whether you move up, move back," Morris said. "There are second-tier options. There are Plan As, there are Plans Bs, there are Plan Cs. Now we just got to go out and execute."

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