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McElhaney: Why the Falcons should not draft a quarterback at No. 8

It may not be the most exciting solution, but could it be more important for the long-term health of the organization to wait to find a solution at quarterback? 

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (11) throws the ball at the NFL football scouting combine, Thursday, March 3, 2022 in Indianapolis. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)
Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (11) throws the ball at the NFL football scouting combine, Thursday, March 3, 2022 in Indianapolis. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)

I am not ready to pull the trigger to take a quarterback at No. 8. I wasn't two months ago and with two weeks to go until the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft, I'm still not. 

Do I think quarterback is a significant need for this organization? Yes. Absolutely. Do I think it's as significant of a need to find a long-term solution in two weeks? No. No I don't. 


If you read my recent ranking of the Falcons greatest positional needs ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft, you saw I did put quarterback on the list, but it barely broke the top-5 needs I feel like this roster has. To explain why I feel this way, and the subsequent patience I feel that the organization can work with, I have broken down my thinking into two schools of thought. 

The first thought is relatively simple: I am not sold on the speculative long-term success in the league of this batch of draftable quarterbacks. I am not in love with any of these quarterbacks. I'm just not. 

I hope they all prove me wrong and go on to have long, prosperous careers in the league. I do. However, I worry about Kenny Pickett's ball security, Malik Willis' spur-of-the-moment decision-making, Desmond Ridder's timing and Matt Corral's durability. For me, those worries keep me from taking any of them at No. 8. And that's really what we're talking about here, right? Should the Falcons take a quarterback with the No. 8 overall pick? I would have to say no.

I would say no for another reason, too, and it has so much to do with something Terry Fontenot has said time and time again: That the Falcons won't reach for a quarterback. I am under the belief that if they did take a quarterback at No. 8 that it would be a reach, ultimately going against everything this leadership has previously said they would not do. 

I think the Falcons have a chance to be patient in their quarterback decision, which I realize is not a fan-approved way of thinking, but I am thinking about this decision through the lens of the long-term health of a franchise. I want the Falcons to be 110 percent confident in this decision when they make it.

In another year's time, Atlanta's cap space accumulates in a way we haven't seen it do for this organization in years. The Falcons are projected to have over $100 million in cap savings in 2023. This puts them in the position to be true movers and shakers in the free agency and trade markets. 

If the Falcons want to draft Matt Ryan's successor, I believe next year's draft class has the showstoppers. I also believe the Falcons will be in a position to draft the guy they want to, whether that be with a top-5 draft pick or trading up to grab him. Regardless, I like next year's quarterbacks more than this year's. There's a risk in waiting, obviously. No one knows what another year will change about these prospects. It's a risk I am OK with taking, though, because I do not think it's entirely necessarily to look at a young quarterback as the savior of a franchise. 

I say this because I am not writing off the possibility of the Falcons putting together a blockbuster trade offer to get the exact veteran quarterback they want into Atlanta if they so choose. They'll have the assets and the funds to do so in 2023. This is the way the league has trended for a while now, with veteran quarterbacks making significant moves every offseason of the last five years. The Falcons would be in the position to make a team (and player) a significant offer to get who they want. 

Why waste these two options reaching for a quarterback right now in this draft? Because that's what I think the Falcons would be doing: Reaching. 

Just get through 2022. It may not be the best, most exciting season ever but it sets you up to have the opportunity to build exactly what you want for 2023 and beyond.


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