As the NFL Draft nears closer, the questions surrounding what the Falcons will do with the No. 4 pick appears to be at an all-time high. ESPN analyst Mina Kimes joined AtlantaFalcons.com reporter Kelsey Conway to discuss her thoughts on what Atlanta could potentially do with the pick, why she's been such a vocal supporter of Matt Ryan and why she believes Arthur Smith was the right hire as head coach.
Question: Who do you think the Falcons will select with the No. 4 overall pick?
Mina Kimes: I'm going to be honest with you, I have absolutely no idea. That's why I think it's the most interesting pick in the draft. Every mock you look at seems to have a different answer. There's some question about whether or not Atlanta might draft a quarterback there even though you still have Matt Ryan who recently restructured his contract. Then there's speculation that there's going to be offensive talent so tantalizing, Kyle Pitts, Ja'Marr Chase, that the Falcons won't be able to pass up. Then there's a third option, something that I've been suggesting or projecting Atlanta to do for a while now and that is trade down with another team that would want the remaining quarterback. It really is wide open after San Francisco made that move to No. 3 which everyone assumes, I think correctly, is going to be a quarterback. Then, there's the question of if Atlanta likes the remaining quarterbacks. If I was the Falcons, I would probably trade down. I also think every other decision I just laid out is totally defensible and that's what makes it so fascinating.
Q: How do you balance taking the best player available versus a chance to secure your quarterback of the future?
Kimes: The prospect of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Hayden Hurst and Kyle Pitts on the field at the same time is absolutely terrifying. As far as needs versus best player available goes, just last year, Kansas City ended up taking a running back. But it was reported, I'm not breaking news here, that they were interested in Henry Ruggs, the speedy wide receiver out of Alabama. That sounds crazy because they already have an insane group of wide receivers. I think given what we've seen in the NFL with the explosion in offense, sometimes doubling down on what you're good at it actually is the right approach. I would not fault Atlanta one bit if they took Kyle Pitts there and anyone who has seen Kyle Pitts highlights would understand why.
Q: Who would you pick between Justin Fields and Trey Lance if that's who it comes down to?
Kimes: I would take Justin Fields; I've actually said he would be my choice at No. 2, frankly. I think he's an incredible talent, incredible accuracy, athleticism of course. He's played the toughest slate of defenses of any of the prospects. Given what we've seen from Arthur Smith in Tennessee where he coordinated an incredibly successful offense with a mobile quarterback that was very heavy play-action, heavy run game, I think Justin Fields would be a tremendous fit. But frankly so would Lance. In some ways Lance makes a lot of sense because Matt Ryan is going to be Atlanta's starter this year so if they were to draft a quarterback, you're drafting him knowing he's going to sit for a year, and I think Lance probably does need that given he's coming from a pretty small school program and doesn't have a lot of reps. I have to think his physical tools, the arm, the touch, the decision making have to be very tantalizing to Arthur (Smith) and Terry (Fontenot) as well. It's a nice problem to have, I'll just say that. I think both of those two quarterbacks would be be phenomenal in Atlanta.
Q: You've long been a vocal supporter of Matt Ryan, when did that begin?
Kimes: I think after the MVP season, it just kind of felt like to me, Matt Ryan was really underrated. Consistently, I saw him as top-10 quarterback, but he seemed to be left out of those conversations and there were at times issues with the Atlanta offense, injuries, play-calling that I felt like led to Ryan not getting the credit he deserved or perhaps being blamed unfairly at times. I think he's a tremendous quarterback. It was less about my love for his game and more about the fact that I felt he wasn't be appreciated nationally for what he was doing quietly in Atlanta on some teams after the Super Bowl that maybe weren't so successful largely because of the defense.
Q: What are your thoughts on Arthur Smith being hired as head coach in Atlanta?
Kimes: I think it's a tremendous hire because we saw the success he had in Tennessee and really the transformation, we talk a lot about Ryan Tannehill turning his career around there, but a lot of hat has to do with what Smith did with the Titans. The offense was not only incredibly efficient in the red zone. If Arthur Smith can get Julio going in the red zone, that will be quite an achievement as Julio dynasty manager, myself. One of the great mysteries of football, by the way, is his lack of touchdowns. But anyways, you have to be excited about watching that offense not only because of how efficient it was, but also how innovative, creative, his use of pre-snap motion, the way he was able to manufacture space to get his really nice playmakers in Tennessee and get them in advantageous situations to really exploit some of the mismatches he was able to find for Jonnu Smith and AJ Brown. He can absolutely do that in Atlanta. It's going to look different because Matt Ryan is a very different quarterback from Ryan Tannehill and the set of playmakers he has different. There's no Derrick Henry, the run game will not be the focus in the same way, but I'm really excited to see what he does because Atlanta the offense has a very high ceiling and if there's anyone who can achieve of this new crop, it would be Arthur Smith.