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Why Terry Fontenot, Arthur Smith are holding info close heading into uncertain 2023 NFL Draft

Falcons GM, head coach trust research, homework while trying to achieve desired outcome

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot started the Falcons pre-NFL Draft press conference with an opening statement thanking those involved with an arduous, detailed and time-consuming process of evaluating prospects, finishing it with this simple statement.

"We're excited, appreciative, and ready to go make this team better."


That's the objective heading into this week's three-day NFL Draft, where the Falcons have seven selections including the No. 8 overall pick.

They could use them to trade up or down or all around the draft order. Or they could stand pat and make selections as scheduled. Either way, the Falcons are looking for someone they deem a true impact player.

That's about as specific as Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith were going to get during a league-mandated availability just days before initial picks get made Thursday night.

The NFL Draft is three things: A nationwide sporting obsession, covered like crazy from all angles and completely shrouded in secrecy. In a situation where information is everything, why hand someone any competitive edge? The Falcons weren't going to do that Tuesday afternoon speaking before a camera bank.

"We never want anyone to be able to read this transcript," Fontenot said, "and get any kind of tip on what we're going to do."

There will certainly be some tea leaves read by some extracting insight from Tuesday's availability, but Smith and Fontenot didn't give anything away.

They've spoken to teams about possible trades and will continue to do so leading up to the draft. Well, duh. They've mapped out scenarios and contingency plans for each one, with methods to react and pivot to the unexpected. Obviously. "Best player available" is code for "don't reach for need." Yep.

Information will still swirl, from unnamed sources and nuggets mined from pre-draft pressers across the league. This week is the wildest, with so much out there that is so regularly broadcast that it's impossible to ignore.

"You're going to see stuff. If someone says they don't, it's just not true," Fontenot said. "What you have to do is have the right perspective and understand that it's entertainment and it's cool that everyone is so interested. I don't know how many there are, but there are so many mock drafts. … For us, we have to make sure that we block it out even if we see it and trust our that we're making the right decisions for the right reasons and making sure that we're improving this team."

Trust your research. Trust the homework you've done. Do what you believe is right.

And don't get swayed by smoke.

"I heard the other day that you're working hard [this time of year] to get the desired outcome," Fontenot said. "I was just on the phone with a GM I respect a lot – he's a great man – but he could've been selling me a bill of goods because he's trying to get the best desired outcome for his team. We're trying to do the same thing."

Being able to read well and react appropriately is as important as ever, especially high in Thursday's opening round.

"In my opinion, this is the most uncertain that it has been," Fontenot said. "Really, you just don't know what teams are going to do. You try to feel it out and think about what we anticipate, but there's a lot you can't predict, regardless of what's out there.

"We just have to make sure we talk through as many scenarios as we can so we're comfortable and ready to make a move when we need to. We are excited about the fact that, whether we move up or down or stay at 8, we're going to get a really good player."

Take a look as the Atlanta Falcons put in that work for the 2023 season.

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