It’s not a surprise, but it will mean how the draft shakes out will matter a great deal.
Tuesday’s season-ending Falcons press conference was light on illumination. General manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith are not exactly prone to giving away state secrets, and as Fontenot noted early in the presser, the team has a lot of work ahead to evaluate players and formulate their plan for the offseason with free agency and the draft already alarmingly close. That last part was me editorializing, by the way.
While there was not much that was novel, there was a reiteration of a theme that’s going to be important for the draft now and in the future. A year after scooping up Kyle Pitts in the first round and snagging Richie Grant, Jalen Mayfield and others at spots where you may or may not have expected to see them go, the Falcons are going to continue to to emphasize “best player available” in the draft.
They will probably almost never be your best player available, but that’s another discussion.
Terry Fontenot, Arthur Smith sticking with the practice of taking the best player available in the draft. Fontenot said when you reach, that’s “how you make mistakes.”
— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) January 11, 2022
It’s good to hear that again because the Falcons don’t absolutely have to have, say, a pass rusher at No. 8. I might prefer they do—hell, I do—but the urgency to fill that one position and potentially go for a player the team likes a little less to patch a hole is just not there. That’s both due to the team’s organizational philosophy and their current roster-building reality, as there are virtually no positions where an elite talent would not make a massive difference.
If Fontenot and company believe the best player on the board at No. 8 is a wide receiver far better than the pass rusher you have ranked as, say, the 12th best player in the draft, they’re going to pick that receiver without hesitation. Fontenot has shown he’ll use free agency to plug holes, likely as affordably as possible, to ensure need doesn’t become the animating force behind the team’s draft strategy.
Right now, that’s just an interesting note, and it’s repeating something this front office and coaching staff have already told us about how they want to build their team. It’ll be an important item to keep in mind when the Falcons are actually making those picks, because it will tell us exactly who they think the best players in this class really are.