The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz
As we’ve gotten closer and closer to the beginning of the 2021 NFL Draft, the options in front of the Atlanta Falcons have not really changed at all. The team is still going to be taking their franchise quarterback of the future, the best non-quarterback on their board, or trading down for more picks to try to jump-start a more complete transformation of the roster. Figuring out which avenue they’re going to take is probably fruitless given how few clues they’ve given us, but the chances of us actually learning something concrete increase as the team closes in on having to actually make the pick.
This morning, thanks to Jeff Schultz at The Athletic, we picked up some information that was easy to intuit but harder to say with any confidence: The Falcons are still taking calls for the fourth overall pick and are waiting for a team to blow them away.
The Falcons continue to hold trade talks with teams interested in trading up for the fourth overall pick but have not yet received an offer to their liking, sources tell @TheAthletic. Moving down in the draft would allow the team to accumulate more assets.
— Jeff Schultz (@JeffSchultzATL) April 28, 2021
Obviously, as Schultz would tell you, the Falcons have been taking calls this whole time. One of our first concrete reports of that came back in early April, when Albert Breer reported it, but Schultz, fellow Athletic reporter Tori McElhaney, and other plugged-in local reporters have at least been discussing that possibility since Terry Fontenot got here. The fact that they haven’t closed the door on it tells you they still would be willing to move off their spot if a partner offering a king’s ransom were to show up, but that partner seems unlikely to materialize until teams know what the 49ers are doing with the third overall pick, if ever.
That’s because teams like the Broncos, Vikings, Patriots, and others who have been linked to a move up will want to know their preferred quarterback is still there at No. 4, which is not a given with San Francisco pumping out more smoke than a forest fire in a teakettle.
Taking calls now if you’re serious about entertaining a move down allows Atlanta to have a framework of a deal in place and entertain a sweetened version of it in the frantic minutes before they have to make their selection, but we also know the Falcons are likely to be reluctant to go anywhere for less than multiple first round picks and additional selections, given the caliber of the talent on the board with the fourth selection. If a team doesn’t decide to make the offer Atlanta can’t refuse now or immediately after the 49ers pick, expect Atlanta to happily wind up with a Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Kyle Pitts, Penei Sewell, or perhaps a surprise defender atop their board.
As we’ve discussed before, trading down carries significant benefits and risks alike. Making a move would allow the Falcons to pick up at least a future first round pick if the right offer comes through, if not multiple selections, and if they get lucky and/or pick their trade partner wisely, they could have a top selection in 2022 and possibly 2023. For a team that would readily admit to you that it has significant holes and a need for more high-end talent, that’s nothing to sneeze at. Of course, doing so deprives you of an opportunity to get one of the top players on the board, potentially a game changing tight end, tackle, or franchise quarterback, and you’ll rue it if all the selections you stack up don’t add up to one elite player.
The upshot here is that if you had mentally closed off a trade for the No. 4 pick, you should open that door back up. With less than 48 hours to go until the NFL Draft kicks off, Atlanta could still do just about anything with their top selection.