The Atlanta Falcons are coming off a very rough 2020 season. Especially for the fan base, with a record amount of first half leads blown away. We can’t forget how Dallas came back down 20 points to beat the Falcons in Week 2. They became the first team in 20 years to blow back to back 15-point 4th quarter leads.
Despite having a terrible defense, talent has never been the issue for the Falcons. Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Todd Gurley, Dante Fowler, Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett. Don’t tell me there isn’t talent on this roster. However they have only had two winning seasons since 2013. While it hasn’t a complete disaster in Atlanta, things just haven’t been working out.
Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff both got the boot at the end of the season. Since then they have hired Arthur Smith as their new head coach and Terry Fontenot as their new GM. They have literally the “oldest” roster in the NFL, with their average age being 26.9. All signs are pointing to a major rebuild, and with the 4th overall pick this year, now seems like the perfect time.
Julio Jones still one of the league’s best wide receivers and can garner a lot of trade value. Matt Ryan not so much but he should spark a few teams interests. The 49ers, Chicago, Washington, Pittsburgh or even Philadelphia all need a quarterback that can preferably win now.
As stated earlier, the Falcons have plenty of talented pieces that could be flipped for draft picks or younger talent. For my NBA fans, think the Oklahoma City Thunder. They shipped out Westbrook, CP3, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and a few other pieces for 18 first round picks. They completely stripped their roster and capitalized on the value they had before it was too late.
This rebuild is going to be focused around Ohio State quarterback, Justin Fields. I am taking the same blue print that the Cincinnati Bengals took with Joe Burrow. He wasn’t just a great quarterback prospect but he also the perfect match made in heaven for the Bengals. An Ohio born kid, grew up a Bengals fan, and gave a fresh face for the franchise to market around.
Justin Fields is one of the top prospects in this draft class. The best quarterback prospect not named Trevor Lawrence. Fields is from Kennesaw, Georgia which is in the metro Atlanta area. His high school, Harrison High School, was less than an hour from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This is nearly the exact same situation Cincinnati was put in last year, and provided tons of bright spots to focus their future around.
I would first work on trading Julio Jones away to the highest bidder. Moving on from him as soon as possible isn’t just good for him, but can allow Atlanta to find a free agent to retain depth at the position. Jones has suffered long enough with the Falcons, and deserve to compete for a title again. Calvin Ridley has done more than enough to prove to the Atlanta Falcons that he is a No. 1 option. You could also get possibly two, but at least one first round pick back in return for Jones. You can also find cheap options like David Moore, Rashard Higgins, and Curtis Samuel just to name a few.
Deion Jones and Grady Jarrett would also both be pieces to trade away. This defensive unit has under performed tremendously and definitely needs to be blown up. Grady Jarrett is only under contract for one more season so it would be wise to take what you can get before he walks away. The toughest person to currently trade on their roster would be Matt Ryan. His contract isn’t the easiest thing to promote, but trading him isn’t a top priority. I don’t think it would be a terrible idea to let Matt Ryan remain the starter for six to eight games in 2021 while Fields gets his feet wet.
Assuming you are able to get more draft picks before Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft, and you take Justin Fields 4th overall, I think you now address the defense. Paddy Fisher, Jaelan Phillips or Patrick Jones would all be great targets in round 2. Addressing the offensive line, and adding to an already young group would be my next step. Deonte Brown, Cade Mays, Alaric Jackson are all names that might fall towards the lower ends of round 2 or even into round 3.
The Falcons 2021 NFL Draft could look something like this. Justin Fields, Jaelan Phillips, Paddy Fisher, Lorenzo Neal, Jack Anderson, Israel Mukuamu and Ronnie Bell. They could add tons of talent to prety much every level of their roster, and find a player that could make an impact their rookie season. Overall I believe this blueprint would fare very well for them, and provide a spark for the fan base.