ATLANTA - The Atlanta Falcons haven't made a top-5 draft pick since 2008.
And Falcons fans, do you remember who that No. 3 overall pick was?
Yep, quarterback Matt Ryan.
This 2021 NFL Draft class has plenty of quarterback talent, and with the fourth overall selection, the Falcons are poised to make a pick that can change the direction of the franchise — whatever position they target. New Falcons GM Terry Fontenot has said he is of the "best available" philosophy, and with the No. 4 overall pick, the talent level of a best-available prospect is very high.
So let's dive in to some first-round picks from the latest mock drafts floating around the Internet.
(Note: This article was updated on March 31.)
- Dane Brugler of The Athletic: Oregon OT Penei Sewell — "The Falcons are certainly a wild card with this pick. With a new head coach and general manager, they have a chance to draft a young quarterback to groom behind Matt Ryan. Or they can go the "best available" route and upgrade the current roster while still competing. The Falcons heavily scouted the offensive tackles in last year’s class and will likely do the same this year. Whether they plan to move Jake Matthews inside to guard or have Sewell start inside, Atlanta’s offensive line would be immediately better with this addition." (Note: Brugler sent Justin Fields to the Falcons in a previous mock draft.)
- Trevor Sikkema of The Draft Network: Florida TE Kyle Pitts — "Fun fact: over the past two years, no team in the NFL has run more heavy (multi-tight end) packages on offense than the Tennessee Titans, an offense that was orchestrated by Arthur Smith, who is now the head coach of the Falcons. Now, does Derrick Henry being there have a lot to do with that? Of course. But for where the NFL is trending right now with a heavy emphasis on play-action, the more versatile you can be when using multiple tight ends, the more of a mismatch nightmare you can be against defenses. I don’t think Smith is going to draft a farm system quarterback with the No. 4 overall pick in his first draft. I believe he’s going to make Matt Ryan one of the best QBs in the league over the next few seasons, and I think adding Pitts gives him the ultimate offensive chess piece to do just that."
- Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network: Florida TE Kyle Pitts — "The Falcons are a team that could feasibly move out of this spot and they're also a team that could potentially move for a replacement quarterback for Matt Ryan in Justin Fields. But for as tempting as it is to give Atlanta Fields here, Ryan seems to be entrenched for a while longer after a restructure to manufacture cap space. With Julio Jones on his last legs and a potential future cap casualty, Atlanta moves for the most dynamic pass-catcher in the class in Kyle Pitts. Between Jones, Pitts, and Calvin Ridley, good luck covering this trio in 2021." (Note: Crabbs sent Justin Fields to the Falcons in a previous mock draft.)
- Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus: Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II (at No. 12, via predicted trade with 49ers) — "Here we have a mini-run on the cornerback position, as Atlanta simply has to get better there if they’re going to compete with the Bucs in the NFC South. Because of that, they take a page out of Tampa Bay's playbook and go secondary for the second straight year in Round 1."
- Joe Marino of The Draft Network: Georgia EDGE Azeez Ojulari (at No. 12, via predicted trade with 49ers) — "Talk about a dream scenario, Atlanta trades down the board and picks up a host of meaningful draft capital and still comes away with a premier talent like Ojulari at a premium position that is of significant need for the Falcons. Ojulari is a dynamic threat off the edge that has terrific burst, bend, length, and a motor that is always cranked. He should thrive in Dean Pees’ defense."
- Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus: Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle (at No. 15, via predicted trade with the Patriots) — "Waddle is arguably a better receiver prospect than Henry Ruggs III was coming out of Alabama in 2020. An explosive, dynamic athlete, Waddle ranks inside the top five in yards per route run (3.64) and yards after the catch per reception (11.5) over the past two seasons. Adding him to play inside and split outside reps with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley would give Matt Ryan every reason to lead a top-flight offense in 2021.
- Chad Reuter of NFL Media: Florida TE Kyle Pitts — "The Falcons might be in the quarterback market. However, if they're waiting to find a replacement for Matt Ryan until at least next year, then picking the top pass catcher in the draft makes sense. Pitts is a unicorn who will create mismatches inside and outside for the Falcons."
- Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports: Oregon OL Penei Sewell — "The Falcons could go quarterback or tight end but instead they take the conservative route and grab the best offensive lineman in the class, which means this remains Matt Ryan's team for at least another year."
- Bucky Brooks of NFL.com: BYU QB Zach Wilson — "Matt Ryan 's presence allows the Falcons to add a young quarterback without the pressure of putting him on the field in Year 1."
- Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com: Ohio State QB Justin Fields — "I have Trey Lance ranked ahead of Fields in my top 50, but Fields' athleticism could lead Atlanta to pursue a homecoming for the Georgia native."
- Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports: Louisiana State WR Ja'Marr Chase — "The Falcons new head coach Arthur Smith sees a lot of A.J. Brown in Chase's game, and picks him in hopes of a quick turnaround near the end of Matt Ryan's career." (Note: Trapasso sent Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II to the Falcons in a previous mock draft.)
- James Dator of SB Nation: Ohio State QB Justin Fields — "The Falcons have a lot of needs, especially in the secondary, but it’s important to realize all those comically blown leads also means this team is close as constructed. I don’t think Atlanta is really as bad as their record showed, so the smart move is to solidify the future. Regime change is on the Falcons’ minds, but it doesn’t need to be immediate. Justin Fields could sit behind Matt Ryan for a year, get used to the NFL and get the development he needs to be ready to take over. It’s a great scenario for everyone involved, and getting a QB of this caliber without needing to trade is too good to pass up."
- Matt Miller of TheDraftScout.com: Ohio State QB Justin Fields — "My last mock draft had the Falcons taking tight end/offensive weapon Kyle Pitts (Florida) here and I do believe that’s still in play for them, but there is considerable buzz around the league this week that quarterback is enticing to the Falcons." (Note: Miller sent Florida TE Kyle Pitts to the Falcons in a previous mock draft.)
- Vinnie Iyer of SportingNews.com: Louisiana State WR Ja'Marr Chase — "The Falcons are good candidates to trade down for some defensive help at cornerback or edge rusher, and they could still think about stashing a QB behind Matt Ryan, but that chance would be lesser with Lance gone. Staying put, going for the best player available would be awesome for Ryan, as they can slot in Chase in between Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in Arthur Smith's offense. Chase posted 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 TDs during the national championship season and can join former teammate Justin Jefferson in lighting up the NFL as a versatile playmaker."
- Ian Wharton of Complex Sports: Florida TE Kyle Pitts — "Everyone wants to give the Falcons a quarterback but their offseason hasn’t allowed the luxury of taking a player who will contribute in two years. Atlanta has added exclusively depth guys in free agency due to cap limitations. This roster has to get an impactful starter in Round 1 to hope their 2021 will be different than 2020. The best overall talent is Pitts. The versatile pass-catcher can be whatever Atlanta needs him to be, and can be the future of the franchise with Calvin Ridley as Julio Jones ages. A playmaker corps of Jones, Ridley, Pitts, Hayden Hurts, and running back Mike Davis is a fantastic group for Matt Ryan." (Note: Wharton sent Penn State LB/EDGE Micah Parsons to the Falcons in a previous mock draft.)
Check back for more on this developing story.