Atlanta Falcons

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One or The Other?

By: Colin Lacy news services

As the 2024 NFL Draft ran through the first round, many would say that the biggest surprise wasn’t the “who” of the pick, but the “why”.

When the Atlanta Falcons selected quarterback Michael Penix Jr. from Washington with the 8th pick overall in the 2024 Draft, there were skeptics in Atlanta and around the football world as to the “why” for that pick considering the Falcons signed veteran QB Kirk Cousins to a 4-year deal worth $180 million back in March.

At the end of the day, do I think it was the right move? No, I don’t agree with it, but there are much smarter and better equipped folks that made the call.

I do though think that while some see this as possibly the perfect storm, I think it could turn out to be a great long-term move for the Falcons organization. Why? Let’s dive into it.

In other situations, two different quarterbacks has turned into a toxic situation for everyone involved. However, there are a lot of fans that have conceded the fact that Kirk Cousin’s personality could make this work with and take Penix under his wing. That said, it takes both sides to make that dynamic work, and I genuinely believe that is exactly what the Dirty Birds have in play.

Cousin’s personality and demeanor has been well documented in the media and in the Netflix Documentary “Quarterback” that followed Cousins, Marcus Mariota (coincidentally in the 2022 season as a Falcon), and the Chiefs standout Patrick Mahomes.

While it’s the general understanding that Cousins, who is still expected to be the starting QB for the at least foreseeable future, would be one of the best mentors for a (relatively) young player entering the NFL. That being said, both sides of this equation must be on the same page and have a certain demeanor for this to work.

The portion of this equation that I don’t believe gets nearly enough light is the person and the personality of Michael Penix Jr.

Penix really burst onto the scene when he arrived in Washington in December of 2021 after transferring from Indiana. Penix went on to lead the country in passing yards in his initial season in Seattle in 2022, then led the Huskies to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game this past season where he finished as the runner up in the Heisman Trophy voting.

While the left arm is undeniably special, and I think will be an impact the NFL in a big way at some point, Penix is not your typical rookie coming out of college and is much more mature and has had to overcome so much.

Penix began his collegiate career at Indiana and was a member of the Hoosiers for his first four seasons before his final two seasons with Washington. He was part of college football for six seasons because of an injury riddled first three seasons in Bloomington.

The 24-year-old, now Falcon, began in 2018 but suffered a torn ACL after three games and was redshirted.

Expectations were high in 2019 and was named the starter entering the season, but only played six games due to a separate injury to the joint that connects the collar bone and sternum.

The COVID-shortened 2020 season came around after vigorous rehab to be ready to be the Hoosier QB1 again, but at the end of November, Penix again was sidelined with another torn ACL in a game against Maryland.

Now, yes that may raise red flags to Falcon fans with an injury history, but I write that not for the injuries, but the determination to return from the injuries, and still continue to grow as a quarterback into the 8th overall NFL Draft pick.

I’ve had the pleasure (and I truly mean pleasure) to talk with Penix briefly twice. Once in his time at Indiana, and once in the midst of the Washington skyrocketing, and this is an extremely mature rookie in the NFL and has the perfect combination of passion and levelheadedness to make this work in Atlanta for however long he is under the wing of Kirk Cousins.

At the end of the day, again, there are much smarter executives that made these decisions to bring in two quarterbacks to Atlanta. As much as it’s not the move I would have made, I think this could really turn out rosy for the Falcons for a while.

How I believe this plays out is that for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, Penix serves as one of the best second-string players in the NFL. At some point, barring something unforeseen, Penix will be a starting quarterback in the NFL, hopefully for the Falcons and he becomes the starter of the future that it’s believed at this point.

When that happens is unclear, but it provides Penix to be able to acclimate to the NFL and doesn’t have to be thrown into the fire out of the gate AND gets to learn from one of the more cerebral quarterbacks in the league and will turn into a great future in Atlanta.

Rise Up?

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The Atlanta Falcons 2024 preseason kicks off August 6th down in Miami against the Dolphins and the regular season starts on September 8th at home against Pittsburgh.

We know they made a big move in the offseason by signing Kirk Cousins. He was signed in March to a four-year, $180 million contract. That seems like a move to show Atlanta is all in and ready to win now.

Surprisingly, the next month in the NFL Draft they took QB Michael Penix Jr in the first round (8th overall). That caused the entire NFL world to look at them and wonder, what’s going on? This is a move that will not pay off for at least two seasons. It would have made more sense to draft a high caliber pass rusher that can help the team immediately.

Cousins tore his Achilles in Week 8 last season, so that is concerning. Prior to suffering the injury, Cousins had reached a career-high in Pro Football Focus’ adjusted completion percentage. Cousins wasn’t as aggressive with his attempts, but his accuracy remained high when he did throw long: sixth in deep passing rating and 10th in deep yards.

The Falcons are coming off their third consecutive 7-10 season. Arthur Smith was fired and he was replaced by Raheem Morris. Morris was the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams from 2021-23. He was an assistant coach with Atlanta from 2015-20. He was also the head coach for Tampa Bay from 2009-11.

The offensive side of the ball is Atlanta’s strength. They have very solid skill position players with running backs Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts.

The offensive line is tough and physical. Guard Chris Lindstrom was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2022 and 2023. I do want to point out that Cousins did have superior talent in Minnesota and we saw what he did with that.

For London, having consistent QB play could take his game to the next level. He is 6’4, 213 pounds and he is a big, physical receiver. They have been working on timing thus far.

“I pride myself on being able to catch the ball from anybody, so I don’t really look at that,” London said on the final day of the team’s minicamp. “It’s kind of just wherever the ball is thrown, I try to go get it.”

London paused and smiled before adding: “(Cousins) throws it well, though.”

Atlanta ranked 19th in total defense and 21st in sacks. It seems like every season we talk about how they can’t rush the passer. This year will not be any different.

Safety Jessie Bates III was the other Falcon selected to the Pro Bowl in 2023.

The NFC South isn’t the toughest division but New Orleans and Tampa Bay are decent teams.

The first three games of the season are Pittsburgh, at Philadelphia and Kansas City. The only game I think they have a chance to win is against the Steelers.

The next games are New Orleans, Tampa Bay, at Carolina, Seattle, at Tampa Bay, Dallas, at New Orleans and at Denver before the Week 12 bye. The Falcons will have to at least split the games with the Saints and Bucs. Carolina should be an easy win. There aren’t any great teams here so they have a chance to win all of these.

The rest of the games are the LA Chargers, at Minnesota, at Las Vegas, New York Giants, at Washington and Carolina. Honestly, these should all be wins if the main starters are healthy.

I believe the Falcons can win 10 or 11 games.

Southern Expectations

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

Let’s take a look around the NFC South and see what we can expect from these teams after free agency and the NFL Draft.

Atlanta Falcons: On paper we expect them to be the favorite to win the division going into the season.

They did sign Kirk Cousins in the offseason. Quarterback play was the team’s Achilles heel last season. They were 7-10 and finding a solid QB should improve their record by at least two games.

The offense has weapons so we expected them to draft a pass rusher. Instead, they drafted Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the # 8 pick. At best he becomes a starter in two years. Unfortunately, he will not be on the field immediately to help a team that is built to win now.

They did use their next four draft picks on defensive players but they still did not address their glaring need to improve the pass rush. I think Atlanta can win nine or 10 games. If they make it to the playoffs I expect them to lose in the first round.

Carolina Panthers: This team seems to be in permanent rebuild mode.

They had first year head coach Frank Reich last season and he was fired in November after starting 1-10. They finished the season with the worst record in the NFL, 2-15. They traded their 2024 first round pick in the 2023 draft to move up and select QB Bryce Young # 1.

The team was terrible so I can’t put all of the blame on Young. The # 2 pick from 2023, CJ Stroud had a great season. They will always be compared to each other so we do need to see Young get better in his second season.

In free agency they signed: Robert Hunt, Damien Lewis, A’Shawn Robinson, Josey Jewell and Dane Jackson. Hunt and Lewis are guards that will improve the interior offensive line. Robinson is a defensive tackle that has appeared in 110 games, with 74 starts.

In the first round of the draft Carolina selected wide receiver Xavier Legette (South Carolina) # 32. They really need weapons for Young so this was a good pick.

In the second round they selected running back Jonathan Brooks (Texas). He’s a great player but he tore his ACL in November so he will not be available at the beginning of the season.

I think the Panthers have improved slightly and will win five or six games.

New Orleans Saints: In free agency they signed: defensive end Chase Young, wide receiver Stanley Morgan, linebacker Willie Gay, wide receiver Cedrick Wilson, and quarterback Nathan Peterman.

In the first round they selected offensive tackle Taliese Fuaga (Oregon State) # 14. Their second round pick was cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama).

New Orleans was 9-8 last season. I expect them to win eight or nine games in 2024.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: They were 9-8 and won the division in 2023. They beat Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. They exceeded expectations last year.

In free agency they signed safety Jordan Whitehead, cornerback Bryce Hall, guard Ben Bredeson and guard Sua Opeta.

They drafted center Graham Barton (Duke) # 26. In the second round they selected edge rusher Chris Braswell (Alabama).

I expect them to compete for the division title and win nine or ten games.

Grounded Draft?

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The 2024 NFL Draft is over now. Let’s take a look at the Atlanta Falcons.

Draft Picks:

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. (#8)

Clemson DT Ruke Orhorhoro (#35)

Washington OLB Bralen Trice (#74)

Oregon DE Brandon Dorlus (#109)

Notre Dame LB JD Bertrand (#143)

Alabama RB Jase McClellan (#186)

Illinois WR Casey Washington (#187)

Georgia DL Zion Logue (#197)

You may have heard by now that Atlanta drafted Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth pick.

He was outstanding last season at Washington. He led the Huskies to an undefeated season and a National Championship game appearance. He was the NCAA passing yards leader with 4,903 yards, 36 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and he completed 65.4% of his passes.

He won the Maxwell Award (2023), First-team All-American (2023) and AP Comeback Player of the Year (2022).

The biggest problem is that the Falcons signed Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract with $100 million guaranteed. It does not make any sense to draft another quarterback that high with the amount of money they invested in Cousins.

They appear to want to win now so they should have drafted a complementary piece that can help the team now. The biggest need was a pass rusher and Dallas Turner (Alabama) was available.

Penix has an injury history that some teams were nervous about. He tore his ACL in back-to-back seasons when he was at Indiana. I think he’s a great player but he will sit behind Cousins for at least two seasons.

“I love winning, and I’m a team guy,” Penix said during his introductory press conference. “That’s what I’m going to be in the locker room.”

“Kirk is an amazing guy. I actually watched the ‘Quarterback’ series with him. Seeing that he’s a man of faith, just like me, and he’s all about family – I really enjoyed that, to get a feel of what kind of guy he is. I’m super blessed to be in the room with him and to be able to work with him and learn from him and support him as he continues on his career.”

Orhorhoro was a reach in the second round. In his last two years at Clemson he had 16 tackles for loss and 9 sacks.

He’s an interior defensive lineman so he doesn’t add much to the pass rush. He was Third-team All-ACC last season. They should have picked a corner back or defensive end here.

Trice might help in the second level. In 2023 he had 49 total tackles, 11.5 TFL and 7 sacks.

Dorlus played at Oregon all 5 years. He started as a defensive tackle and finally made the switch to defensive end last season. He only had 6.5 TFL and 5 sacks in 2023.

Bertrand is interesting because he had a breakout season in 2021 and statically got worse after that. In 2021 he had 102 total tackles. He had 82 tackles in 2022 and 76 in 2023. He played in every game each season so I’m not sure what the issue is.

McClellan and Washington add depth at the skill positions.

Logue will help stop the run but he’s not a pass rusher. He has 1.5 sacks in his college career, which is five seasons.

Atlanta also needed a corner back and they did not draft one. They will need to address that in the undrafted free agent pool. They still have the same question marks on defense after the draft.

Draft grade: C-

With The 8th Pick The Atlanta Falcons Select…

By: Jeb Watkins news services

And with the 8th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons select.. Michael Penix Jr?

What in the world are the Atlanta falcons thinking?

In all honesty I had forgotten what time the draft was taking place Thursday night, with the falcons being my NFL team, I knew they would play it smart and either take Dallas Turner or trade down to stockpile more picks.

That’s what all the experts, analysts and mock drafts had told me to expect too.

I don’t believe I even saw a click bait post about the falcons taking a quarterback.

Which means even in the wildest dreams of the internet nobodies, no one thought the falcons could fumble the number 8 pick this badly.

They just signed Kirk Cousins to a 4-year deal and are paying him somewhere north of 40 million a year, so barring injury he’s the starter for at least the next two years.

I assume with such a high pick Penix was drafted to be Cousin’s successor and Captain Kirk is going to be 36 years old come August.

He also just had surgery to repair his achilles back in November but even so Penix Jr has been prone to injury since his freshman year of college and will be 28 in 4 years, which isn’t exactly young by NFL standards.

By then the Falcons will likely have to decide whether or not to pick up his 5th year option or let him go.

I wonder how much playing time Penix will get in those 4 years?

I feel a bit of sympathy for Penix. He’s a tough competitor and a hard worker. Let’s not forget he battled back from 2 ACL tears in his right knee in 2018 and 2019. Then 2 more injuries in 2020 and 21 to his non-throwing shoulder.

After all that he still led an underdog Washington Huskies team to a CFP playoff win and national title berth coming up short against a tough Michigan Wolverines team.

He deserves to be a high draft pick, but not by a team who just signed a veteran QB for the next four years and wants him to sit out during his most of his prime years in the league.

I feel like Penix doesn’t have much of a ceiling and that he likely won’t have time to improve much with the falcons before he starts to decline.

I think he needs to be on a team that wants him to start sooner rather than later so he can hopefully develop his game to have some success before father time kicks in and trust me after four injuries in four years it won’t be long.

Anyway, whether the falcons are blowing 28-3 Super Bowl leads, trying to trade for Deshawn Watson just to lose Matt Ryan, hiring an unproven Arthur smith, or drafting Desmond Ridder to be the starting QB, it is safe to say this pick shouldn’t have surprised fans.

It would make way too much sense for the falcons to get an edge rusher who can bolster their team sack numbers and lead their defense, which they desperately need. We are talking about a defense that ranked 21st in sacks and 27th in interceptions last year.

Quarterbacks have all day to throw against the falcons and the sad thing is Atlanta has the secondary personnel to produce more interceptions if they just had someone to consistently put pressure on the quarterback.

The only scenario I can envision where this pick ends up smelling like a rose for Atlanta, is if Cousins goes down in his first year or two and Penix Jr comes in and has success.

That’s not too far-fetched considering Kirk’s age and the talent the Falcons have on the offensive side of the ball.

However, this pick is probably a costly insurance policy and leads to a GM being on a hot seat.


By: Teddy Bishop news services

Matt Ryan, who played quarterback for 15 years in the NFL—14 of them with the Atlanta Falcons—recently retired.

Ryan was drafted out of Boston College in 2008 (third overall pick)—just a year after Falcons All-pro QB Michael Vick was sent to prison on charges of sponsoring dog-fighting.

He endeared himself to Falcons fans immediately by leading the team to the playoffs, while being named 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Overall, the Falcons made the playoffs six times with Ryan at quarterback, a franchise record.

He led Atlanta to the NFC championship game against San Francisco following the 2012 season, but the Falcons blew the lead in that game, losing 28-24.

The most infamous playoff game, however, was Super Bowl LI, following the 2016 season. Atlanta blew a 28-3 halftime time against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, eventually losing 34-28.  (The Underworld Powers-That-Be were already adjusting thermostats in case it froze over.)

The only other quarterback to take the Falcons to the Super Bowl (XXXIII) is Chris Chandler, following the 1998 season. The Falcons lost, 34-19, to future Hall-of-Famer John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

Still, Ryan is the winningest quarterback in Falcons history, leading the Birds to 120 regular-season victories in his 14 seasons in Atlanta.

He also has the highest quarterback rating—94.2—in Atlanta history, completing 5,479 passes out of 8,354 attempts, a 65.6% completion rate.

Ryan threw for over 62,000 yards in his career, including 73 times for over 300 yards, franchise records. He threw 367 touchdown passes as an Atlanta Falcon, also a franchise record. Including the playoffs, Ryan played in 232 Falcon games, also a record for an Atlanta quarterback.

In addition to 2008 Offensive Player of the Year, Ryan was named the NFL Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl four times.

The Falcons made the playoffs the year after Super Bowl LI’s debacle, but have had some rough times since.

Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts following the 2021 season for a third-round pick.

The Colts released Ryan after the 2022 season.

With no offers on the table for 2023, Ryan worked as a broadcaster for CBS, and finally, officially, decided to call it a day.

Ryan signed a one-day contract with Atlanta so that he could retire as a Falcon, and issued a statement thanking Falcons fans for their support. “I’m honored to retire as a Falcon,” he said on social media.  “Through the highs and lows, I always felt your energy and passion.”

Matt and his wife Sarah have been married 13 years and still live in the Atlanta area, where they are very active in community work. They have three children.

Enjoy your retirement, Matt Ryan. You’ve earned it.

The First Options

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here. We are going to look at the Atlanta Falcons and see their biggest needs and who they are going to select.

The Falcons are coming off another 7-10 season and they have the eighth pick in the first round.

Quarterback play was poor so they signed Kirk Cousins to address that.

Now the biggest team needs are edge/pass rusher, corner back, defensive tackle and safety.

They ranked 22nd in sacks last season with 42 sacks. This seems to be a theme every year. Defensive ends Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree each had 6.5 sacks, which tied for the team lead.

The first order of business has to be someone that can get to the quarterback. I think they can go in a few different directions with this.

Linebacker Dallas Turner (Alabama) could be the player they go with. Last season he had 14.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He is 6’4 and 245 pounds so he fits the mold of what a prototypical edge rusher looks like. He was coached by Nick Saban and he was a permanent team captain so he has leadership ability.

Turner was named a consensus All-American, SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and First-team All-SEC in 2023.

Florida State edge/defensive lineman Jared Verse should also be in consideration for this pick. He’s listed as 6’4 and 260 so he also looks the part as a pass rusher. Last season he had 12.5 TFL and 9 sacks. In 2022, he had 17 TFL and 9 sacks. He was very consistent in his two seasons in Tallahassee after transferring from Albany.

He is a two time first-team All-American (2022, 2023) and two time first-team All-ACC (2022, 2023).

I think either one of these players would be a great pick because it addresses a position of need. They both have the potential to consistently get double-digit sacks and greatly improve Atlanta’s pass rush.

A player with the talent to be picked at No. 8 by Atlanta is UCLA defensive end/linebacker Laiatu Latu. In 2023 he had 21.5 TFL, 13 sacks and 2 interceptions. In 2022 he had 12.5 TFL and 10.5 sacks. He’s also 6’5 and 265 pounds.

His problem stems from medical concerns. He was healthy the past two seasons so that should indicate that it is not a major concern. He started his career at Washington and suffered a neck injury in fall practice entering his sophomore year. It was announced that he medically retired at the start of spring practices in 2021.

Latu won the Lombardi Award (2023), Ted Hendricks Award (2023), Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year (2023), Morris Trophy (2023), Unanimous All-American (2023), Polynesian Football Player of the Year (2023) and two time first-team All-Pac-12 (2022, 2023).

The Falcons have the 43rd pick in the second round. They should select a corner back here and I think the best remaining player will be Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama). He’s 5’11, 180 pounds and he’s a physical player.

In his three seasons in Tuscaloosa, he has 93 tackles. He has 23 passes defended and 2 interceptions in his career as well. McKinstry was a First-team All-American (2023) and two time First-team All-SEC (2022, 2023).

New Cousins

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The Atlanta Falcons signed veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The deal is worth up to $180 million with $100 million guaranteed.

I’m not a fan of this move at all. Cousins will turn 36 in August. He also tore his Achilles in late October. It typically takes one year to recover from that so he should miss at least the first few games of the season.

Cousins was a priority after a few free agent QB’s came off the market.

Tampa Bay re-signed quarterback Baker Mayfield to a three-year, $100-million deal and the Steelers agreed to a one-year, $1.21 million deal with nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson.

Also, quarterback Mac Jones was traded by the Patriots to the Jaguars as the league’s official legal-tampering period is set to start at noon on Monday.

Prior to his injury, Cousins was playing well. Through seven weeks, he led the NFL in touchdown passes while ranking second in passing yards and fourth in passer rating.

The Falcons stated that they had a “Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Plan D” when it came to upgrading the quarterback position.

Many experts thought the most obvious move was to trade with Chicago and acquire Justin Fields. Fields is a Georgia native who played at UGA and Ohio State.

Atlanta cannot comment specifically about the quarterbacks on the roster due to the league’s tampering rules.

“But it’s really exciting with the quarterback group that’s out there, that we have the ability to acquire,” Falcons coach Raheem Morris said recently. “That is what our fan base, that’s what makes our front office, what makes our coaches all excited to be able to talk in our (meeting) rooms about those people.”

The Falcons have stated they plan to upgrade the position after Desmond Ridder underperformed last season. He finished with 12 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions and 12 fumbles (including seven lost fumbles) and he was benched twice in favor of Taylor Heinicke.

Morris stated the obvious at the combine.

“If we had better quarterback play last year in Atlanta, I might not be standing here,” said Morris, who was hired to replace Arthur Smith after he was fired.

The Falcons kept a watchful eye on negotiations between the Vikings and Cousins. The Falcons have enough salary cap space to make a worthy offer. The Falcons are currently $41.1 million under the salary cap.

Cousins has been to the Pro Bowl four times. He is known for having decent stats but not producing in prime-time games or the playoffs. He’s been in the NFL since 2012 so I think that is who he truly is as a player. They did upgrade at the position but they will never be real contenders with this move.

The Falcons hired Zac Robinson as their new offensive coordinator. He was the pass game coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the LA Rams (2022-23) before this. This will be his first season as a coordinator so I do not think we truly know what to expect from the offense.

They do have weapons like running back Bijan Robinson, wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts.

Around The South

By: Kenneth Harrison news services

The 2024 NFL Draft is in April so it is coming up soon. Let’s take a look around the NFC South and see who each team will take with their first pick.

Atlanta (7-10): The Falcons have the No. 8 pick. They fired head coach Arthur Smith shortly after losing to the New Orleans Saints in the season finale. Raheem Morris was hired as the new head coach.

They need to obtain a franchise quarterback but they are picking too late to address that. The top three quarterback prospects; Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels should be selected with the first three picks.

Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy might still be on the board so he might be an option. Atlanta still has the option of trading for a veteran free agent quarterback like Russell Wilson or Justin Fields. I believe they will do that, so I think they will select a pass rusher.

Florida State defensive end Jared Verse might prove to be the best pass rusher in the draft. He’s 6’4 and 260 pounds so he has good size.

In his two years in Tallahassee, he had 18 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss. It seems like we talk about how Atlanta cannot get to the quarterback every season, so this would be a great pick.

New Orleans (9-8): They have the No. 14 pick. The Saints finished second in the division and had a winning record. Head coach Dennis Allen is entering his third season and he wants to make the playoffs next season.

Quarterback Derek Carr played well in his first season in the Big Easy and he dramatically reduced his interceptions.

The biggest area that needs to be addressed is the interior defensive line.

Defensive lineman Byron Murphy II (Texas) would be a good pick here. He’s 6’1, 308 lbs. and he has the size to clog up the middle and stop the run.

The interior defensive line might become a strength because he will be paired with 2023 first-round pick Bryan Bresee.

Tampa Bay (9-8): The Bucs have the No. 26 pick. They surprised everyone last season by making the playoffs and beating the reigning NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles 32-9 in the Wild Card round.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield revived his career and played well.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans is expected to be a free agent. The general belief is that he will leave Tampa to go to a contending team. They will need to draft a No. 1 receiver to help fill that void.

Wide receiver Keon Coleman (Florida State) could be his replacement. Like Evans, he’s a big target at 6’4 and 215 pounds. He has not had an amazing season in college so he still needs to develop.

His best season was as a sophomore at Michigan State when he had 58 catches, 798 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Last season at FSU he had 50 catches, 658 yards and 11 TD’s.

Carolina (2-15): The Panthers were awful last season. They traded up to select QB Bryce Young with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft and they traded away their 2024 first round pick.

They will have the first pick of the second round at No. 33.

They need to help Young by surrounding him with weapons. They may select wide receiver Adonai Mitchell (Texas). He spent his first two seasons at Georgia before transferring to Texas in 2023. Last season he had 55 receptions, 845 yards and 11 scores. He’s 6’4 so he is a big target.

Help Needed

By: Colin Lacy news services

Just a couple of days after the 2023 Atlanta Falcons season came to a close in New Orleans, the change at the top was made with Arthur Smith out.

Earlier in the month Arthur Blank announced that Raheem Morris would be the new head ball coach in Atlanta.

As the fresh staff begins to roll into Flowery Branch, the biggest question is “How do the Falcons answer some key questions in the NFL Draft?”

The NFL will flock to Detroit on April 25th through 27th for the 89th annual First Year Player Draft, and the 8th name that will be read by Commissioner Roger Goodell will be the newest Atlanta Falcon.

With the 8th pick in the first round, most Falcon fans are praying for a quarterback. Draft experts however aren’t convinced that there will be that first round QB talent available after the seven previous picks are made. So, what are the QB options available?

Most “experts” believe that former USC quarterback Caleb Williams will be the first signal caller to hear his name on draft night. It’s believed that Williams will be taken off the board by the Bears with the number one pick, or at the very latest, will be reunited with former USC coach Kliff Kingsbury in Washington (hired as Commanders OC) with the second pick.

Seems all but certain that Williams will not be on the board for the 8th selection.

The next couple of QB prospects have at least a possibility (some slight, but still possible) of being on the board when Atlanta is on the clock.

North Carolina Drake Maye was destined to be the unanimous first selection, but a up and down 2023 season with the Tar Heels has seen his stock dip just a touch.

Maye is undoubtably uber talented and looks the part at 6’3” 230 pounds. Maye’s combination of accuracy with the arm and ability to make plays on the ground has shown his proficiency at times to run a high-powered offense.

The third “high first round” option potentially available for the “Dirty Birds” is Jayden Daniels. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner may be the player that had his draft stock soar the most in 2023 leading the LSU Tigers.

To me, Daniels seems to be the most realistic and to me frankly seems to be the best fit with the Falcons organization.

Daniels turned into a “human highlight reel” for the Bayou Bengals throwing 40 touchdowns (rushing for 10 more) and only four interceptions on the year.

The biggest improvement (and one of the largest knocks on Daniels entering 2023) was the deep ball, but Daniels proved all the naysayers wrong launching numerous balls down field with impressive, improved accuracy.

There are a couple other QB options in this draft, that if in desperation could be on the board, but I don’t believe are top 10 picks.

A couple names that will be heard in the first two to three rounds will be JJ McCarthy from Michigan, Michael Penix Jr out of Washington, and Bo Nix from Oregon.

To me the Falcons first round selection turns into one question. Do we think either Williams, Maye or Daniels will be available when we hit the clock?

If the answer is yes, fantastic. I think the Falcons will have to make a trade to move up a couple of spots (maybe as few as two spots to the 6th pick). To me, Jayden Daniels should be the play, and a lot depends on if the Bears take a quarterback with the first pick. If so, Atlanta will have to move up to get the former LSU Fighting Tiger.

What are the other needs? What happens if all -you know what- breaks loose, and the three quarterbacks are gone?

The next biggest need for new Head Coach Raheem Morris is an edge rusher on the defensive front. Dallas Turner from Alabama would be a powerful addition to the Falcons organization and would help erase a question that has been near the top of the Atlanta faithful for a number of years.

Overall, the Falcons have the potential to be an up-and-coming team in the near future and I understand that the draft is a full weekend of multiple rounds and the Falcons have eight picks in the Draft, but Atlanta unequivocally needs a quarterback pronto and the draft would be a huge key in addressing the need!

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