1. The no-spin zone: With only a few more weeks until the NFL draft begins April 29, it’s smoke-screen season.
Don’t fall for the smoke screens.
Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot, in his introductory news conference, told us what the was going to do. He’s going to draft the best player available just like Ozzie Newsome used to do in Baltimore and Ron Wolf used to do in Green Bay.
He’s not taking a developmental quarterback with the fourth overall pick when his 4-12 team needs to fix the offensive line, the secondary, find a pass rush, get a running back and a backup quarterback or two.
Given all of the personnel issues, trading back would make some sense with Denver or New England, but both of teams have realized that they can sit and wait for their quarterbacks. Denver can take North Dakota State’s Trey Lance at nine overall, and Alabama’s Mac Jones will be there at 15 for the Patriots.
So with the fourth overall pick, the Falcons will select Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell. They can figure out where to play him later. He can have an immediate impact and play 65 to 70 plays a game. Drafting Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who only impact only 10 to 15 plays again, would not help the team very much.
Also, the Falcons want to draft a player who they’ll have at least for the next six seasons (five plus a potential franchise-tag season) or they would hope he gets to his second contract and the team is set at a key spot for 10 years.
That player is Sewell because San Francisco didn’t trade all those picks to trade up to three to get a developmental quarterback or a quarterback they could have stayed at 12 to take. Look for Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields to be headed to San Francisco.
We got a chance to chat with Sewell on his virtual media call Monday.
“Trent Williams is my favorite player, right,” Sewell said. “The way his athleticism and power goes hand in hand, it’s very interesting and exciting to watch.”
Sewell wouldn’t mind re-uniting with former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert in Los Angeles, but the Chargers picked 13th overall. If the Falcons don’t select Sewell, he’ll go with the next pick, to the Bengals. There will be no reunion with Herbert.
“I’ve been talking to the Chargers,” Sewell said. “Conversations have been made. To block for Herbert again, I think it’s another vision and dream. It would be fun. I blocked for Herbert throughout this whole time I’ve been here at Oregon, to have that chance again, to share that same field as him again would be a dream come true.”
Sewell and Herbert are represented by the same firm, Athlete’s First.
“Yeah, I’ve talked with Falcons,” Sewell said. “Yeah, it would be honor to go wherever. But definitely, if I went that early, it would eliminate a lot of stress and uncertainty in my mind. Wherever I go, it will be fun.”
Sewell is only 20, but was the best offensive lineman in college football in 2019. He opted out of the 2020 season. He believes he’s mature enough to make the jump to the NFL.
“One word, has been my mentality,” Sewell said when asked to discuss his growth from his high school days. “Going from high school to college, from Utah to Oregon, I just kind of flipped the switch with a whole new mentality of locking in, really taking that next step to be a better player and also be a better person off the field.
“Just kind of again, being mature about it. As young as I am. ... I guess I’ve grown up a little quicker than people my age. My mentality has switched to let become a man.”
Sewell wasn’t too excited about possibly starting his career at guard. The Falcons have an opening at left guard.
“I can prove that I’m a tackle in this league,” Sewell said.
For those who believe that Sewell is not the top tackle in the draft, he had a few words.
“Just go put on the tape,” Sewell said. “Everybody just go ahead and watch what I can do. Nobody can do what I do in this draft in the offensive tackle rooms. I bring something totally different to the table. People know that, but will say whatever they have to say. All I have to say is put on the tape and watch me work.”
Sewell is ready to return to the field.
“The next time I have the opportunity to step in between those lines, I’m going to make the most of it,” Sewell said. “I’m coming with everything that I have, and I’m not coming up short.”
Clear some space in the locker room for Penei Sewell.
Here are the picks for the Mock Draft 4.0 (No trades allowed):
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, (QB, BYU)
3. San Francisco 49ers: Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)
4. Falcons: Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)
6. Miami Dolphins: Kyle Pitts, (TE, Florida)
7. Detroit Lions: DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
8. Carolina Panthers: Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
9. Denver Broncos: Trey Lance(QB, North Dakota State)
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain (CB, Alabama)
11. New York Giants: Micah Parsons, (OLB, Penn State)
12. Philadelphia: Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina)
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater (OT, Northwestern)
29: Green Bay Packers: Asante Samuel (CB, Florida State)
30: Buffalo Bills: Alex Leatherwood (OT, Alabama)
31: Kansas City Chiefs: Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa)
32: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Azeez Ojulari (DE, Georgia)
2. Battling Sewell: Oregon defensive tackle Austin Faoliu on going up against Penei Sewell in practice:
“Man, going against Penei in practice made me a much better player. Just the type of level that he plays at even in practice. He’s always doing the best he can, giving his full effort.”
3. Falcons on voting: Statement on behalf of Arthur M. Blank, Chairman and Owner, Blank Family of Businesses, on Georgia voting rights: “Every voice and every vote matters and should be heard through our democratic process in Georgia. The right to vote is simply sacred. We should be working to make voting easier, not harder for every eligible citizen. To that end, AMBSE leadership, along with our nonprofit partners, conveyed that ideal directly to state officials in recent weeks. Our businesses and family foundation will continue to actively support efforts that advance voting access for the citizens of Georgia and across the nation.”
4. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones on the quarterback class:
“This quarterback class is a really good class. I’m just blessed to be a part of it. Honestly, you can watch on tape and see that we all have great tape. What separates me is preparation and take what I’ve learned from the coaches’ meetings and my own meetings and apply it to the field.”
5.Falcons 2021 draft picks
First round: No. 4 overall
Second round: No. 35 (third pick of the round)
Third round: No. 68 (fourth pick of the round)
Fourth round: No. 108 (third pick of the round)
Fourth round: No. 148 (fourth pick of the round)
Fifth round: No. 179 (fourth pick of the round)
Fifth round: No. 182 (38th pick of the round. Compensatory pick)
Fifth round: No. 183 (39th pick of the round. Compensatory pick)
Sixth round: No. 187 (third pick of the round)
Sixth round: No. 218 (35th pick of the round. Compensatory pick)
Seventh round: No. 232 (fourth pick of the round) Tennessee has this pick from Falcons through Miami in Charles Harris deal.
6. Falcons to return to London. The Falcons were scheduled to play Denver in London last season, but that was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their opponent this year will be non-NFC South foe. They narrows it down to Detroit, New England, the New York Jets, Philadelphia or the Washington Football Team. The game will be played at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium sometime in October.
The Falcons have played in London once, losing to Detroit 22-21 in 2014.
The league schedule is set to come out in May.
7. Cheerleader tryouts. The Falcons will host a blended audition process to make the 2021 cheerleading squad.
Candidates will submit dance videos virtually during the preliminary and semifinal auditions. Final auditions will take place in person and socially distanced.
Leading up to the auditions, a variety of dance and audition prep classes will be offered to the candidates interested in learning about the Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders dance techniques and style.
Virtual dance prep classes will be held April 13 and April 24. Audition prep classes will be held May 11 and June 5.
For more information register here. Follow @ATLCheerleaders on Twitter.
8. Free-agency tracker. The Falcons planned to go value shopping in free agency and have added seven players.
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.