Cover 9@9: Should the Falcons tank for Caleb Williams?
USC quarterback Caleb Williams (13) and head coach Lincoln Riley on the sideline during the Trojans' spring scrimmages at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on April 23, 2022, in Los Angeles. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
He included the Falcons among teams who should consider tanking the 2023 season to get in position to draft USC quarterback Caleb Williams. There were other articles that included tanking for North Carolina’s Drake Maye.
The Cardinals (who have quarterback Kyler Murray), Raiders (Jimmy Garoppolo) and the Vikings (Kirk Cousins) were the other three teams mentioned in the Bleacher Report article.
The notion is preposterous.
The Falcons had chances to tank over the past two seasons, but battled to 7-10 records with less-talented rosters. Coach Arthur Smith knows winning is the name of the game, and letting a losing mentality creep into the locker room would be fatal to any long-term success.
Williams is considered the top quarterback prospect who likely be available in the 2024 draft. Maye also is putting together a fine career for the Tar Heels.
The Bleacher Report writer believes the Falcons fumbled the ball while moving away from long-time signal-caller Matt Ryan. “This year’s Atlanta Falcons will serve as a case study of what or what not to do at the quarterback position,” he wrote.
In the 2021 draft, the Falcons passed on quarterbacks Justin Fields and Mac Jones. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance were taken before the Falcons selected tight end Kyle Pitts fourth overall.
After losing the Deshaun Watson derby to Cleveland in the 2022 offseason, the Falcons traded Ryan to the Colts. They signed Marcus Mariota.
In the 2022 draft, the Falcons passed on Kenny Pickett and took Desmond Ridder in the third round. The Mariota experiment didn’t go well, and Ridder was handed the keys to the car with four games to go last season.
In the 2023 draft, Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson were drafted before the Falcons picked running back Bijan Robinson with the eighth overall pick. Kentucky’s Will Levis was the next quarterback taken, in the second round with the 33rd overall pick.
The Bleacher Report writer apparently doesn’t think that Ridder can get the job done.
“(Falcons GM Terry) Fontenot and Co. can’t operate as if a recent third-round pick is the solution to their problems. If Ridder tears it up during his sophomore campaign, that’s great. But the organization must currently look at the best possible path toward winning championships, which is upgrading at quarterback by any means necessary.”
If things go sideways with Ridder, the Falcons will be back in the quarterback market. They likely will have to do like the Panthers, who traded up to get Young. They would have to mortgage part of the future to trade up for Williams or Maye.
2. Falcons ranked 26th by ESPN: Placing the Falcons at 26th, ESPN writers Mike Clay and Seth Walder have the team ahead of only the Bucs, Titans, Texans, Colts, Rams, and Cardinals.
Their article called the Falcons’ strongest unit their defensive line, where they added several key pieces in the offseason – including DT David Onyemata and DE Calais Campbell.
The weakest unit, according to ESPN, is the QB spot. (Apparently, there are not a lot of Ridder fans out there on the internet.)
“Atlanta is undoubtedly building around its run game, and that was evidenced by its failure to upgrade on 2022 third-round flier Desmond Ridder.”
3. Falcons ranked 26th by PFF: The folks at Pro Football Focus ranked the Falcons, who have had five consecutive losing seasons, as having the 26th best roster in the NFL.
4. 5 position battles for training camp: Working on a story on the five position battles to watch during training camp.
Here’s what’s in the notebook for now:
LG- Matt Hennessy versus Matthew Bergeron
WR2- Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, KhaDarel Hodge and Frank Darby: Someone has to step up opposite of Drake London. It could be Cordarrelle Patterson sliding back to play more wide receiver with the drafting of Robinson.
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.