Falcons don’t plan to close any quarterback doors at NFL scouting combine

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams throws a pass during the first half an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams throws a pass during the first half an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

FLOWERY BRANCH – The Falcons don’t plan to close any doors while evaluating the quarterbacks at the NFL scouting combine, which started on Monday with players arriving and will run through March 4 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Addressing the quarterback position is an offseason priority for the Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot has said.

“Excited about the combine,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “It’s going to be a fun draft. You’ve got quarterbacks. You’ve got receivers. You’ve got tackles, offensive tackles. That to me is kind of the highlight that we’re working with here. A lot of depth at those positions.”

The Falcons hold the eighth overall pick in the draft. If they want the top quarterback in the draft, USC’s Caleb Williams, they will have to trade up with the Bears.

The Falcons traded up to get the No. 1 pick of the 2001 draft and selected Michael Vick. Under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons traded up to No. 6 to get Julio Jones in 2011.

Williams is widely considered the best quarterback set to attend the combine. He will be heavily scrutinize as the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, which is set for April 25-27 in Detroit.

“It’s a good quarterback draft,” Jeremiah said. “Caleb to me is a top guy.”

Williams, who listed at 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds in college, is considered a generational talent by some.

“If we’re just looking at pure talent, you can put him up there with really any of the guys we’ve had just in terms of arm strength, athleticism, the creativity that he has and the play-making ability that he has,” Jeremiah said.

However, Williams does have some issues with extending plays unnecessarily.

“Now, he is not as clean or as polished as some guys we have had over the last few years,” Jeremiah said. “… I think there’s still some more growth and some cleaning up to do with Caleb’s game, but talent-wise it’s pretty special.”

Some draft analysts are going as far as comparing Williams to Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“Look, you don’t want to compare somebody to the best player on the planet, but just in terms of how he kind of plays with the creativity and a little flare, and in all the different types of throws he can make in terms of driving the ball, layering the ball, extending plays, all those things, there are some similarities there,” Jeremiah said. “(Mahomes) needed some time to clean some things up and got a chance to sit for a year. Obviously, I don’t think Caleb is going to be afforded the same luxury in that department.”

The team that drafts Williams will need to put a structured plan in place and then allow him to grow.

Like Mahomes at Texas Tech, Williams developed some bad habits playing for a weak USC team.

“Pat’s last year at Texas Tech, they were 128th in scoring defense,” Jeremiah said. “This year USC was 121st. He was constantly chasing points. I thought that led to some of the bad habits that creeped in a little bit this year.”

USC finished 5-4 in the Pac-12 and 8-5 overall last season.

“He lost eight games at USC,” Jeremiah said. “They gave up an average of 43 points in those games. He was 12-0 when they managed to allow less than 34 points. So, it’s tough to play quarterback when you are chasing points like that constantly.”

If the Falcons can’t move up to No. 1 to get Williams, they also would have to trade up to get LSU’s Jayden Daniels or North Carolina’s Drake Maye, the second- and third-rated quarterbacks headed for the combine and the draft.

Daniels, who’s 6-4 and 210 pounds, won the Heisman Trophy last season after passing for 3,812 yards and 40 touchdown passes and rushing for another 1,134 and 10 touchdowns.

Maye, who’s 6-4 and 229 pounds, led the Tar Heels to an 8-4 mark. He passed for 3,608 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 449 yards and nine touchdowns.

If the Falcons don’t trade up and keep the eighth overall pick, Washington’s MIchael Penix Jr., Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Oregon’s Bo Nix are in the next tier of quarterbacks.

However, they are not considered worthy of the eighth overall pick.

“I would probably lean more toward McCarthy,” Jeremiah said. “I just think everything he does in terms of accurately delivering the football and his ability to move around a little bit. I think the way he sees everything and kind of plays under control.”

Penix had some dazzling plays against Texas in the College Football Playoff game, but was battered in the national title game against Michigan.

“The semifinal game was awesome,” Jeremiah said. “He moved around better in the pocket than I had seen him previously, which was good to see. I mean, he threw some seeds in that game. Just back-foot missiles where he just hangs on his back foot, and the ball jumps out of his hand.

“But, I think to me…. (his) deep ball throw is beautiful. He can drive the ball especially to the perimeter. I thought that the thing that showed up in the championship game, number one, they hit the stuffing out of (him).”

The Falcons’ offensive braintrust, which includes new head coach Raheem Morris and his staff, will help in the decision making process.

“We have a lot of really smart people in the building,” Fontenot said recently to NFL Reports. “We’re going to spend a lot of time together and make sure that we attack it the right way. We are not going to close any doors.”

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