Why the Falcons should draft a quarterback in Round 1

American Team quarterback Malik Willis of Liberty (7) looks for a receiver during the first half of an NCAA Senior Bowl college football game, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Credit: AP

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American Team quarterback Malik Willis of Liberty (7) looks for a receiver during the first half of an NCAA Senior Bowl college football game, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Credit: AP

The Braves rebuilt and won the World Series. The Hawks rebuilt and drew within two games of the NBA Finals. The Falcons remain reluctant to utter the R-word, but you don’t trade a franchise quarterback for a Round 3 pick if you’re in Super-Bowl-or-bust mode.

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We around here shouldn’t fear the rebuild. If anything, we’ve learned a thing or two about what rebuilding requires. For the Braves, it was pitching. For the Hawks, it was a point guard. For the Falcons, it will be a quarterback. For every NFL team, everything hinges on the quarterback.

Of the Braves’ manic aggregation of young pitching, team president John Hart would trot out the baseball maxim: “It takes 10 to get three.” The only inoculation against failure was volume. The more arms you found, the better your odds.

There’s thought that the Falcons shouldn’t exercise this draft’s eighth overall selection on a quarterback, the belief being that no QB in the class of 2022 is worth such a premium pick. Isn’t this franchise forever in need of a pass rusher? (Yes.) Isn’t Marcus Mariota, imported as a seat-warmer for a down-the-road draftee, in need of a receiver to augment Kyle Pitts? (Yes.) There is, however, one thing to remember about drafting a quarterback: Not everybody takes the right one.

The 2016 draft saw three quarterbacks taken in Round 1 – Jared Goff at No. 1, Carson Wentz at No. 2, Paxton Lynch at No. 26. Goff is on his second NFL club, the Rams having dumped him to make room for Matthew Stafford. Wentz is on his third. Lynch hasn’t thrown an NFL pass since Jan. 31, 2017.

The Browns took Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall in 2018. Last month they traded for Deshaun Watson. The deal cost them six draft picks, in Round 1. Watson then signed a new contract with Cleveland for $230 million.

Not every Round 1 quarterback is a dud. Peyton Manning did OK. Eli Manning did OK. Matt Ryan took the Falcons to a Super Bowl and started every game save three over 14 seasons. Donovan McNabb, taken No. 2 overall in 1999, led the Eagles to four consecutive NFC title games. The quarterbacks who went one pick before and after McNabb – Tim Couch and Akili Smith – played their last NFL games in 2003 and 2002, respectively.

There’s no Joe Burrow in this draft. Is there a Josh Allen? He was the third quarterback taken in 2018, behind Mayfield and Sam Darnold. Allen went No. 7 overall. Patrick Mahomes was the 10th pick in 2017, eight spots behind Mitchell Trubisky. Russell Wilson was a third-rounder in 2012, Dak Prescott a fourth-rounder in 2016. Oh, and the Patriots spent the 199th pick of the 2000 draft on Tom Brady.

The top quarterbacks in this class are believed to be Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis. Neither is a lock for NFL stardom, but what QB is? The Falcons aren’t going anywhere until they find their next franchise quarterback. Nothing says they’re required to wait until Bryce Young is available in 2023. This team needs everything but a tight end and a placekicker, but a team without a real quarterback has one need above all else.

We’ve mentioned some, though not nearly all, of the quarterbacks who didn’t justify their draft stations. Mariota, No. 2 behind Jameis Winston in 2015, is yet another. The 2019 MVP – Lamar Jackson – was taken with the final pick of Round 1 in 2018. A bunch of smart people get this stuff wrong all the time.

Back to volume. Nobody expects the Falcons to be any good anytime soon. If they take a quarterback in this Round 1 and he doesn’t pan out, they can try again next year. Yeah, there’d be salary-cap concerns, but let’s worry about that later. If they take a quarterback in this Round 1 and like what they see, theirs becomes a rebuild on roller skates.

They can do it at No. 8. They can trade down and do it later in Round 1. (Aaron Rodgers was the 24th pick in 2005, the year Alex Smith went No. 1.) They shouldn’t wait much longer, though. In baseball, you can’t have too much pitching. In the NFL, you have nothing without a quarterback. Clock’s ticking.