With quarterbacks expected to go with each of the first three picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons sit as the first big question of this year's draft process.
New general manager Terry Fontenot has a major decision to make on how he'll build his roster. Does he choose an eventual heir to Matt Ryan at quarterback, assuming that Atlanta won't be in a top-5 position to draft a franchise signal-caller in the coming years? Does he snag a uber-talented player like tight end Kyle Pitts, who could make the offense unstoppable? Does he trade down to a QB-needy team willing to pay heavily?
Each of the options could be perceived as the correct path. The Falcons' choice is a matter of circumstance and preference.
In an interview with the team's website, Fontenot noted that evaluating the rookie QBs -- even ones like Trevor Lawrence, who won't be available when his team drafts -- is part of the process. Seeing them throw in person is vital for Atlanta to evaluate for the present and future and to make their decision with the No. 4 overall pick.
"We want to, as much as we can, get to them, see them in person, and just take advantage of those exposures because it's the most critical position in the NFL," Fontenot said. "We want to stack good quarterbacks. It's a prime time to do it when you have a player like Matt Ryan because when you can get in the right quarterback, you don't have that pressure to play him right away. So it just opens up so many possibilities, and we have to make sure we're evaluating those positions, and we feel good about where we are there."
Ryan continues to play at a high level, and with his contract restructure this offseason, the Falcons are tied to the veteran for the next two years. Is using the first two years of a top-4 pick on an understudy the best use of team resources? Or is now the time to pounce and set the franchise up at the position for the next decade?
A player like Trey Lance could use some seasoning coming out of North Dakota State and might benefit from a year learning from Ryan and could be a logical fit in Arthur Smith's system.
Of course, perhaps Fontenot continues to discuss the positives of picking a QB as a smokescreen in order to entice a quarterback-needy team to trade a boatload to move up to snag one of the top players at the position. The Falcons trading down to amass picks to fill several voids on a team full of needs, especially in the trenches, makes a ton of sense.
It's a difficult choice for Fontenot to make in his first go-around running a team, but one that will directly influence the Falcons' trajectory for years to come.