I’ll be trying to evaluate position-by-position which traits and skills that the Falcons will likely look for in prospects in this year’s upcoming draft.
Kicking things off will be quarterback. Now quarterback isn’t a need for the Falcons at this point in time. They currently have four players on the roster, and since Jon Gruden is not our coach, then the Falcons won’t carry anymore than that number into camp. But one of those players is a free agent: Chris Redman. And there stands at least a decent if not good chance that Redman could leave this off-season. After Chad Pennington and Marc Bulger (if the Rams cut him), he’s arguably the third best veteran passer available this off-season that teams won’t have to give up draft picks to get.
So the Falcons will only need a quarterback if they lose Redman. And more than likely that would be a veteran player, but just for the sake of this exercise, let’s imagine that the Falcons want a young passer that they can develop long-term as a backup rather than a vet that would have to be replaced from year to year.
If that were the case, the Falcons would most likely target prospects with the following traits:
1. Intelligence – If the Falcons lose Redman, they will want a rookie passer that is capable of coming in right away and pushing both John Parker Wilson and D.J. Shockley for the No. 2 job. He’ll have to be smart, and more than likely have played in a pro-style offense in college, so that there will be as minimal learning curve as possible as he transitions right away.
2. Accuracy – Scouts often say that accuracy is the most important trait and more so than arm strength, but from judging some draft-day decisions, it’s doubtful many truly believe it. But that seems to be changing. And accuracy and anticipation are critical parts of an NFL quarterback’s arsenal.
3. Arm Strength – Arm strength is often overrated, but it’s important. Guys need to have a certain level of it to be able to compete at a consistent level in this league. And one could make the case that having a backup with it is fairly important for the Falcons. Matt Ryan tended to shy away from the deep ball last year. When Redman played, he was more willing to go down the field, and it would be nice to retain that trait in a backup just in case Ryan never truly masters that aspect of the game.
4. Mobility – Mobility is often confused with the ability to make plays with your legs. It’s really more about moving in and outside the pocket to avoid the rush, and being able to extend plays. This was a weakness of Redman. The Falcons love using Matt Ryan on the naked bootleg. It would be good that in the event of a backup being on the field, that play won’t be eliminated from the playbook. So the guy should be mobile enough to be effective on the bootleg.
Well if a player does possess all of these traits, he’ll likely be a high pick at quarterback since these are the core traits that any team would look for in a passer. Intelligence/lack of a learning curve is probably the most important aspect that the Falcons should target. So that scraps every guy that played in a spread offense in college. And since the Falcons won’t be using a high pick on a guy, that probably also scraps anybody that people project to be an early round pick.
Oregon State’s Sean Canfield is pretty smart, but doesn’t necessarily grade as high when it comes to the physical tools, particularly arm strength and mobility. He’s expected to be a mid-round pick that if he fell into the sixth or seventh round would be a solid value.
Jonathan Crompton of Tennessee has the physical tools you like, but probably is lacking in the intelligence department to be a good fit. The same can definitely be said about Ole Miss’s Jevan Snead.
Bill Stull (Pittsburgh), Rusty Smith (Florida Atlantic), Thaddeus Lewis (Duke), and Daryll Clark (Penn State) ran offenses that are pro-style, but all are borderline draft prospects that more than likely will go undrafted. None offer apparently anything better than Wilson or Shockley.
If the Falcons do lose Redman this off-season, they likely aren’t going to find his replacement in the draft. They may decide to give Wilson or Shockley a chance, and then try to add one of the above players as an undrafted free agent. Sean Canfield is probably the best fit, but not necessarily a good fit.