How Falcons trade of Matt Ryan could impact Commanders’ draft plans
By Jerry Trotta
Just when you thought the NFL offseason couldn’t get any more exciting, right? The 2022 offseason has seen unprecedented movement at the quarterback position, topping last year’s carousel in a sheer landslide.
The Washington Commanders were obviously big players in this year’s sweepstakes and wound up trading for Carson Wentz. The deal is just a few weeks old but all the activity that has transpired since makes it feel like it happened months ago.
Think about it. Since the trade was reported, Tom Brady unretired to return to the Bucs, Russell Wilson was traded to Denver, Deshaun Watson waived his no-trade clause for Cleveland and Mitchell Trubisky signed with the Steelers.
Because the NFL offseason refuses to give fans a second to catch their breath, the carousel kept chugging along on Monday as free agent Jameis Winston re-signed with the Saints and the Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Colts.
The Ryan trade is one that benefits both the Falcons and Colts, but it could have a potential domino effect on Washington’s draft plans, too.
Could the Matt Ryan trade impact the Commanders’ 2022 draft?
Much like the Seahawks’ trade of Russell Wilson, which saw Seattle jump two picks ahead of the Commanders at No. 9 overall, the Falcons’ decision to move off their longtime franchise QB now positions them to draft a QB in Round 1.
Wouldn’t you know it, Atlanta possess the No. 8 overall pick this year. And for anyone claiming they would have drafted a QB even if they had kept Ryan, they owned the 4th pick last year and drafted a weapon for Ryan in the form of Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with Justin Fields and Mac Jones still on the board.
Right or wrong, if the Falcons kept Ryan they were going to continue building around him. Now, though, general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith have every reason to build for the future.
With the first seven picks likely to feature mostly offensive and defensive linemen, Atlanta could have their pick of QBs at No. 8 overall. Someone like Kenny Pickett springs to mind as a potential fit, and the Falcons, per The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, had Fontenot, Smith and OC Dave Ragone present at Pickett’s pro day.
Also worth noting that Malik Willis is an Atlanta native. Given how much the Liberty product’s stock has soared since the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine, nobody would bat an eyelash if the Falcons drafted him 8th overall.
The Commanders haven’t ruled out drafting a QB this year, but we can’t help but wonder which prospects will be left at No. 11. After all, the Falcons now join a growing list of quarterback-needy teams slated to pick ahead of them, including Seattle (ninth), Carolina (sixth) and Detroit (second).
Something to keep in mind with draft night a little over a month away. As things stand, Washington might be forced into drafting the best player available or a position of need, like linebacker or wide receiver in Round 1.