Are The Atlanta Falcons Now The Favorite To Select Malik Willis?

Falcons GM Terry Fontenot. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Falcons GM Terry Fontenot. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

With Matt Ryan traded to the Colts, are the Atlanta Falcons the new favorite to select Malik Willis in the 2022 NFL Draft?

After a pursuit of Deshaun Watson to upgrade the quarterback position (that ultimately fell apart), it was clear that the Atlanta Falcons were ready to move on from long time starter Matt Ryan. It didn’t take long, as the Indianapolis Colts came calling, trading for Ryan in exchange for a third round pick in 2022, leaving Feleipe Franks as the current quarterback on the roster.

This opens the door for the Falcons to explore other avenues at quarterback for 2022 and beyond. They currently have the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, which is well within range to get a top option in this class. Malik Willis is becoming the consensus top signal-caller in this draft, and he could be available at eight. Does that make Atlanta the favorites?

Are the Atlanta Falcons now the favorites to draft Malik Willis?

The answer should be “not necessarily”. The Falcons have already signed Marcus Mariota to reunite with head coach Arthur Smith, as the two worked together in Tennessee. Mariota gives the Falcons a stopgap option at the position who can thrive with play action and boots where his mobility can be utilized.

Now, obviously Mariota isn’t anything more than a bridge starter at this point, so it leaves the door open for the Falcons to draft a quarterback and potentially let him sit for a year. Malik Willis would be the prime candidate for this, as his upside is better than any in the class. Have Mariota start for 2022 and with the amount of cap space (over $100 million) in 2023, surround Willis in free agency and the 2023 draft. It’s a decent situation to be in, believing you have your franchise guy in the waiting.

But, on the other hand, this roster is dreadful from top to bottom, both on offense and defense. Grady Jarrett, A.J. Terrell, and Kyle Pitts are their cornerstone pieces, but they don’t have much outside of that. They did sign Casey Hayward to help out the secondary, but this team needs more production from receiver, edge rusher, linebacker, safety, and offensive line.

Even if they can make big moves next offseason, this is a team that’s in a major rebuild. Arguing that the Falcons best move throughout the 2022 NFL Draft is to go “best player available” is a fair one to make, and Willis entering a situation with a gutted roster could be troublesome for his development. It isn’t easy to make the decision between “get the quarterback first” or “build foundations, then QB”, especially if they have questions with Willis’ game.

On top of that question, there are two more variables from a 2022 NFL Draft perspective. Is Willis even the top quarterback on the board for the Atlanta Falcons? Could they end up liking Kenny Pickett more or believe in the value of Desmond Ridder on day two? Also, let’s not forget that the Lions, Panthers, and Seahawks could all be in on Willis in the top 10.

So, truthfully, it doesn’t feel like the Atlanta Falcons are the favorite to draft Liberty QB Malik Willis, and maybe aren’t favored to even draft a quarterback early. Best player available feels like the best move, especially to land a top edge rusher, receiver, or offensive lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft. Things could change, but that’s where it feels like they stand right now.