By: Lucas Kochevar
Ten days until the NFL Draft and I am back here for a catch-up article to look back and reflect on the news stories from around the NFL. Here's a quick news dump here on a Monday afternoon.
Sam Darnold Traded to Carolina
The Jets and Panthers struck a deal to send the former third overall pick to Carolina in exchange for a sixth rounder this year, a second rounder next year, and a fourth rounder next year. The mutual separation between the Jets and Sam Darnold seemed inevitable for the past couple of weeks, especially as BYU QB Zach Wilson solidified his status as QB2 in this draft. There were reservations about Wilson from the Jets side until his pro day. They finally made their decision about the QB position and sent Darnold on his way South. The Jets are a whole rebuild away and have a brand new HC. They have a ton of draft capital and cap space. They have a ways to go, but GM Joe Douglas looks to be on the right path with the Jets.
The Panthers, on the other hand, are in a weird spot. They seemingly want to win now, but have the roster of a .500 team, if not worse. The owner has been very loud and proud about wanting to find the franchise's marquee QB, despite paying Teddy Bridgewater a three-year deal last offseason. Sam Darnold is a fine QB and could find his footing with the Panthers and up-and-coming OC Joe Brady, but this doesn't make a ton of sense for a team that could easily trade up in this years draft or sit where they are and take one of these top QBs. There's an argument that the Jets are more to blame for Darnold's lack of growth, but in the end, he was still the QB making horrid decisions on the field. This play seems like a unnecessary risk and if it fails, then you essentially wasted a year of everyone's time. If he shows improvement, then you have to make a big choice on his contract for an extension. As seen with the Eagles, you do not want to pay a QB if you are not 1000% sold on him. If I were the Panthers GM, I would still look to add a top QB, but that seems very unlikely at this point. Look for the Panthers to either draft one of the top OTs or possibly trade back themselves.
The Falcons and the 4th Pick
The Atlanta Falcons hold the fourth overall pick and they have the most intriguing status of any team near the top of the draft. The Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers seem locked into a QB. The 49ers pick is still sort of a mystery, but it's going to be a QB no matter what, the question is, which one? Back to Atlanta, GM Terry Fontenot and HC Arthur Smith have been very deliberate in attending and sending their guys to each and every pro day from the top QBs. They have done their homework on Florida standout Kyle Pitts and have been reported as 'being open to moving out of the 4th pick' per Adam Schefter. They are playing out every possible scenario, as they should. Smith seems to be happy with the idea of working with Ryan, meanwhile, Fontenot seems to be looking ahead to the future for QB. These both make sense as Smith is the coach and his job is to win now, where Fontenot is likely to build for the future. I have played this scenario daily in my head for the past month or two since Smith and Fontenot were hired. There are three plays the Falcons can do here. Draft the QB of the future to sit behind Ryan, draft the best player available, or trade out and accumulate assets for the future.
I love Trey Lance and he would be my favorite QB for the Falcons and the scheme they run. Lance comes from NDSU and ran a ton of play-action, which is an Arthur Smith staple. He still has work ahead of him with his form and anticipation. Sitting behind Ryan can do wonders for him. Justin Fields is about the same when it comes to what he needs to work on. He didn't run the same offense so he could benefit from sitting for that reason. Kyle Pitts is a freak at TE. He's one of the special players in this draft. Smith used multiple TE sets the most out of any team in the league last season. Adding Pitts to a receiving core of Julio, Ridley, Gage, and Hurst could make for an explosive passing attack. Lance and Pitts are my two favorite players in this draft that Atlanta could draft, however, I understand that the best and most beneficial move for the Falcons would be to trade down. Atlanta could trade down to 9th or 15th and take the best defensive player. Patrick Surtain II would be an ideal pick at 9 as he is the best CB in this draft with his physicality and instincts. The Falcons have a massive franchise changing decision to make on April 29th.