The Falcons are obviously set for 2012 at starting quarterback. Matt Ryan is signed through 2013, and the team is likely to work on an extension at the end of this season. The main question for the draft is at backup quarterback.
Chris Redman has been the one bright spot to come out of The Bobby Petrino Experience. The former second-rounder had been out of the league after major back surgery, was selling insurance, and had signed on to try his hand at Arena football when the call came from the Falcons. He has been a solid backup. The catch: he turns 35 in July. Time is quickly catching up with him.
John Parker Wilson was a favorite of the coaching staff, who opted to keep the Alabama star #3 in 2009 rather than stick with the former Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley. Quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave thought highly of JPW, and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey raved about him. However, Musgrave is now the OC for the Vikings, while Mularkey is the new head coach of the Jaguars. Our new offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, hasn't even had a chance to see him on the field yet.
That makes him a major question mark. Is he ready to step up to the #2 spot? Preseason last year was a lost cause. He was leading a drive fairly effectively in the first exhibition game, but the backup prospects on the line and in the backfield weren't able to protect him. He suffered a concussion, missed the next two preseason games, and was badly out of sync in the preseason finale. He didn't make the roster, but when Musgrave tried to snatch him from the practice squad, the Falcons responded by promoting him to the roster.
The Falcons could certainly use an extra arm in camp. The question of JPW's readiness is a major factor in determining the priority. If he's ready to step up to #2, then the team could use a late pick on a #3 - or even sign one of several potential candidates as an undrafted free agent. There will be some noteworthy names going undrafted this year.
On the other hand, if there is any doubt at all about his suitability for the backup role, the team needs to think about drafting someone who could step in right away as the #2. That would likely mean one of the earlier picks - perhaps the third rounder - would go towards landing a new quarterback.
My take: the key person in all of this will be Glenn Thomas.
Surprised? Ever even heard of him?
He has been an offensive assistant to Mike Mularkey going back to the 2008 season. He knows the offensive roster. And with Bratkowski following Mularkey down to Jacksonville, Glenn Thomas has been reassigned. He's our new quarterbacks coach. Dirk Koetter won't know himself whether he'll share Mularkey's high opinion of JPW. He'll be depending on the information he gets from Thomas.
If it's up to me, I go after a potential immediate #2 in this draft. We know Redman won't be around much longer, and the question on JPW is whether he's even suitable as a backup, not whether he can take over the offense and win a championship. We need a player who can make things happen if something happens to Deuce.
My favorite QB prospect in this draft class is Russell Wilson. Sure, Andrew Luck and RG3 are better prospects, but they're not available. My take is that Wilson is hands down the best one within our reach.
Something else to keep in mind is that we're now hearing the salary cap is likely to remain close to the current level for several more years. If that proves to be the case, Matt Ryan might prove too expensive to keep beyond 2013. If we land an immediate #2 such as Wilson now, that prospect might be ready to start by 2014 - giving the team options.
But as much as I'd be delighted to have Russell Wilson as the new backup, I suspect it won't happen. (It's not often that our team selects our top choices in the third and later rounds. We're lucky if they select the first rounder we want.) I'll chalk it up as wishful thinking.
We're reportedly scouting B.J. Coleman and Austin Davis as potential targets in the later rounds. So if we don't have a QB by the time the draft reaches round four, keep those names in mind as possibilities for the final day of the draft.