Insider reveals Falcons' pre-draft ranking of Michael Penix Jr.
Michael Penix Jr. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Insider reveals how high Falcons had Michael Penix Jr. on their draft board

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler revealed on Tuesday details surrounding the Atlanta Falcons' stunning selection of quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in April's NFL Draft.

The Falcons had arguably the most shocking move of the event, taking Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick despite signing four-time Pro Bowler Kirk Cousins in March to be their starting signal-caller.

"Word began to spread in NFL circles on the Saturday before the draft that the Falcons loved Penix, to the extent that he ranked as high as their No. 2 overall quarterback in the draft. On April 5, Falcons brass flew from Atlanta to Seattle to watch Penix throw for a few hours in a private setting, then turned around and flew home. That tells a lot," Fowler wrote. "Owner Arthur Blank looms large here. I'm told he fully endorsed long-term stability at the position, which Kirk Cousins, at age 35, cannot satisfy to the same degree. Blank had two quarterbacks — Michael Vick and Matt Ryan — controlling his offense for the better part of two decades. Blank is not used to the QB carousel."

With Penix Jr. reportedly the No. 2 quarterback on Atlanta's draft board, the top-ranked option would've presumably been Caleb Williams, who was selected by the Chicago Bears with the first overall pick.

As Fowler mentioned, Blank has gotten used to little quarterback turnover since he took over as the Falcons' principal owner in 2002.
Vick started 65 of a possible 80 regular seasons games under center in Atlanta from 2002-06, plus four playoff contests. Ryan was selected third overall by the Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft and then started in 222 of a possible 225 regular season tilts through the 2021 campaign.

Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in March 2022, and Marcus Mariota signed with Atlanta later that month. Mariota started the first 13 games of the 2022 season for the Falcons before then-rookie Desmond Ridder took over for the final four contests.

Ridder was benched and re-inserted as the starter multiple times in 2023, with veteran Taylor Heinicke playing in five games as well.

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