Why Todd McShay Believes Falcons Made the Right Move Drafting Michael Penix Jr.

The NFL analyst defended Atlanta's stunning move in the first round.
Atlanta Falcons first-round draft pick quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was introduced to the media on Friday.
Atlanta Falcons first-round draft pick quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was introduced to the media on Friday. / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Falcons pulled off the most shocking move of the 2024 NFL draft's first round Thursday by selecting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the No. 8 pick.

The Falcons, of course, handed veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins a four-year contract worth $180 million in free agency this offseason. Instead of taking a potential defensive star or another offensive weapon for Cousins to utilize, Atlanta decided to draft his eventual replacement under center.

Most NFL pundits criticized the move, but former ESPN analyst Todd McShay believes the Falcons did the right thing for their organization.

"Atlanta—I'm not saying they had to do it, but I absolutely applaud their organization for making this decision," McShay said on The Ryen Russillo Podcast. "I do. If you want to be good and have an organization sustain success over time, and you're bringing in an aging quarterback [Cousins] who is coming off an Achilles injury, there's some short-term concern ... but this is much more a long-term [solution]."

Cousins cited the potential to retire in a Falcons jersey as one of the reasons he split ways with the Minnesota Vikings in the offseason. The Vikings were expected to draft their franchise quarterback on Thursday, and they did in Michigan's J.J. McCarthy. The Falcons were not expected to do the same.

Cousins's contract runs through the 2027 NFL season, but the Falcons can get out of it after two seasons—his deal doesn't include any guaranteed money after the 2025 campaign.

"Yeah, they're thinking beyond [Cousins]," McShay said. " ... Atlanta made the right decision. Kirk Cousins and those young weapons, they have a team that's not going to be picking in the top eight. That's my belief. Now, next year you're picking at No. 22, No. 23 [in the first round]. There's no quarterback opportunity there, realistically. So, let's get this guy now because this is about the organization the next five years and beyond.

"They did the right thing."

Cousins and Penix will share a quarterbacks room under new coach Raheem Morris.

After shocking the rest of the NFL on Thursday, the Falcons began Friday by trading up in the second round and selecting Clemson defensive lineman Ruke Orhorhoro.


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Tom Dierberger

TOM DIERBERGER

Tom Dierberger is a writer and editor for the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. Tom joined SI in 2023 after stints at FOX Sports, Bally Sports, and NBC Sports. In his spare time, Tom can be seen throwing out his arm while playing fetch with his dog, Walter B. Boy.