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AP photo by John Locher / University of Southern California receiver Drake London stands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the Atlanta Falcons with the eighth pick of the NFL draft last Thursday in Las Vegas.

OK, so the NFL draft is in our rearview mirror.

Want to know something crazy about how popular the NFL draft is? The first round last Thursday drew more than 10 million viewers, which was less than last year but still more than any regular-season game for college football, college basketball, NBA or MLB. For the draft.

So with that, let's all rejoice that the 2023 NFL draft is only something like 360 days away, give or take.

Yippee.

And next year, as much as any year in recent memory, the team atop the draft will be critical.

Of course, we could try to offer a mock draft, but that feels a bit much even for me. I love the draft. You know this.

But mocks or not — Hi, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga faithful— there still is some '23 draft intrigue for those of us in this nape of the neck, as the team 110 miles to our south must address some serious questions about its future.

The Atlanta Falcons could be right there with Detroit Lions — and maybe the Carolina Panthers — as the worst teams in the NFC. Add in the AFC's Houston Texans to that mix of futility, and you will have four teams that really stink.

Like really stink. Like "Weekend at Bernie's 2" stink, or even the Van Halen experiment with that long-haired fellow from Extreme.

Those four teams share something else beyond a crudtastic roster, smelling like feet and very limited hopes of making the playoffs.

Each of those four teams will be starving for a franchise quarterback in the coming months, and the '23 draft — unlike the one completed last weekend, in which one QB was picked in the first round, and that was at No. 20 overall — will have not one but two potential franchise QBs in the mix.

Hello, C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young. Step in, step out and introduce yourselves.

And those NFL teams listed above will be so starved for a QB that almost every mock draft to date has the Falcons taking a quarterback at No. 5 and picking Will Levis from Kentucky.

(Side note: Levis is a fine player, but the Falcons taking him with the fifth overall pick would be a more Falcons Falcon move than taking University of Southern California receiver Drake London eighth last week.)

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AP photo by John Locher / Fans cheer during the third day of the NFL draft in Las Vegas last Saturday.

Which brings us to the big picture of the actual conversation about tanking. Sure, the NFL is quaking in its billion-dollar boots about the conversation.

Losing on purpose is the antithesis of sports at its core. But if the goal is winning the Super Bowl, then the conversation must be had.

If you are the Falcons and you strive to be champions, don't you have to have some serious internal discussions about finding a way to finish 31st or 32nd in the NFL this season to be in position next spring to draft Alabama's Young or Ohio State's Stroud?

Tanking is taboo these days because of the deals with the Miami Dolphins, but in the overall best interest of the Falcons as a franchise, wouldn't a lost 2022 offer a brighter future for the Birds for the next decade?

Some likely would call that underhanded.

But maybe we could call that the next generation of Dirty Birds.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and read columns like this one each weekday morning in the "5-at-10" at timesfreepress.com.

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