ATLANTA — When the NFL Draft gets going on Thursday night, Atlanta will be playing a leading role.
High school stars from the Atlanta area are expected to be among the top quarterbacks picked, and the Falcons are one of the most intriguing teams in the draft at No. 4.
The No.1 pick is all but assured to be Trevor Lawrence, a Cartersville High School alum. There's virtually no doubt that the Jacksonville Jaguars will take Lawrence, who left Bartow County and went to Clemson to become one of the biggest quarterback prospects of all-time.
It's such a lock, Jacksonville fans raised $10,000 for his wedding registry - and in turn Lawrence and his wife donated $20,000 to charities in the city. Not the kind of thing you typically do when you might wind up living in, say, San Francisco.
Here's what else is connecting Atlanta to the first night of the Draft:
- Justin Fields, the hometown hero who got away, is one of the most intriguing cases tonight. The Harrison High star-turned-UGA-top-recruit-turned-Ohio-State-star could go as soon as No. 3 to the San Francisco 49ers, who don't appear to be interested but have been coy about their intentions, or as low as as the middle of the first round, with more than a few mock drafts sending him to the New England Patriots, either at No. 15 or in a trade up. One possibility that doesn't seem to be in the works is the Falcons bringing him back to Atlanta at No. 4 - which could leave another lasting sting for Georgia football fans.
- Speaking of the Falcons, a few mock drafts - including those published by NBC Sports and ESPN's Mel Kiper - predict they'll take Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts, considered a generational prospect at his position. With the team looking toward a post-Matt Ryan future, a quarterback can't be ruled out, though they haven't made much noise about using their early pick on one of the top QBs in this draft. A trade is a very serious possibility. Falcons GM Terry Fontenot even said it was possible ahead of the draft.
- Who else is Atlanta watching for? Alpharetta High School's Jaycee Horn is one of the top cornerback prospects in the draft, second probably only to Alabama's Patrick Surtain II. Most mock drafts seem to have him going somewhere between 10-20.
- Linebacker Azeez Ojulari is the top Georgia Bulldog who could go on Night 1. The Marietta High School product seems most likely to go middle or late first round, with a couple mock drafts out there seeing a fit for him with the Miami Dolphins at No. 18.
- It's not considered highly likely, but a team could surprise and make either of a pair of UGA cornerbacks - Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell - a first-round pick.
The excitement kicks off tonight at 8 p.m.