Atlanta Falcons: Is drafting a tight end a need for the Falcons?

Should the Atlanta Falcons use one of their five draft picks on a tight end?

There are mixed reviews on the Atlanta Falcons offense. Some like the move to sign center Alex Mack and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, while others think too much money was spent. All that matters is the Falcons are set with the signings and have fixed a couple of the team’s needs.

The offensive line played well in 2015 and will only get better with Mack’s presence in the middle. Sanu isn’t exactly a household name, but he should find more success as the No. 2 receiver than Roddy White and Leonard Hankerson were able to last term. Second-year Justin Hardy will also see an increased role.

The quarterback is in place. The running backs are set. All that’s lacking is a difference maker at tight end.

Jacob Tamme — acquired via free agency a year ago — put together a decent season with 59 catches for 657 yards and a touchdown. Tamme acted as a go-to receiver when Julio Jones was covered, but he only found the end zone once and would be best suited as a complementary pass-catcher as opposed to the top tight end. Behind Tamme, there isn’t anything to write home about.

Atlanta is in a tough spot. With only five draft picks, their hands are tied. They couldn’t afford to use picks on an offensive lineman, wide receiver and tight end with so many needs on defense. With Mack and Sanu, maybe they can use one selection to find a big tight end to open up the middle of the field.

Then there is another issue. The tight end class in this year’s draft is weak, and there aren’t a whole lot of options left in free agency. With Martellus Bennett traded to New England, the best option available is former Rams tight end Jared Cook, who was released in February. While Cook has speed and would offer the ability to get open downfield, drops have been problematic throughout his career.

Among the rookie options, Hunter Henry out of Arkansas stands out. Henry is far and away the premier option in this year’s class — he uses his big frame to become a reliable receiver in the middle of the field, and using him in run blocking situations would also help out the offense.

In all likelihood the Falcons won’t go near the position in the opening few rounds, but a name to watch out for on day three is Tyler Higbee out of Western Kentucky. Higbee is a wide receiver turned tight end, and he has translated many of his receiving skills to his new position. He has the speed and route-running ability to get open vertically in the middle of the field. His blocking needs work, but Matt Ryan would benefit from his pass-catching ability.

Higbee and Tamme would be solid duo at the position. With the rookie causing defenses problems in the middle of the field, Jones and Sanu would have more freedom to cause damage on the outside.

Tight end is far from the Falcons’ biggest need, but adding one could give the offense a spark it’s lacked since Tony Gonzalez stepped away from the game.

Stay tuned to Blogging Dirty for full Atlanta Falcons draft coverage.