Comedy of errors in 2017 haunt the 2019 Atlanta Falcons
The year (not season) of 2017 for the Falcons was bittersweet. The Atlanta Falcons reached the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history and lost in the most heartbreaking fashion to the New England Patriots.
After blowing a twenty-five-point lead, both the Atlanta Falcons fan base and the organization have not been the same.
The Atlanta Falcons had a chance to be a team that consistently made an appearance in the NFC Championship game. Instead, they find themselves as a six seed wild card and are about to miss the playoffs in back to back years.
The transactions the team made back in 2017 is where the Falcons find themselves today, a 1-6 record.
During the 2017 free agency period, the Atlanta Falcons did not make many moves other than signing defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Their hope was to collect compensatory draft picks for the 2018 NFL Draft. However, they still needed to sign more players to fill out their roster and add depth.
The 2017 NFL Draft was another huge miss by the Falcons. The Falcons had a decent haul selecting Takkarist McKinley and Damontae Kazee. The rest of their draft is where the Falcons missed badly.
The Duke Riley selection made since at the time because he was an athletic linebacker from LSU that seemed like a natural fit for Dan Quinn’s scheme. Unfortunately for him and the Falcons he never panned out the way he was supposed to.
The Atlanta Falcons traded down from that spot with the Buffalo Bills and they missed out on a lot of great talent. Larry Ogunjobi, Alvin Kamara, Cooper Kupp, Pat Elflein, and Dan Feeney were all selected after the Falcons original pick in the second round to the Duke Riley pick. Any of those players would have made a bigger impact than Riley.
The biggest miss was Ogunjobi because pairing him with Grady Jarrett would have done wonders for this defense. The Falcons also would have been able to avoid major offensive line issues with Feeney or Elflein.
The Atlanta Falcons next pick was in the fourth round where they selected Sean Harlow. This pick was based on need rather than talent still on the board. If they drafted Elflein or Feeney earlier, they would be in a position to draft the best player available.
The player they missed out on was George Kittle as he was drafted ten picks later. Hooper and Kittle in the same offense would have been a nightmare to stop and prevent the Falcons from signing Luke Stocker.
The Atlanta Falcons next pick was Damontae Kazee who had a great 2018 season and an up and down 2019 season. The Falcons’ last mistake of the 2017 NFL Draft was selecting Eric Saubert who is no longer with the team.
The Falcons instead should have selected Davon Godchaux who is currently with the Miami Dolphins. He is not a star but would have provided quality depth to the defensive line and given Grady Jarrett help at defensive tackle.
If the Falcons made the correct moves their draft could have been Takk, Elflein, Kazee, Kittle, and Godchaux. Had the Falcons had this draft they would have won the division in 2017.
Another area the Atlanta Falcons fell apart in was during the 2017 season where the Falcons lost to the Bills and Dolphins in back to back home games. Had the Falcons won that game they would have won the division with a 12-4 record. Instead, they finished 10-6 as a six seed.
The Falcons did win a playoff game which was good but could have made an NFC Championship game appearance with a better roster.
The last mistake the Falcons made during the 2017 season was re-signing Devonta Freeman to a massive extension. The Falcons should have traded him instead. At the time they likely could have received a late second to early third-round pick because he did not have any major injuries.
Freeman’s contract is now hurting this team as they are struggling for cap space and have a lot of needs to fill. Teams that give massive extensions to running backs have not performed well. The money from Freeman’s contract could have been used to give the Falcons a better offensive line or defense.
2017 was a turning point for the Falcons in the worst way. Had they made the correct moves they would not find themselves where they are today. The Falcons need a fresh start from the coaching staff and front office.