With the loss of a few quality defensive players in free agency, the Atlanta Falcons must have defense as their number one priority in the NFL Draft if they plan to compete in 2020.
The NFL Draft just over a week away, as we’ll finally get to watch something new that is sports-related, rather than just reruns of games such as Super Bowl LI (luckily didn’t air in the Atlanta area). And with that, this draft specifically is huge for the Atlanta Falcons if they want to rebound from the back to back 7-9 campaigns.
This class is deep with defensive talent in both the front seven and secondary, and the Falcons need to add high impact players early.
Unfortunately, Atlanta’s front office has failed to adequately address defense early in the past 2 drafts. Let’s look at the defensive players chosen in the draft over the past 2 years:
Out of those six, only Oluokun and Cominsky had a PFF grade of 60.0 or better last season. Cominsky actually graded out at 82.1, finishing 23rd among all edge defenders, despite not having many traditional stats. He is definitely expected to have an “increased role” in 2020, as per Dan Quinn. Oluokun only had a grade of 62.7, but he showed some flashes of brilliance and is primed to take over a starting gig with the departure of De’Vondre Campbell in free agency.
The two “early picks” in the past 2 years have been Oliver and Senat, the former having two forgettable seasons, and the latter literally being forgotten by the coaching staff despite showing promise.
You can even look back at 2017, where the Falcons first two picks were Takk McKinley and Duke Riley. Duke Riley isn’t even with the team anymore after being shipped off to Philadelphia, and although Takk has had some great plays, he has constantly battled shoulder injuries as well as being picked over guys like Tre’Davious White and T.J. Watt.
The Falcons did make some good moves in free agency, such as signing Dante Fowler Jr. and resigning some good depth players like Tyeler Davison and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. However, they also lost guys like Adrian Clayborn, Desmond Trufant, and De’Vondre Campbell. This is what makes this draft so crucial, and the Falcons have to focus on defensive talent in the first 3 rounds specifically.
Arthur Blank has said on record that he expects the team to return to the playoffs in 2020, but for that to happen, the front office has to nail their first three picks to reinforce a disappointing defense.