A disappointing 7-9 season in 2019 has ramped up the pressure on HC Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff to find immediate impact players in this year’s draft. Knowing it’s playoffs or likely being fired in 2020, both men were rightfully busy through the first wave of free agency adding talent to the roster. Most notably, the Falcons were able to sign DE Dante Fowler Jr. and RB Todd Gurley, and also trade for TE Hayden Hurst. However, limited cap space also forced the team to make some difficult decisions on key veterans, leading to the departures of TE Austin Hooper, DE Vic Beasley, CB Desmond Trufant, and DE Adrian Clayborn among many others. The final results have left the Falcons still with plenty of needs to address in the draft, particularly on defense.
The Falcons’ disastrous 1-7 start last year was due largely to abysmal play on defense, continuing an alarming trend for the need for major improvements there. With an experienced and highly touted offense in place, it’s fair to say the Falcons should focus their draft almost exclusively on upgrading their defense. Best defensive player available starting with the 16th pick wouldn’t necessarily be an unwise strategy, but there are also specific, urgent needs the team must make sure it shores up.
Specifically, at CB, losing Desmond Trufant left the Falcons short-handed with defensive backs who can consistently challenge more physical No. 1 WRs and also track the ball well. Florida’s C.J. Henderson and LSU’s Kristian Fulton are both ideal fits for the kind of CBs Dan Quinn looks for in his Cover 3 Seahawks style scheme. While the team spent big money bringing in Dante Fowler, inconsistent pass rush continues to be a recurring problem. Quinn’s scheme relies on having a quality four man rush, and Takk McKinley’s progression so far (or lack thereof) points to the need of adding another disruptive edge rusher who can wreak havoc on the outside opposite Fowler. One could imagine a player like LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson or Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa could be available for the Falcons to take and jolt their pass rush. Finally, linebacker is a position of depth the team needs to supplement. In Atlanta, linebackers are often required to drop back into coverage and have the necessary speed in space to limit opposing yards after a catch. LSU’s Patrick Queen and OU’s Kenneth Murray fit both the bill and athletic profile in this particular style.
Defense, defense, and defense are all the Falcons need to concern themselves with on Draft Day if they hope to get back into the playoffs otherwise disaster could be looming on the horizon yet again. The expectations for this team should have fans hoping every pick the Falcons make can contribute to the team’s success sooner rather than later.ntribute to the team’s success sooner rather than later.