Yesterday I had the chance to talk to Aaron Freeman at FalcFans, one of our oldest friends here at The Falcoholic. We covered quite a bit of ground in the podcast, which you'll be able to hear in a day or two, but one thing in particular inspired this article: How the draft might unfold.
As I see it, the Falcon will go one of two different directions in the first round of the draft. I don't claim to know which of these is likelier, but in essence, I anticipate the Falcons selecting a pass rusher or a tackle. If Jadeveon Clowney is the trade-up target or Khalil Mack falls to #6, you'd be hard-pressed to argue against that. If both of those guys are gone—or if the Falcons are just sick of looking at their current crop of tackles—Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews would likely be the choices.
Both of those scenarios have cascade effects on the rest of the draft. For our purposes today, I'm going to talk about how either of those would effect the second and third rounds.
Scenario #1: The Pass Rusher
It's no great secret that the Falcons need a safety, and there's no question they'll be looking hard at the incoming group of rookies to fill that need. If they stick a pass rusher in the first round, it becomes much more likely that a safety will be a target in the second round.
The reason for this has everything to do with the tackle class. Jack Mewhort and Joel Bitonio are fine players, but there's little question that this tackle class thins out significantly after Robinson, Matthews and arguably Lewan. On the other hand, the second round should have a handful of useful safeties available. The Falcons could also go for the classic double dip and pick up two pass rushers.
In this scenario, tackle is a third or fourth round grab, the Falcons focus on the defensive side of the ball and they hopefully get an impact pass rusher or two along the way.
Scenario #2: The Tackle
Remember the double dip I just mentioned? That's a possibility because there are quite a few useful pass rushers who may be available in the top of the second round.
That's critical if the Falcons decide to select a tackle. No matter how much faith you're willing to put in young players like Jonathan Massaquoi and Malliciah Goodman, the pass rush won't be fixed by leaning heavily on current players and tweaking the defensive front. This is a team in need of a talent infusion off the edge.
If the Falcons do go with Robinson or Matthews at #6, they could look hard at Dee Ford, Jeremiah Attaochu, Scott Crichton, Demarcus Lawrence, and so forth at #37. Not all of those players will make it there, but there promises to be some legitimately intriguing options available by the time the team's pick rolls around.
In this scenario, you can look at safety in the 3rd round, where there should still be some useful players available. It would be a heavily needs-based start to the draft, but it's certainly a strong possibly under this scenario.
I'm not ruling out any other positions or needs in the first round, and I'm not completely killing a trade down. The fact remains that the Falcons are extremely likely to target a tackle of pass rusher with their first pick. The choice they make could very well have a profound effect on how they address the rest of their needs moving down the draft board.
What's your likeliest scenario for the Falcons?