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2015 NFL Draft: Falcons hold a prime opportunity to build a contender

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Win the draft, build a foundation.

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The Falcons had the #6 overall pick in 2014, and they used it to select arguably the best left tackle in the class in Jake Matthews. He's the kind of guy that has the opportunity to become a foundation piece for the next quality Falcons team, and Atlanta now has an opportunity to add another one of those players in 2015.

It's not necessarily rare for the Falcons to pick in the top ten—most of you are familiar with the history of this franchise, so I don't need to sugarcoat that assertion—but this is still a fairly rare chance to add another top ten, impact rookie to a team with a franchise quarterback. That may not be a recipe for an instant turnaround, but it is a nice start for a team that would like to return to being a perennial contender. There are plenty who argue that the Falcons never had the kind of sturdy, deep roster that wins titles during their best Mike Smith years, and plenty of reason to nod ruefully at that thought.

Simply put, if the Falcons can nail this draft class and pick up a sterling starter or two, they'll have the chance to turn what stands as a weak, top-heavy roster into something worth celebrating. Suddenly there's a handful of legitimately promising pieces on defense along with some competent veterans, and the offense should at least bring above-average play to the table. I don't think many of us are expecting that instant turnaround, but last year's draft class does have promise, and a good one here would give the Falcons another sturdy layer on which to build.

This doesn't hinge on the first round pick, though that selection will obviously be critical. Too often in the past, the team managed to absolutely land a quality player in the first round or even second round, but failed to acquire the kinds of players that give you legitimate depth. They simply can't afford to do that in 2015.

My preference is quite obviously a pass rusher first, because of the glaring need there, but I can't lose sight of the importance of nailing this first round selection. If it ends up going to another position, I can't truly be angry, so long as the Falcons acquire the kind of talent they sorely need in the first round and beyond. It's fair to say without hyperbole that Dan Quinn's future with this team will turn on what the team can give him to work with this year, especially if the team makes the kind of surprising leap to relevance this season that would preclude them from picking near the top ten again in 2016.

It's going to be easy to overreact one way or the other to tonight's first round pick, but you owe it to yourself to see how the whole class plays out and what kind of players and fits the Falcons manage to get. Will the Falcons build a contender starting in 2015? Sound off.