The Atlanta Falcons were never built to succeed in 2015. Even with the firing of Mike Smith and subsequent hiring of Dan Quinn, they found themselves at a decisive disadvantage heading into the season. That's almost universal for any team that doesn't draft its depth. When you rely on a variety of veteran castoffs to fill out your roster, you're going to have a bad time.
The 2016 NFL draft is important for the Falcons. Heck, every draft is important, but this is a draft unlike any of its predecessors. You see, in this draft, the Falcons will have 100+ underclassmen to choose from.
Approximately 100 college players will leave school early, declaring for the draft as of Monday's deadline, according to a list assembled by NFL.com. While the official number won't be released by the NFL until Friday, that's at least close to the record 98 underclassmen that entered two years ago [... and o]f the 98 underclassmen currently listed as declared on NFL.com, 31 are either offensive or defensive linemen. The next largest position groups are receivers and defensive backs (16 each).
My logic here is relatively unscientific. But consider this: the Falcons will have only five picks to work with. With less picks, each individual pick is exponentially more important. The Falcons stand a better chance of walking away with the most possible talent if the draft pool is particularly talented.
Now, there's a hiccup. The unfortunate reality is that many underclassmen who declare probably shouldn't. They'd be better off returning to school and getting their
swerve on degrees or improving their beer pong skills draft stock. But maybe, just maybe, the record number of declarees aren't misled adolescents. Maybe what we have a particularly talented draft pool, such that the 2016 NFL draft goes down in history as a talent producing, franchise solidifying gift from the football gods.
A guy can hope, right?