Yesterday, we polled all of you on your top needs for the Falcons in the draft. As several of you pointed out, free agency is going to come first and perhaps render this discussion moot, but thankfully you all went in the direction I hoped you would, so it is germane.
At 58% of our responses, linebacker was far and away the most popular selection, and the most sensible one. The Falcons sunk millions into Justin Durant and Brooks Reed last year, and would seem unlikely to dip back into the free agent pool at linebacker unless it's a versatile player like Bruce Irvin. Even if they do sign one, it's fair to argue that this team badly needs to add a young, dynamic player to the corps, and I would.
The second most popular need, with just 17% of the total vote, was pass rusher. Falcons fans certainly recognize that Vic Beasley, for all his obvious talent, does not a pass rush make.
It's good to start thinking about these needs now because the Falcons aren't planning for free agency before the draft. They're doing so concurrently, trying to identify where free agents will make sense versus draft picks, and I'm sure they've already determined the kind of player they're looking for at pick #17. For the team's sake, I sincerely hope they're considering one of the top linebackers available in a strong class that is lacking at many other positions.