The Atlanta Falcons are one of the better teams in the NFL, if you go by last season, and their glaring needs are few. To take the next step—or simply to remain a playoff-caliber team—they still need to add more talent to the roster, particularly with the rest of the NFC South arguably stepping up early in the offseason.
Recently, I took a crack at projecting the positions the Falcons would target in rounds one and two, and I came away pretty convinced they’ll go guard and edge rusher, though not necessarily in that order.
Here’s the thing: I think the Falcons would like to look at a guard in the first round to solidify the offensive line. I also think they know that their favored pass rushers will be gone by the time they pick in the second round, and I think they know that,
For that reason, I’m going to echo the growing consensus that the Falcons will pull the same trick they did with presumptive second round pick Keanu Neal a year ago. This time, the player will be Youngstown State pass rusher Derek Rivers, who the draft community is growing fond of and who the Falcons have spent time with already, and the team will hope he’ll prove to be an effective bookend for Vic Beasley. In the second round, the Falcons will give themselves a strong starting guard option with Pittsburgh’s Dorian Johnson, perhaps my favorite guard in this class not named Forrest Lamp.
As we know by now, though, my draft opinion is worth significantly less than that of our draft experts. I turned to them to see where they thought the Falcons would go in the first two rounds, and they delivered.
1st Round expectations
Sitting at 31st overall, the Falcons are in prime position to sit comfortable and allow a nice talent to fall into their lap. Right now, Atlanta needs some more taken on the defensive line, at the LEO position in particular. Prime candidates to fill the LEO spot that will be in their range are UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley, Auburn’s Carl Lawson, Missouri’s Charles Harris, and an under-the-radar candidate in Kansas State’s Jordan Willis.
If the Falcons rather go guard at 31st, Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp is lead horse in the race at this point. Indiana’s Dan Feeney is another name to closely monitor, but that’s where it ends for first round options at the position.
2nd Round expectations
If the Falcons elect to go offensive line at 31st, expect the pass rusher element to be the focus at 62nd overall. Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers is a definite possibility. The likelihood of adding to the interior of the defensive line grows in the second round also. Be mindful of talent such as Florida’s Caleb Brantley, Clemson’s Carlos Watkins, Iowa’s Jaleel Johnson, and Michigan’s Chris Wormley are talented 3-technique tackles that will possibly be available late in the second round.
On the offensive side, the Falcons may have more variety to snag a starter at offensive guard in the second. Pittsburgh’s Dorian Johnson, LSU’s Ethan Pocic, and Temple’s Dion Dawkins are second round targets that are athletic and able to earn a starting spot on the Falcons offensive line from day one.
The Falcons will likely be targeting the trenches with their first and second round pick. My money would be on the team selecting a G and a DE, in some order depending on value. I really think they'd love to get their hands on one of the top guards in the class in Forrest Lamp or Dan Feeney. This is a pretty deep defensive line draft, and I like the Falcons chances of getting a solid option to pair with Vic Beasley with their second pick. A dark horse pick could be a DT, TE, or FS.