We’re nearly there, everyone. The 2017 NFL Draft kicks off tonight, and soon we’ll know how the Atlanta Falcons intend to tackle their most pressing needs. For now, all we can do is take a look at those needs and hope for the best.
These are my top team needs, in roughly top-to-bottom order. You’ll note that most are in the trenches, where the Falcons have said they’ll focus their efforts for months now. If Atlanta’s going to return to the playoffs and make the kind of deep run we’re all fervently hoping for, they’ll need to maintain a high level of play along the offensive line and improve on the defensive front, so this just makes sense.
#1: Pass Rusher
Far and away the biggest need in my eyes. The Falcons did impressive work in the playoffs in particular with a depleted pass rush, and having Adrian Clayborn and Derrick Shelby back in action should only help this year. This team wants to be one of the best defenses in the NFL, though, and you can’t get there if you only have one top-tier pass rusher on your entire roster.
Wes Schweitzer may well prove to be a starting caliber guard, in which case this becomes a much lesser need for 2017. Andy Levitre won’t be here forever, though, and the team isn’t exactly loaded up with compelling depth even for this year. Guard’s a big need.
The Falcons have talked enough about upgrading at safety and playing three back there that you can’t ignore this as a need. Atlanta’s going to need to add another option sometime soon, and given Dan Quinn’s love of defensive backs, they’re unlikely to wait until next year.
#4: Defensive Tackle
Dontari Poe, Grady Jarrett and Ra’Shede Hageman should be able to get the job done in 2017, and the Falcons have plenty of players they can rotate in to help out. After this year, though, most of those players will be free agents, and the Falcons don’t have an obvious long-term starter next to Jarrett. It’d be nice to get and develop one.
Show me the swing tackle on this roster. You can’t, because there isn’t one. An injury to either Jake Matthews or Ryan Schraeder could be crippling if the Falcons don’t add a capable backup here.
What are your top needs?