The 2019 NFL Draft will be a great source for the Falcons to add much needed talent on the defensive line. Here are some notable pass rushers to monitor as we gradually enter draft season.
As we all have endured such a season that presented devastating injuries and unmet expectations, buried within is an issue that has been one for quite some time. The Atlanta Falcons have been trying for the what seems like forever to find the right combination along the defensive line to get after opposing offenses.
Over the course of head coach Dan Quinn’s tenure, the Falcons have attempted to add the necessary pieces to their 4-3 Under defense. However, after what has transpired this season, the Falcons may once again be doing some heavy shopping this offseason to add/replace some of the current parts to the line. Today, we will focus STRICTLY on hybrid defensive linemen that can play the 5-tech on run downs and still be flexible enough to slide inside on passing downs at the 3-tech while also maintaining the ability to rush the edge. In other words, the “Michael Bennett” role on the defense.
(Note: A prospect such as Nick Bosa will be omitted due to his draft stock of being a top-3 selection at worst.)
Day 1 Prospects
Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan - 6’4, 283 lbs.: Gary was utilized just about everywhere on the Michigan defensive front in their 3-4 scheme. So it is understandable for some to have a little difficulty pinpointing where he fits truly. Gary showed better athleticism than given credit for and while he’s not in the class of Nick Bosa as far as that aspect goes, he’s in the next tier. Gary has room to grow and once it is all put together, he has All-Pro potential.
Clelin Ferrell, DE , Clemson - 6’5 265 lbs.: I know that thanks to the play of a certain someone on the Falcons roster this season, many are afraid of Clemson defensive ends. I get it. However, Ferrell has a refined skill set that is NFL ready and has improved in the sack department in each of his last three seasons with the Tigers. While he played heavier in 2017 and sometimes it showed, he looked completely different this season with the weight and can be a very useful piece as a strong-side defensive end.
Day 2 Prospects
Zach Allen, DE, Boston College - 6’5 280 lbs.: In recent seasons, Boston College has been churning out respectable defensive talent and Allen is next in line. The stout defensive lineman has a deep arsenal of moves to get to the quarterback. There is a resemblance to former Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn when viewing his tape.
Jaylon Ferguson, DE , Louisiana Tech - 6’5 270 lbs.: Productive. That is reasonably the best way to describe Ferguson. With 42.5 sacks in four seasons including a career-high 15 this past season, you can understand why. He has also improved in run defense throughout his collegiate time and now is very stout at the point of attack and difficult to move. His physicality on the line will be a boost and thanks to his ability to get after the quarterback, sliding him inside will see him crash the pocket on a reliable basis.
Isaiah Buggs, DL , Alabama - 6’4 291 lbs.: Buggs is the heaviest of the prospects listed so far, but he has shown the same kind of versatility while at the University of Alabama. Buggs is a powerfully built lineman who is at times violent at the point of attack. When it comes to setting the edge in run defense, Buggs is very reliable in that area. He recorded 9.5 sacks this past season, which shows his gradual improvement when it comes to that aspect.
Anthony Nelson, DL , Iowa - 6’7 272 lbs.: Athleticism is something to question of Nelson, but his ability to attack opposing linemen in a variety of ways shows an advancement in his game. Nelson carries a motor that will stand out amongst others. Where he will need to improve is his ability to time snaps with a quicker first step out of his stance. But the versatility and refined arsenal is quite clear.
Day 3 Prospects
Carl Granderson, DE , Wyoming - 6’4 260 lbs.: Granderson has a nice NFL frame along with NFL length to be disruptive from the edge as well as in passing lanes. Granderson was often utilized in T-E stunts, which as most of you know is a staple in the Falcons defense. He will need to add playing strength at the next level with hopes of it not diminishing his overall skill set.
Christian Rector, DE , USC - 6’3 275 lbs.: Power is the name of the game for Rector when describing his talents. Rector is able to use his length quite well against opposing linemen in the run game and is often seen with good leverage in one-on-one battles. He also showcases solid footwork regardless of positioning on the line. Rector is a classic case of not being great in many aspects but definitely provides plenty of usefulness to carve out a nice role in a scheme such as the Falcons defense.