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If the Falcons want a difference maker, they need to draft in the top 10

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NFL history shows a clear trend that’s hard to ignore.

Atlanta Falcons v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

With the Falcons season firmly over at this point, fans are left to ponder the 2019 draft and what the team may be able to do to add to the talent on this roster. At this point, the Falcons will be drafting in the top five picks. That position can still change a good bit, with the team potentially drafting as high as first or second or as low as the early teens. If the trends hold, though, the team is almost assuredly drafting in the top 10.

Some fans have suggested that the team trade back if they’re in the top 10. The thought here is to stockpile draft picks and to use them to boost the overall quality of the roster. It makes some sense, as the likelihood of landing a good player is always increased by having more chances to find one.

However, drafting in the top 10 doesn’t happen all the time, and NFL history tells us that if you’re in the top 10, you should really stay there.

According to this older write-up in Yahoo Sports, the odds of finding a Hall-of-Fame caliber player is increased dramatically when you draft in the top 10.

At the point that the article was written (April 2017), here are some of the numbers to keep in mind:

  • Since the 1977 NFL draft, 70 Hall of Fame players have been drafted, while only 3 were undrafted players.
  • Of those 70 players, 33 were picked in the top 10 of their draft class (47%).
  • 23 of those 33 were drafted in the top 5.

Those odds speak volumes about the likelihood of finding a difference maker in the NFL draft. That’s not to say that drafting in the top 5 or top 10 is a guarantee to get a great player. Statistically, though, the best players in the NFL — the guys who make All-Pro and are talked about as future Hall of Fame players — those guys are usually drafted in the top of the first round.

This isn’t a revelation. Normally, the best players are taken early. NFL scouts, for all of the flack that they get from online experts, generally know what they’re doing. That’s why guys like Von Miller, Peyton Manning and yes — Matt Ryan — are taken with those highly coveted picks. We’ll just pretend the whole Blake Bortles thing didn’t happen, though.

If the Falcons continue their losing ways and ultimately land a pick in the top 10 — or even in the top 5 — there’s a strong argument to be made that they should keep that pick. If the team really wants to land a difference maker in the 2019 draft, that player is very likely to be taken within those first 10 picks.