It’s certain that the Atlanta Falcons will target a prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft to add some pass rushing juice to their defensive line. Here are the prospects to be aware of.
The art of getting after the quarterback. It can be as impactful as a quarterback connecting on a deep throw to a wide receiver or a running back getting a long gain for a first down, and sometimes, even more so.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, getting after the quarterback has been extremely rare this season. The offseason will be interesting to say the least as the team may be on the verge of some significant movement in letting a few players exit. Luckily for the Falcons, the 2019 NFL Draft is rich with prime defensive line talent to add to their collection with hopes of having a much better unit for the 2019 season and beyond. Here, I focused on possible strong-side defensive end targets that the Falcons may add via the draft. Today, I will turn my focus on pure edge rushers. Prospects that can be inserted into the LEO position on the Falcons defensive line (which is often viewed as the team’s best pass rusher) while also being a key asset on third downs to get after the passer.
Day 1 Prospects
Nick Bosa, DE , Ohio State - 6’3 270 lbs: I can hear most of you saying now “Bosa will go first so the Falcons won’t have a chance” or “There is no way Bosa winds up in Atlanta”. I’m just here to do my due diligence. Bosa is a special talent. A transcendent one. His brother, Joey Bosa, is one of the game’s elite pass rushers. The younger Bosa brings plenty of athleticism, speed, strength, size and is a day one, game one starter and impact player. The Falcons are currently projected to be around the top five of the draft and with the way draft orders shuffle week in and week out, you never really know.
Clelin Ferrell, DE , Clemson - 6’5 260 lbs: I mentioned Ferrell in my previous article where I highlighted strong-side defensive ends that can be a fit in this scheme. I think with the frame that Ferrell has, he can add weight and be a solid upgrade at strong-side defensive end or he can be another piece to the LEO position with his athleticism.
Brian Burns, DE , Florida State - 6’5 235 lbs: One of the my favorite prospects in this entire draft because of his ceiling/potential. Burns has an explosive burst out of the snap and covers ground quickly with his long limbs. Burns has great wingspan and for a tall and lean pass rusher, Burns shows some flexibility around the edge.
Montez Sweat, DE , Mississippi State - 6’5 245 lbs: Sweat was not on the draft radar until after his transfer to Mississippi State from Michigan State, where he opened some eyes during the 2017 season. Another productive season in 2018 placed Sweat among the top pass rushers in this upcoming draft. Sweat appears slightly bigger than advertised and has an all-around set of tools that has gained plenty of ground in just two seasons of collegiate action.
Jachai Polite, DE , Florida - 6’2 262 lbs: Polite is another unique prospect that the Falcons may have an opportunity to get their hands on if they so happen to fall outside of the top-10. Of the prospects listed, Polite is probably the “rawest” of the bunch. But he has the physical tools and shares a number of similarities to Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley, who still has untapped upside.
Day 2 Prospects
Jalen Jelks, DE , Oregon - 6’5 245 lbs: Jelks has been a name that has been heard plenty around the Pac-12 over the course of the last few seasons. Jelks is slightly undersized and is known for his short-area quickness. While at Oregon, Jelks was incorporated in several technique positions along the defensive line and could be a very interesting piece the puzzle with his length and quickness.
D’Andre Walker, DE , Georgia - 6’2 245 lbs: The big question surrounding Walker is if he can permanently execute with his hand in the dirt. Walker has his fair share of physicality to his game and knows how to hustle until the whistle blows. In his last two seasons with the Bulldogs, Walker totaled 24.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.
Joe Jackson, DE , Miami - 6’5 260 lbs: The physical tools are there for Jackson and that was evident even during his freshman season. Jackson racked up 22.5 sacks in three seasons down in Coral Gables and in that Hurricanes defensive scheme, he also produced 35.5 tackles for loss. Look past the stats, the upside is clear. His ability to naturally be inserted into the 5-technique and thrive early on is a real possibility.
Day 3 Prospects
Trevon Hill, DE , Virginia Tech - 6’3 245 lbs: If you like speed, if you like burst, if you like the ability to convert speed to power, then you will like Hill as a prospect. On film, Hill looks bigger than 245 pounds and at times, he plays bigger than listed. Of course, this past season, Hill was dismissed from the Virginia Tech team for what has appeared to be detrimental conduct and those questions will come up with a Falcons team has been working on keeping a clean filter with the team. That aside, Hill has the ability to be a great pass rushing piece. Not the answer that they need but a piece.
Austin Bryant, DE , Clemson - 6’5 265 lbs: Potential, potential, potential. There is growth that is still needed found with Bryant when it comes to his development and progression as an edge rusher. Bryant has more than enough athleticism but what he lacks is the light bulb to cut on a realize his potential. If the Falcons were to add to their pass rush beforehand, taking Bryant as a developmental project long term is an idea that can’t be dismissed.
Jordan Brailford, DE , Oklahoma State - 6’3 250 lbs: Brailford has certain parts of his game that are NFL ready. He has a frame that is chiseled and ready to take on an NFL workload. On tape, there are very few that will out work Brailford and effort is always appreciated from head coach Dan Quinn. His athletic ability will never allow him to stand out from others but his repertoire can allow him to produce.