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Rumor: Falcons eyeing defensive tackle for 2018 first round pick

Hey, look! A rumor! About the draft! Involving Atlanta!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 LSU at Florida Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well, we’re about three months away from adding a new crop of young birds into the flock via the NFL Draft, and per the season, the rumor mill is about to get churning.

Through two stops to find the source of the report (thanks, Facebook group Dirty Bird Nation and our friends at Blogging Dirty for helping us get there), we got to this information from Walter Football’s Charlie Campbell about where the Atlanta Falcons may look to invest their first round pick.

The Falcons have used their previous three first-round picks on upgrading their defense, and by the sounds of it, Atlanta could make it four in a row. According to Falcons sources, defensive tackle is in the running for their first-round pick. The Falcons could use some youth in the middle of their defensive line, and there are some good first-round tackle prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Alabama nose tackle Da’Ron Payne and Washington nose tackle Vita Vea have caught their eye. The Falcons like both of them a lot. It seemed like they had Vea higher than Payne, but felt both of them were worthy of top-20 picks. If one of them slips to Atlanta, that could be a no-brainer, but the Falcons think both will be long gone as they have the 26th pick. Some Atlanta sources think Vea could go in the top 10.

Assuming those two are off the board, a player who Atlanta likes is Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan. While Bryan hasn’t gotten a lot of media buzz, Falcon staffers say that Bryan’s tape is very impressive, and they are intrigued with him. The athletic Bryan had a breakout year, and he wasn’t even on the Gators’ preseason watch lists given out to team scouts heading into Gainesville. Bryan showed serious speed, strength and athleticism to cause havoc behind the line of scrimmage. He could be a three-technique defensive tackle or a five-technique defensive end. Atlanta also puts a lot into taking players with good character, and Bryan has that reputation. He had a late start in football and is somewhat raw, but has a strong work ethic he inherited from his Navy Seal father.

Atlanta has been very happy with the development and the character of Vic Beasley, Keanu Neal and Takk McKinley. Bryan could fit in that group with his character to go with impressive physical skills.

Ok, so, there’s a lot to unpack here, but this should come with a big old roll of caution tape. (Editor’s Note: Da’Rony Payne please).

Senior Bowl murmurs do not translate to April decisions, and people like to talk. That’s not to say this isn’t accurate — the rumor makes a lot of sense. Defensive tackle is definitely a need for the Falcons this offseason, and all of those guys are regarded as top-flight prospects going in to this draft cycle. It’s interesting to see them guess Vea and Payne will be gone by pick 26, as they’d know as well as any, considering the team’s eye for defensive talent.

Bryan’s a guy Falcons draftheads have been discussing to varying degrees, and he’d make a lot of sense for Atlanta, particularly with his calling cards as a player and his reputation.

Our draft expert Eric Robinson said this about Bryan coming to Atlanta in his scouting report.

Adding interior defensive line talent is pretty inevitable this offseason for the Falcons. Going back to last offseason on top of what could happen this upcoming offseason, the Falcons could be on the verge of losing about three or four defensive tackles from their rotation. So drafting a guy like Bryan could be even more important going forward. Bryan has the power to blend very well with the quickness of Grady Jarrett to form a devastating one-two punch.

If he tests well at the NFL Combine, there is a possibility that Bryan creeps into the late 1st round range due to his talent and potential. Do not let his impeding development take away from what he brings to the table in Atlanta. Bryan could be a nice fit on the defensive line for the Falcons in the interior and at times as a base defensive end on run downs. A solid second round grade fits Bryan at the moment and his presence on the Falcons roster will provide another building block for the young defense.

Eric lays out a convincing case for why Bryan would work in Atlanta. Obviously, a lot can, and will, change within the next few months leading up to the draft, particularly with who Atlanta likes, and what Atlanta needs. But, should this rumor prove true, defensive tackle will be in consideration, and Bryan’s the most likely target of the three reported.

The rumor also casts a vision where Atlanta is at least considering what a world would be like without DT Dontari Poe. It’s unlikely the team would invest a first round pick at defensive tackle if Poe returned, so perhaps the team has an idea of what Poe’s camp wants for a deal, and are unsure they can meet that demand. In that case, a defensive tackle would be a major need. Again, nothing’s confirmed with any of this, so consider this speculative talk.

Again, with a grain of salt, take this, and any draft rumor you hear from here to late April. But, some rumors turn out to be harbingers for the future. Perhaps this is our first major indicator of what Atlanta is thinking in this draft cycle.