All along this offseason, we’ve assumed that defensive tackle would be the first round selection for the Atlanta Falcons. I still think that’s a fair, reasonably safe assumption, but the Falcons want you to know it’s not a definite.
In a customary pre-draft presser on Thursday, Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn told reporters they are not locked into a position the way they were in years past. Sometimes that position was easy to guess (Vic Beasley, Takkarist McKinley) and sometimes it was a little bit of a surprise (Keanu Neal), but the Falcons have sought to address major needs in the first round. There is no larger immediate need than defensive tackle, more or less inarguably, so this would be a departure from a needs-based strategy and a nod toward a best player available (or BPA) class.
Falcons pre-draft media q&a with Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn:— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) April 19, 2018
TD: This draft we’re looking at a number of positions (for a 1st rounder) - previous years we were locked in to a position pic.twitter.com/fd6Ib1LX9G
This would normally be when we scoff at the smokescreeniness of it all, but this year I believe Dimitroff and Quinn. They’ve indicated they don’t believe they have many holes at all on this roster repeatedly, which frees them up to chase players they really like, and their workouts and pre-draft interest has been pretty far-ranging, encompassing first round talents at defensive tackle, defensive end, wide receiver, linebacker, and cornerback. I’d raise my eyebrow a bit at wide receiver, but the rest would not be huge shocks.
If the Falcons have an eye on the long term and really do love the deeper end of this defensive tackle class, there are any number of picks that make real sense. A cornerback could be a coverage upgrade on Brian Poole at the nickel spot and eventually take over for Robert Alford, for example, or the team could snag a third receiver who could grow to take Mohamed Sanu’s place down the line. A defensive end might seem like overkill, but Derrick Shelby’s contract is up next year, Brooks Reed can’t be here forever, and Vic Beasley is heading for his first big contract in the near future, and the Falcons love rotating their ends. If they land a great player at #26 (or slightly above), we’ll have very little reason to complain.
That said, if one of the top four or five defensive tackles in this class wanders down into Atlanta’s range, I would not be at all surprised to see them snap that player up or even trade up a bit to get him. The Falcons still can’t afford to let the offseason pass without getting some quality young players on the interior of the defensive line.