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The top 2018 NFL Draft needs for the Atlanta Falcons

Here’s what we’re looking at for Thursday night and beyond.

Atlanta Falcons v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr /Getty Images

The Falcons don’t have many urgent draft needs, which is a credit to their roster-building approach and something we pray continues forever and ever. That does mean the draft doesn’t carry the life or death urgency it did in say 2015 or 2016, but it does mean our list of needs is a little tighter and more focused.

This list has evolved a little bit since April 7 to reflect what the team has been telling us with their draft visits, press conferences, and the like. The #1 need has not changed at all, however. Let’s review.

#1: Defensive Tackle

A no-brainer, even if the Falcons don’t solve the issue with their first selection. There is a need for a legitimate, long-term starter next to Grady Jarrett that has to be fixed this offseason, no matter how good Jack Crawford may be in 2018. The Falcons didn’t or couldn’t make a splash at the position in free agency, so it’ll have to happen Thursday or Friday. It’s still the odds-on favorite to be Atlanta’s first round pick.

#2: Wide Receiver

This is really about the options available. Justin Hardy is better than he’s given credit for, but he’s gotten relatively little playing time and few opportunities to prove himself, and he’s a free agent after this year. Marvin Hall and Reggie Davis are former UDFAs without a lot of playing time under their belts, and those are the primary options behind Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu at the moment. The Falcons at least need to add legitimate competition, and potentially a long-term #2 option.

#3: Cornerback

This is one the Falcons have indicated is a need through their pre-draft visits and offseason rhetoric. Sure, the Falcons may just be checking in on Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver, and UCF’s Mike Hughes, but they shown enough keen interest that we have to at least consider the position in the first few rounds. Couple that with the team’s stated plans to have Damontae Kazee get some time at the nickel, a sign that Brian Poole isn’t a lock to start there full-time for the third straight season. At worst, the team seems likely to add competition for Blidi Wreh-Wilson in the form of a player who could be in line for a larger role in the future.

#4: Linebacker

The team still only has four veteran linebackers on the roster, and while Kemal Ishmael is a reliable thumper and terrific special teamer, he’s only signed to a one year deal. Couple that with the fact that Duke Riley isn’t yet proven at the NFL level and that the team loves athletes at linebacker and it seems like a mortal lock that one will be either drafted or picked up as a priority free agent.

#5: Tight End

The Falcons have been linked to a number of tight ends throughout the draft process, including some prospects expected to go quite early. On paper, with Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen and Eric Saubert available, this looks like less a glaring need and more a small one, but that’s assuming that Hooper has a fine year, Saubert takes enough of a step forward to actually play, and that Paulsen does fine work as a blocker while soaking up a ton of snaps. If the Falcons can get an interesting red zone target here, they’ll be in good shape, but they likely won’t do so early.

Honorable Mention: Fullback

If it’s with the last pick in this class, I’m fine with the Falcons picking a fullback just to ensure they get one. While it is a real and legitimate need, it’s not one the Falcons should be drafting to solve before the seventh round, so it doesn’t belong on this list. The Falcons still had a strong ground game a year ago minus Patrick DiMarco and plus average-ish blocker Derrick Coleman, and fullback use has been falling across the NFL for years.

What are your top draft needs for the team?