Note: If you’d like to follow along with the spreadsheet this article is based on, click here.
It’s time. NFL Draft week is here and I’ve got you up to date (for the most part) on players that our beloved, stress inducing Atlanta Falcons will likely be interested in. Since Dan Quinn was hired in 2015, the Falcons have shown a clear trend in the players that they’ve draft in that timespan. When Dan Quinn repeatedly preached the phrase “fast and physical” upon his arrival, he meant it. The Falcons have stuck with that concept as they’ve built they’re roster over the past few seasons.
Every Falcons draft pick since 2015 has excelled in either the broad jump, three cone, or forty yard dash. Last year started to give us a glimpse into which type of prospects the Falcons lean towards and now we’re able to paint a clearer picture as this regime heads into their 4th draft together. Here are all the Falcons draft picks since 2015 with their broad jump, three cone, and forty yard dash measurements. The percentiles are how they rank in regards to other players at their position, courtesy of Mockdraftable.com.
All of their picks scored high marks in either the three cone or the broad jump except for Tevin Coleman, Akeem King, De’Vondre Campbell, and Devin Fuller. However, all four of those players had exceptional forty yard dash times for their positions. Using what we know about their athletic preferences, we can build a pool of players that they’ll be interested in throughout the weekend.
There’s no need to go in-depth on every position because the Falcons don’t have many glaring holes they need to fill this weekend. According to extremely science-based analytical calculations, the Falcons have two categories of needs that act as to-do lists: Y’all Need to Get This Done and You Could Add Some Juice Here.
Y’all Need to Get This Done: DT
Defensive tackle is the Falcons biggest need. After letting Dontari Poe walk to the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons find themselves needing to replace someone who played 75% of the defensive snaps last season. Grady Jarrett has developed into one of the best defensive tackles in the league, but he needs a long term partner (or two) to wreck offensive lines with.
Aside from simply needing bodies, the Falcons have seen that relying on the free agent market for defensive line help can be a costly endeavor. At a certain point you have to stop throwing money at guys like Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson, Dontari Poe, etc. and grow some talent at home. From a team building standpoint, the Falcons need more rookie contracts along the defensive line. There are interesting prospects at every point in the draft that fit the athletic tendencies the Falcons have shown.
Just based on the tape, Maurice Hurst is the best defensive tackle in the class. He’s a penetrating force who is much, much better against the run than given credit for. Unfortunately for Hurst, he was flagged with a heart issue at the combine. He was eventually cleared before his Pro Day workout, so now it’ll be up to each individual team to decide whether or not they’re comfortable clearing him. It’s impossible for us to know how the Falcons medically have him graded, but it seems unlikely that he’ll be drafted by the Falcons this weekend.
Outside of Hurst, there are a trio of likely round one defensive tackle prospects that fit what the Falcons are looking for: Washington’s Vita Vea, Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne, and Florida’s Taven Bryan. While all three players have different play styles, they share the similarity of being unfinished products on the field. Vea will likely be long gone by the time the Falcons pick, so the likely defensive tackle options for pick #26 are Payne and Bryan. Both are raw right now, but if they can turn their athletic flashes into more consistent efforts they’ll be well worth the selection (especially Bryan).
On Days 2 and 3, the guys to look out for are Foley Fatukasi, Nathan Shepherd, and P.J. Hall. Hall was a relative unknown to the media before he ran a 4.76 40 yard dash and had an extremely explosive broad jump. His career production (56 games, 284 tackles, 86.5 tackles for loss, 42 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, 14 blocked kicks) would be almost impossible to replicate on a video game. His production and athletic testing make him worthy of a Day 3 pick alone.
Bryan feels like the most likely option for their first pick if he’s there. Bryan is raw right now, but he has the tools to eventually grow into a dominant defensive lineman. Dan Quinn and his crew have been great at developing defensive linemen, so maybe Atlanta would be the right environment for Bryan to reach his true potential. They’ll likely take another defensive tackle before the draft is over as they continue to build the core of their defensive line.
You Could Add Some Juice Here: CB, EDGE, LB, WR, TE, G
If the Falcons stray from defensive tackle with their first round pick, they have a wide choice of options. They could add a cornerback to bolster an already strong secondary, grab another explosive edge rusher, draft a guard to ensure strong offensive line play, or maybe even a receiver to infuse the offense with some youth.
Personally, I’m not on-board with a receiver at 26, but I could talk myself into Maryland’s D.J. Moore being a decent pick from a long term point of view. His role in the NFL is probably going to be similar to what Mohamed Sanu is asked to do now, except Moore is a much more explosive player.
Adding another corner or edge rusher in the first round wouldn’t be bad picks either. If a cornerback like Louisville’s Jaire Alexander or a pass rusher like UTSA’s Marcus Davenport falls into their laps, they’d be logical picks. Brooks Reed has been a solid player for the Falcons, but having a young trio of Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley, and a first round pick would continue to bolster the Falcons pass rush. If the Falcons wind up taking a corner, it shouldn’t be seen as a knock on Brian Poole. It’s a cliche, but you really can’t have enough good corners. Keep your strengths strong.
Tight end and linebacker are probably more appropriate picks for the later portions of the draft. Clemson’s Dorian O’Daniel has the speed and open field playmaking ability that the Falcons love from their back seven defenders. His potential to upgrade the Falcons special teams unit would make him a perfect pick on the third day of the draft. If the Falcons elect to draft a tight end for the third year in a row, Day 3 is where it should happen. Don’t expect a player like Mike Gesicki to be suiting up for the Falcons next season.
The spreadsheet linked at the top of the page will have you covered for potential Falcons draft picks this weekend. Whatever happens with their draft you need to stay calm, love each other, and pray the Saints don’t get to draft Lamar Jackson. If there’s anyone I might be missing feel free to hit me on twitter @FourVerts.