On its face, the best player available (BPA! BPA!) approach is a wise one. By not reaching for players just because they fit a need, you can build a roster loaded with premier talent, turning some positions on your roster into absurd strengths.
In fact, there are times when I really do think it’s the right approach. If there are holes you can fill easily and cheaply either with later round picks or reasonably priced free agents, expending a high round draft selection on, say, a defensive tackle just because that’s your biggest need could be a mistake. You could be passing up on one of the two or three best cornerbacks in a strong class, and that could come back to haunt you later if the DT is a middling starter and the CB in question is great.
But there are times when that philosophy needs to be tempered by need, and I’m going to argue that the Falcons should snag a defensive tackle in the first round, assuming a legitimate talent is available.
The obvious caveat here is that the Falcons should not do so if they don’t have any talents that meet their needs left on the board, and the team would never seriously consider reaching that badly in the first place. But if you have the opportunity to choose between one of your top four or five defensive tackles in a good class or a receiver or cornerback, you can’t really pass up the DT this year unless you think the other guy could be truly special.
That’s just about need. The defense got better for many reasons in 2017, but an underrated one was that Dontari Poe was in Atlanta, providing above average (and occasionally great) play and soaking up 40-55 snaps per game. Having talent of that caliber, even if the player’s not quite as good as Poe, is going to be important for Atlanta going forward, and the player you wind up with in the first round of this class will be cheaper than Poe for four or five seasons. That’s a very big deal, and defensive tackle is currently the team’s biggest need by a wide margin.
So assuming the team doesn’t need to mortgage the future or pass up on a truly elite talent elsewhere, defensive tackle needs to be the pick tonight. The Falcons could go in any number of directions and I’ll be happy to embrace the BPA philosophy if they land the right talent, but setting themselves up with an elite defensive tackle would still be the best possible move for 2018 and arguably beyond.