Well, it’s Week 8, and the Falcons are 1-6. Only one 1-6 team has ever rallied to make the playoffs, and based on what we’ve seen from Atlanta, I seriously doubt this team will double that number. So instead of talking about competing for a playoff spot, we’re instead going to shift our focus to competing for a top draft pick. Right now, the Falcons are doing pretty well: they’re currently slated to have the 4th overall pick, behind the top-3 of Cincinnati, Miami, and Washington.
This draft order is likely to shuffle quite a bit by the time the actual offseason hits, but having a pick this high begs the question: what should the Falcons do with a top-5 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft? Below are a few of the early options available to Atlanta, and my top choice shouldn’t shock you.
Draft EDGE Chase Young
The top priority for the Falcons heading into the 2020 draft must be securing an impact pass rusher. Their failure to acquire one has held the defense back for the better part of a decade. The pass defense will never be successful as long as the pass rush sucks, and a top-5 pick is the perfect place to address that need.
Ohio State’s Chase Young is considered by some to be the best pass-rushing prospect in some time. The competition for Young at the top of the draft will be fierce—Atlanta would be best served by winding up in the top-3 for a strong shot at him—and there’s no guarantee the Falcons get him even with a top-5 pick. Still, adding Young to this team is likely the best-case scenario.
Trade down with a QB-needy team
In the event that Chase Young is gone before Atlanta is on the clock, the next best scenario is that there’s still a top-tier QB waiting to be picked. This year’s class has some very exciting names at the top: Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, and LSU’s Joe Burrow. All look like potential top-5 talents. If Young is gone before the Falcons pick at 4, that means one of these QBs is guaranteed to still be on the board.
This trade could be very lucrative for Atlanta. There are several teams in the 10-20 range that are in the market for a QB: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, and Oakland are three obvious choices. We know the Falcons are unlikely to do business with the Bucs, so Oakland seems like the most logical partner. The Raiders have two picks in the top-20 (16 and 18), and plenty of other capital available. If the Falcons can net those two first-rounders and another Day 2 pick, that would be an excellent consolation prize for missing out on Chase Young. Couple that with the second-round pick acquired from the Patriots in the Mohamed Sanu trade, and you have a tremendous opportunity to reload at several positions of need.
Fallback plan: Draft another EDGE, or another position of need
The first two options are the ones that the Falcons should be pursuing above all others. However, there’s always a chance that things don’t work out. Young could go early and other teams could trade up ahead of the Falcons for QBs, or the trade might not materialize as we’d like. In that case, the Falcons may have to stand pat at 4 and draft another target.
Iowa’s AJ Epenesa is a very good player who could fill a similar role to Young. He’s not quite the same level of generational talent, but he’s still worthy of a top-5 selection. Atlanta could also attempt to address other needs: a high-end CB like Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, or an elite safety like LSU’s Grant Delpit.
What would you do with a top-5 pick if you were the Falcons? Share your ideas in the comments below.