Hopefully, by this juncture of the season, you have come to the realization that the Falcons are a bad team. A bad team that is likely headed to an offseason full of transition that can start in the front office, make its way to the sidelines, and hopefully trickle down to the team, with a number of familiar faces likely departing.
The focus now should be on how this team can improve in the offseason in some capacity. Whether or not they will make a coaching change remains to be seen. For now, I will place the spotlight on the upcoming NFL Draft and how the Falcons can add some needed superior talent and avoid a long-term setback as an organization. Let’s begin.
Round 1, 5th Overall - Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
The Falcons were on a bye during Week 9 of the season and within striking distance of taking the best player in the NFL Draft, Ohio State’s Chase Young. Unfortunately, thanks to the inept state of the New York Jets and their Week 9 loss to Miami Dolphins, the Falcons fall to fifth overall and quite possibly, out of range of Young.
So they “settle” for a prospect that has been compared to Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. At 6’5 and close to 320 pounds, Brown has shown to be a man amongst boys the last couple of seasons at Auburn. His athleticism and impress strength is quite often on display and once he establishes leverage, good luck. A scenario that plays out with the Falcons falling out of Chase Young territory could very well result in the team trading down to accumulate more picks. Or they can sit put and take an elite talent to simply add more talent to their below average defensive line. Potentially, a combination of Brown and Grady Jarrett can provide a rugged and dangerous tag team on the interior.
Round 2, 37th Overall - Curtis Weaver, DE , Boise State
Again, losing out on Young can alter the Falcons draft strategy. Going BPA (best player available) to add much needed juice on the defensive line is not a bad method at all. When it comes Weaver, he may not be the most athletic guy you’ve seen but he has a skill set that allows him to get the job done at the end of the day. In 33 career games so far while at Boise State, Weaver has 30 sacks to go along with 40.5 tackles for loss. His versatility is a feather in his cap with his ability to rush on the edge and the inside while also providing pass rush skills as a stand-up rusher. For those who enjoy comparisons, I see a little bit of Everson Griffin within his play ability.
Round 2, 64th Overall - Jake Hanson, C/G, Oregon
I can hear the scoffs and disbelief from here. But let me explain.
It pains me to say this but some familiar names will likely get walking papers this offseason and one of those may include veteran center Alex Mack. Mack has answered the call when signed as free agent in March of 2016. Overall, Mack has been worth the investment but we are currently seeing a decline in his play as of late and an offseason cut by the Falcons could see the team save roughly $8 million in cap while only costing the team $2.5 million in dead cap.
So it’s only fitting that the team snatches the experienced Hanson to fill the likely void. Hanson has been a starter on the Ducks offensive line since his 2016 redshirt freshman season and prior to this current college football season, he registered 37 starts over his first three seasons. Hanson is about as fundamentally sound as you can get as a center prospect and is NFL ready at this stage of his career. An offensive line with Hanson, Lindstrom, and McGary entrenched as starters will give the Falcons a very solid stable of blockers for years to come.
Round 3, 69th Overall - Jonathan Greenard, DE , Florida
Notice a theme here? Upgrading the trenches for the Falcons should be high priority after how both lines have been underwhelming during this season. As most may know, the Falcons are last in the NFL in sacks. As soon as the season comes to a conclusion, the team will likely move on from former first round pick Vic Beasley, as he has produced little to nothing since leading the NFL in sacks in 2016.
Adding Weaver in the previous round is a positive step in the right direction. But more is needed. You can never have too many pass rushers, especially when the team is woeful at getting after the quarterback. Greenard is a former Louisville transfer and currently leads the Florida Gators in sacks and tackles for loss. Greenard is in the neighborhood of 260 pounds and shows the burst and bend around the edge to beat flat-footed or mispositioned offensive linemen. The sense to apply a plan on how to rush quarterback is visibly seen by Greenard in his play. While he does not have great length, he is still a useful piece in run defense as well.
Round 4, 101st Overall - Trey Sermon, RB, Oklahoma
Here is where things get interesting. There is no doubt that starting running back Devonta Freeman is having a very below average season. Partial blame should be placed along the offensive line while some of it should also be chalked to possibly seeing a drop off in Freeman’s overall game.
Freeman can also be a cap casualty this offseason, and if not, will probably be completing his final year in Atlanta in 2020. So including Sermon will either give the Falcons a capable starting running back next season or provide a clear sign for Freeman to improve or else. Sermon is a very good runner in between the tackles and showcases the ability to absorb first contact and run through it with his leg drive. He has been overshadowed a bit during his career but when you have played next to Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts in three consecutive seasons, you can understand why.
Round 5, 132nd Overall - Malik Harrison, LB , Ohio State
It has been noted that the drop off in play on defense this season has occurred in several spots. One spot in particular is at linebacker, a place where the Falcons may see some alterations this offseason.
Harrison has played with a number of stars on defense during his time in Columbus so it’s understandable if he is not on the radar of most. Harrison is a better run defender than he is a pass defender but he has shown during his career that he can be a useful component in that particular compartment. A sure tackler, Harrison will fit very well alongside a remade Falcons defensive line that can make things a little more simpler for him.
Round 7, 200th Overall - David Dowell, S , Michigan State
The Falcons saw their headhunter of a strong safety in Keanu Neal go down to a season-ending injury for the second season in a row. There are questions as to if Neal will be his normal self once he returns as his presence results in having a hard-hitting enforcer on the field.
After losing a couple of backups along with Neal, the team found itself inserting veteran Kemal Ishmael to fill the void at strong safety. Which is something I rather not see going forward. The team has failed to address the backup depth at the position until now. Dowell is a versatile defender that has seen time at strong safety, free safety, and even slot corner at Michigan State. His ability to close swiftly on run plays makes him very useful in the box. Dowell could be the answer to providing depth behind Neal while also giving a boost to special team units.