One of our time-honored traditions around here is trying to guess, over the course of many months, where the Falcons intend to go in the NFL Draft. Every now and then we get it right (Sean Weatherspoon, Jake Matthews), every now and then we really get it (2016), and most of the time we whiff. Terribly.
To be fair, that’s true of most everyone trying to get their arms around an upcoming Falcons draft, because the Falcons are very good about concealing their plans until very late in the process. Calvin Ridley didn’t shock Mel Kiper and a handful of draft analysts, but it certainly caught me off guard given what I perceived to be this team’s most pressing needs.
It does not help that Thomas Dimitroff has been literally saying the same thing for, and I’m being conservative here, one thousand years. It’s always “we like where we’re at,” “we could move up or down,” and “we expect there to be good players here.” That is not particularly helpful if you’re soothsaying.
We still have some very strong clues about where the Falcons are headed this year, even if we don’t know who they’ll draft and in what order.
Those clues primarily lie in the way the Falcons have handled their offseason. They’ve done cosmetic work on a handful of positions like cornerback and defensive end by re-signing useful reserves, but primarily they’ve invested their dollars in the offense. They brought back Ty Sambrailo as either the starting right tackle or the slam dunk swing tackle, they’ve added two starting guards, they’ve bolstered depth at tight end and running back, and they just brought back Justin Hardy. Aside from right tackle and depth at center, which is a genuine concern, the Falcons don’t have any holes that are screaming to be addressed in 2019.
That sets the Falcons up beautifully for a primarily defensive draft, and I think we can feel reasonably confident they’ll go in that direction. With nine selections and a roster that probably doesn’t have nine spots open, we can also feel pretty certain the Falcons will move up if they feel they need to, which is a little more welcome this year given how starved this Falcons team looks to be for impact defenders, particularly at defensive end. They’ve virtually ensured that their first pick will be a defensive lineman, cornerback, or right tackle with their moves to this point, and I don’t expect a Calvin Ridley out of nowhere this year.
So expect defense, heavy on the trenches and in the secondary, plus the usual grab bag of puzzling of at least unexpected selections on offense. Can’t wait.