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Neglecting the defensive line in the draft would be malpractice for the Falcons

The team has set themselves up well for a big defensive line haul.

Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Falcons have built their linbacker corps and secondary primarily through the draft, with mostly excellent results. Deion Jones and Keanu Neal are stars, Ricardo Allen is extremely good, Damontae Kazee is a rising defender, and Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver, and Foye Oluokun are either on the cusp of being quality players or have been. They’ve been less successful at building their defensive line through the draft, however, and this is an opportunity to change that for the better.

As Dominique Patterson recently noted on Twitter, the Falcons have never had more than a quarter of their defensive line originate from the draft in the Dan Quinn era. Vic Beasley, Takkarist McKinley, Grady Jarrett and Deadrin Senat are the only four currently with the team, with the likes of Brooks Reed, Adrian Clayborn, Jack Crawford, Dwight Freeney and others filling out the line in years past. For a team obsessed with adding young talent through the draft, that’s fairly surprising, and it speaks to how much faith the Falcons have put in their handful of top picks, faith that has been rewarded (Jarrett), partially rewarded (McKinley), and sort of rewarded depending on the year (Beasley).

As Pattman notes, this sets the Falcons up to draft along the defensive line, and the stars have aligned to the point that I’ll be legitimately angry if the team doesn’t take advantage of their opportunity. This is pretty widely considered to be a strong, deep class along the defensive line, the Falcons have nine selections with which to add players in bulk or swap around in pursuit of talent, and have a massive need at defensive end and a decent-sized one at defensive tackle even if negotiations with Jarrett proceed smoothly from here.

Fortunately, the team has acknowledged its outsized need and seems poised to invest, which makes this a potentially pivotal class. Dan Quinn has built a reputation as a defensive guru that has been dented by the on-field product in Atlanta at times, and getting more out of Beasley and adding real talent to go with Takk and Jarrett would not only re-burnish that reputation but set the Falcons up for the kind of quality year defensively they’re starved for. It would also ensure we can’t hold their relative lack of draft success and investment along the line over their heads four years from now, which would make us all happier.