As our pre-draft coverage rolls on, it’s time once again to look at Falcons draft tendencies with Dan Quinn as the head coach of the team. Today, I want to look at the positional preferences this team has shown with Quinn calling the shots, because they may help us suss out where the Falcons are going in the draft ahead.
Unlike with schools, where the Falcons have a clear LSU bias and not much else, this team absolutely has positional needs and preferences under Dan Quinn. They’ve drafted four linebackers, four cornerbacks, and four wide receivers over his four years in charge, which reflects Quinn’s strong desire to stack his team with quality corners and linebackers, and the team’s desire to add speed and talent to the bottom (and with Calvin Ridley, the top) of their corps.
Those positions are followed closely by running back, where the Falcons have nailed their Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith picks and added useful depth in Brian Hill, and then defensive tackle (Grady Jarrett and Deadrin Senat), guard (Wes Schweitzer and Sean Harlow, hardly huge investments), tight end (Austin Hooper and Eric Saubert), and defensive end (Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley, or the only position where Quinn has invested two first rounders). They’ve never drafted a QB (obviously), true center, kicker or punter under Quinn, but every other position is covered here in some capacity.
What does this mean?
The Falcons have been pouring enough resources into linebacker that they now have a position group that is pretty strong at the top and genuinely deep. To a lesser extent, the same is true at cornerback, though they hurt their depth by cutting two players this offseason. They’ve also stacked up receiver and running back pretty well, mostly with their draft selections, and shouldn’t need to add to either group unless they find great value late.
What that means, where the Falcons have nine draft selections and no pressing holes at positions they’ve traditionally prioritized spending draft capital on, is that we’re likely to see them dive into positions they’ve typically neglected. That’s especially true at tackle and center, where the team invested a seventh round pick (OT Jake Rodgers) and zero selections respectively, but currently “enjoy” a situation where they have no obvious long-term starter at right tackle and no young player to groom at center behind Alex Mack. They’re likely to remedy both of those situations come late April.
They’ll also finally break out of their habits along the defensive line, one suspects. The Falcons have only made two major investments in DE, choosing to fill the rotation with useful veterans beyond them, but are about to either wash their hands of Vic Beasley after 2019 or potentially lose him as he chases a big contract after a big year. Whether it’s a first rounder or a late rounder, the team needs a developmental end to step in next year when Beasley, Clayborn, and Means’ contracts are all up. Ditto defensive tackle, where Jack Crawford is a free agent after next season and the team could use young help. The team may not do both—Dan Quinn has said he wants a group of eight or nine players on the defensive front, and the team has seven players who would seem to be locked in—but one is a virtual lock.
Finally, there’s safety, and it’s a position that looks strong on paper but could turn into a quagmire if even one thing goes wrong. Damontae Kazee is expected to get more run at cornerback, Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen are both returning from major injuries, and the team’s “we need depth at strong safety” comments seem to suggest they’re not in love with the very solid Sharrod Neasman, who isn’t on a long term deal in the first place. They’ll definitely draft one, even with a strong free agent group.
Let’s hear your takeaways on this positional breakdown.