The widespread expectation, at least among our staff and Atlanta-focused analysts, was that the Falcons would attempt to trade back into the third round. They had seven selections on the draft’s third day, after all, and there promised to be plenty of quality players available for them to choose from.
That was the case, but perhaps because there was no huge run on pass rushers, defensive tackles, and only a partial run on cornerbacks, the Falcons elected to stand pat after attempting to move up into the third and striking out. They’ll head into the third day of the draft with more picks than they’ve ever had in the Dan Quinn era, which has seen them grab the following impactful players in the fourth round or later:
- RB Ito Smith
- LB Foye Oluokun
- CB Damontae Kazee
- LB De’Vondre Campbell
- G Wes Schweitzer
- WR Justin Hardy
- DT Grady Jarrett
Virtually every one of those players has started games, and Campbell, Kazee, and in particular Jarrett are excellent starters you can’t always unearth with late round picks. The Falcons have been successful enough—and this draft is deep enough—to suspect they’ll unearth at least a handful of useful reserves late, and perhaps even a couple of future starters.
Here, in brief, are the implications of not moving up last night, even though we stayed up really late to see if they would, not that I’m complaining.
When you have seven selections and a team that doesn’t have seven open roster spots open for the 2019 season, you can make some things happen. If the Falcons want to pick three times in the fourth round, they have the ammo to make that happen. If they want to jump up to the top of the sixth round, they can package another sixth and seventh to make that happen. And so on.
With that many selections, the Falcons can move around quite a bit, something that has to appeal to Dimitroff after his quiet second day of the draft. While it seemed very likely the Falcons would move up into the third round and they didn’t, it’s a virtual lock they’ll jump around today, and they have more than enough flexibility to go wherever they like.
I did just say the Falcons won’t keep seven guys and I firmly believe that, but it’s worth noting that the Falcons don’t have to keep all the stopgap veterans they’ve assembled. That means if the Falcons want to limit themselves to a single hop up and nab 4-5 players who could serve as, say, interesting multi-year depth at linebacker (instead of Bruce Carter or Kemal Ishmael), safety (instead of Sharrod Neasman, Chris Cooper, or Afolabi Laguda), or wide receiver or cornerback (where there’s no clear cut final guy on the roster today, they could do so. Given their trust in their scouting abilities and the needs that will be coming when a lot of stopgaps and 2016/2017 contracts hit free agency in 2020, that’s an appealing thought.
If the Falcons felt there was a player they had to have, they would’ve pushed hard to go get him, and there’s no indication they did. That likely means that they’re comfortable with what’s left on the board heading into the fourth round, which bodes well for their chances of landing players they like when their pick rolls around in the first half hour or so of today’s festivities.
The trade up for Kaleb McGary is going to be discussed and judged until McGary proves to be worth it, but the Falcons have otherwise chosen to let things come to them thus far and have the opportunity to finally put some late selections toward the defensive line. We’ll see who they have in mind in about 4.5 hours.