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The NFL Draft tends to be the point at which fan confidence either skyrockets or craters, usually based on little more than whether they took players we liked and tackled positions we thought they should.
It’s fairly rare that a draft barely moves the needle, but that appears to be the case in 2019. Per the latest results of our FanPulse poll for Falcons fans, confidence is now at 56% after the draft. It was, for reference, in the 40% range before free agency and at 58% just before the draft. That suggests that cautiously optimistic fans did not find a reason to suddenly heave their confidence behind Atlanta based on a draft class that caught most of us off-guard, if not in the positions selected than certainly in the players who wound up here.
What gives? Broadly, I think the draft itself played a major role in the lukewarm results, as you’d expect. The Falcons got two probable starters on the offensive line who could be considerable upgrades, which would in turn help an already quality offense get to new heights. But they drafted nobody on the other side of the ball who figures to be a day one starter unless they’re really ready to carve out a role for rookie corners Kendall Sheffield and Jordan Miller, and the overall strategy on defense still seems to largely be predicated on better health and major improvements from the defensive line. Many would consider that a gamble, and no matter how optimistic you are, it’s hard to feel totally confident in gambling.
The fact that one of those draft selections came at a position where the Falcons had already invested significant free agent dollars, that the selection was widely considered a reach, and that they swapped away their second and third round selections to move up and snag Kaleb McGary at the end of the first round when he was not necessarily the tackle people had in mind, makes it clear that everyone’s going to need to see these guys play to build that confidence. That’s eminently fair, frankly.
So while I’m a little surprised confidence did not jump as it often does under the draft, I think it reflects the fact that most everyone just wants to tangibly see the improvement we’ve been promised this offseason, and that the pieces of the puzzle don’t quite fit together until training camp and preseason start to (or fail to) make the case. We’ll check back in later this summer and see how everyone’s feeling.