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Falcons draft prospect watch: EDGE

In the midst of the bye week, it’s time for a look ahead to some potential targets for the Falcons in the 2021 NFL Draft. Here are some players to watch at EDGE, which will almost certainly be Atlanta’s biggest need heading into the offseason.

Central Michigan v Miami Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

It’s Week 10 of the 2020 NFL season, and the Falcons are currently in the midst of their bye week. After defeating the Broncos in Week 9, Atlanta has climbed to a 3-6 record after starting the year 0-5. That means they aren’t currently projected to get a draft pick in the top-5, but could still be on track for a pick somewhere between 6-16. They’re currently picking 10th in Tankathon’s projected draft order, and the Falcons will lose ties to just about every team due to their strong strength of schedule.

It’s very early, but with little else of interest happening during the bye week, this is an excellent time to take a look at a few prospects to watch for Atlanta in the 2021 NFL Draft. Let’s start with EDGE, where the Falcons have gotten almost nothing from high-priced free agent Dante Fowler Jr. and just jettisoned former first-round pick Takkarist McKinley. If EDGE isn’t the top need for Atlanta going in to draft night, I’ll be totally shocked.

Here are four EDGE prospects to keep an eye on for the Falcons.

Kwity Paye, Michigan

Projected: 1st Round

Perhaps the biggest riser of the 2021 class, Kwity Paye has been a dominant force in very limited action for Michigan. At 6’4, 277, Paye is on the larger end for a pass rusher, but his strength and size has been an asset for him against the run. Through just 3 games, Paye has 12 total tackles, 4.0 TFL, and 2.0 sacks. If he continues at this pace, Paye is likely to be one of the top EDGE prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Gregory Rousseau, Miami

Projected: 1st Round

The consensus top EDGE prospect on The Draft Network, Gregory Rousseau is coming off a truly magnificent 2019 season that saw him put him 19.5 TFL and 15.5 sacks. A prototypical pass rusher at 6’5, 260 with incredible athleticism, Rousseau certainly looks the part of an elite, top-of-the-draft talent. However, teams will only get one season of film on Rousseau, as he elected to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID. It’s a somewhat risky proposition, particularly in the top-10, but Rousseau has the look of a potential star.

Patrick Jones II, Pitt

Projected: 2nd Round

A player who has improved their stock with a strong start to the 2020 season, Pitt’s Patrick Jones II has built upon a promising junior campaign with a standout senior year. After posting a respectable 11.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks in 2019, Jones has already nearly surpassed those numbers in just 8 games: 10.5 TFL and 8.0 sacks. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up at the end of the season, but his blend of size (6’5, 260) and athleticism has made him a force against both the run and pass.

Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest

Projected: 2nd Round

If Dan Quinn was still the head coach in 2021, I’d be penciling in Carlos Basham Jr. as one of his top targets. Basham certainly fits the mold of the EDGE/DT tweeners the Falcons have been pursuing in recent years at 6’5, 275. He put together a strong junior season with 18.0 TFL and 10.0 sacks to go along with 3 FF. In 2020, he’s followed it up with another productive campaign: 4.0 TFL and 5.0 sacks in just 5 games, along with 4 FF. Basham is merely an average athlete, but his strength, size, and savvy could make up the difference.

What are your thoughts on any of these players winding up in Atlanta? Do you have any prospects you’re keeping an eye on for the Falcons?