I have been covering the Falcons for a long time. I have really appreciated the consistency on a year-to-year basis. For instance, the Falcons have been typically mocked a defensive lineman in the first round every single year. Mock drafts are always interesting because you can find dozens of analysts agreeing on the team’s biggest need and the best fit before the Falcons run up their pick like Leroy Jenkins.
The Falcons have failed to adequately address the defensive line since Arthur Blank bought the team, with the rare exception of Rich McKay’s trade for John Abraham, McKay’s drafting Jonathan Babineaux, and Thomas Dimitroff bumbling into late-round gem Grady Jarrett. That is a loooooong time period to find only a few notable defensive linemen.
Like most offseasons, analysts are aligning on the team’s biggest need: the defensive line. The line is currently just the aforementioned Jarrett surrounded by a mass of nameless humanity and disappointment. With Vic Beasley leaving the team after
2016 2019, only disappointing Takkarist McKinley and the unproven John Cominsky are even in the discussion to start.
Mel Kiper pumped out his Mock 2.0 and he remains consistent. The Falcons stick both with the defensive line and with the top Iowa lineman.
As I mentioned in my Mock Draft 1.0, their 28 sacks last season tied for second fewest in the league and Takkarist McKinley didn’t make a jump in Year 3, finishing with 3.5 sacks. At 6-6, 280, Epenesa is big enough to play tackle or end in a 4-3 defense, and he has some juice and power as an edge rusher.
AJ Epenesa is a bit different than prior Quinn/Dimitroff edge players. As is a bit typical of larger ends, Epenesa has a high motor, is stout against the run, and can push inside on obvious passing downs. The Falcons had a bit of that versatility with free agent Adrian Clayborn and should allow Quinn more creativity on defense.
Epenesa would be a strong, sensical pick for the Falcons, so it is anyone’s guess who Dimitroff ultimately selects in the draft.