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If the Falcons do trade up, who are they targeting?

The Falcons are once again at the center of a flurry of rumors regarding trading up in the 2020 NFL Draft. If Atlanta was to pull off such a trade up, who would the team be targeting?

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

As we approach the 2020 NFL Draft—which is now less than two weeks away—the rumor mill is starting to heat up. Yesterday, we were told a particularly outlandish story that the Falcons were interested in trading up...for a QB. That was almost certainly a smokescreen for Atlanta’s true intentions, but there’s a kernel of truth in every lie. The kernel of truth in that rumor appeared to be that the Falcons are indeed interested in trading up, which was reported today by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer.

Atlanta being linked to trade-ups is nothing new. We hear about it every year, and it’s well-known in NFL circles that Dimitroff is one of the most trade-happy GMs in the league. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t, but we should take any trade-up rumors involving the Falcons seriously.

Let’s assume for a moment that there’s substance to this rumor. If the Falcons are planning on trading up, who would they be targeting? I have three big names in mind, and the first one might surprise you. Let’s take a closer look at some of Atlanta’s potential trade-up targets.

LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

This might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of Falcons draft targets, but it probably should be. Atlanta has a lot of needs and only six draft picks, and trading up is going to make that even more difficult. But what if the team could fill multiple needs with a single player? Isaiah Simmons is perhaps the most unique player in the entire 2020 NFL Draft class, and he’s a truly rare athlete.

At Clemson, Simmons played significant snaps as an EDGE pass rusher, an off-ball LB, and a safety. If you really go through the tape, there’s probably no position Simmons didn’t play—except perhaps DT. At 6’4, 238, Simmons put on an absolute clinic at the NFL Combine, showcasing elite speed (4.39-forty) and explosiveness (91st % vertical jump, 98th % broad jump). He’s incredibly intelligent and comfortable at just about every spot on the defense, and he’s surprisingly technically sound for someone who has been playing all over the formation.

Simmons is a truly unique prospect who can act as a matchup neutralizer on the defense. Does the opponent have an elite TE? Simmons can cover him. RB out of the backfield? No problem. Poor OL? He can blitz from just about anywhere. Mistake-prone QB? Simmons can lurk at the safety position and take advantage of poor throws. He’s a true eraser, and the exact type of player that Dan Quinn loves. If the Falcons are considering a major trade-up into the top-10, my money would be on Simmons as the target. If Simmons falls past Carolina at 7, keep an eye on the team moving up to 8 with Arizona. The price would likely be a second-round pick, but the Falcons could see Simmons as worth it.

CB C.J. Henderson, Florida

We all know that the Falcons are planning to draft a CB early in the 2020 NFL Draft. They’d have to be utter fools to pass on the position after cutting Desmond Trufant, and there are currently only five CBs on the roster—one of whom (Jordan Miller) will be suspended for the first month of the season. There’s an abundance of CB talent in this draft, particularly between Rounds 1-2, but if Atlanta has someone circled as “their guy”, my money would be on Florida CB C.J. Henderson.

Henderson is currently the consensus #2 CB on most draft boards. He checks all the boxes of a Dan Quinn corner: length, athleticism, attitude, and comfort in both man and zone. Henderson could fall to 16, but it’s pretty unlikely with a bunch of CB-needy teams in the 9-15 range. Frankly, I’d be shocked if Henderson fell past Jacksonville, which means the Falcons would need to get up to 8 (or earlier) to guarantee him. That trade would likely cost the team their second-rounder to pull off, but they’d probably get a fifth-rounder back. Would that cost be worth it for Henderson? I don’t think so, not with so many talented CBs available on Day 2. But the Falcons may feel differently—and Dimitroff has a history of trading up for CBs (Desmond Trufant).

DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

The Falcons could also be eyeing a trade-up for a top defensive lineman with their lack of interior pass rush outside of Grady Jarrett. In that case, I believe the most likely target would be South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw. A dominant pass rusher and run defender who wins with absurd power, length, and surprising quickness, Kinlaw checks all the boxes of a Dan Quinn DT. There’s a non-zero chance Kinlaw could fall to 16, but if the Falcons see him as a premier interior defender, a trade-up could secure him.

To guarantee Kinlaw, the Falcons would probably have to trade in front of the Panthers at 7. But it’s much more likely this would be a smaller trade-up—probably in front of the 49ers at 13. To get to 12, it would cost the Falcons their third-rounder, per the traditional trade chart. That’s a significant price when the team has only six picks, but it isn’t outlandish for a talent like Kinlaw.

I do see this as less likely than a trade-up for the above options because Quinn has never prioritized DT since coming to Atlanta. The Falcons have only drafted two DTs since 2015, with the highest pick being in the third round (Deadrin Senat). Even when DT seemed like a screaming need on the roster, the Falcons seemed content to add a few free agents and call it a day. Kinlaw is a high-end talent, so it’s certainly possible that the team breaks their mold for him.

What are your thoughts on the possibility of the Falcons trading up in the 2020 NFL Draft? Do you see any of the above three players as their most likely trade targets, or do you have a different player in mind? Would any of these trades be worth it, in your opinion?