With the 2020 NFL Draft coming up quickly, it’s time to take one final look at the roster before the rookies arrive. The Falcons were fairly active in free agency, addressing some of their most pressing needs and creating some new ones. Over the next week or so, I’ll be taking a look at several of the positions on the roster to determine if the Falcons need to invest resources there in the draft. If you missed any previous entries in the series, you can find them below:
Today, we’ll be looking at DT, where the Falcons have a bonafide star in Grady Jarrett and a very good run-defending NT in Tyeler Davison...and then a lot of question marks. Atlanta also lost some significant part-time contributors in Adrian Clayborn and Jack Crawford to free agency. Just how big of a need is DT in the 2020 NFL Draft? Let’s take a closer look.
Current Depth Chart
The Falcons have star power at the top of the depth chart in Grady Jarrett, who has been a force against the run and as a pass rusher since joining the team in 2015. Next to him is Tyeler Davison, a very good nose tackle who earned an extension in 2020 after an exceptional season against the run. In 2019, Davison completed the extremely impressive feat of a 0.0% missed tackle rate on 55 total tackles. That’s awesome, particularly for an interior defensive linemen.
Behind the starters, the Falcons have two pretty big question marks. 2018 third-round pick Deadrin Senat had a promising rookie season before being relegated almost entirely to the bench in 2019—appearing in just two games with no stats. Former UDFA Jacob Tuioti-Mariner spent 2018 on the practice squad before finally making the roster in 2019. He’s more of a “tweener” at the position at just 6’2, 285, and is probably best served in pass rushing situations.
Is there a draft need?
Behind CB, where the Falcons created a gigantic hole with the cut of Desmond Trufant, I’d argue that a pass-rushing DT is the biggest need on the roster. Jarrett is awesome, of course, and the combination of Tyeler Davison and Deadrin Senat should be formidable against the run. But relying on Tuioti-Mariner to be an impact pass rusher—or perhaps some combination of EDGE/DT hybrids like John Cominsky or Allen Bailey—is a risky proposition. The Falcons could use an infusion of talent in the position, which has been largely neglected since Dan Quinn came to Atlanta.
Atlanta has spent just two picks on DT since 2015: a fifth-rounder on Jarrett, and a third-rounder on Senat. The team got extremely lucky with Jarrett, but has otherwise depended almost entirely on free agent additions. Some of those have worked out well—Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, Jack Crawford—while others have flamed out (looking at you, Terrell McClain). Adding a young, pass-rush focused DT to pair with Jarrett would go a long way in boosting the Falcons defensive line.
My top pick at 16 right now is DT Javon Kinlaw from South Carolina, and I think it’s easy to see why. While Atlanta has talked about converting John Cominsky to an Adrian Clayborn role long-term, they’d still be wise to add another true DT to the mix. Kinlaw’s mix of size, speed, and overwhelming power would be the perfect match next to Jarrett. The bigger questions are whether or not Kinlaw will be available at 16, and whether the Falcons will continue to largely ignore the position in the draft.
What are your thoughts on the state of the DT group for the Falcons? Do you view the position as a primary need, or a lesser one? Which DT would you like to see the team add in the draft?