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Pre-draft position breakdown: Cornerback

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With the draft fast approaching, it’s time to take one final look at the roster to determine the Falcons’ positional needs. Today we examine CB, where the Falcons cut longtime CB1 Desmond Trufant. Is this the biggest need heading into the draft?

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

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:

G | EDGE | DT | CB

Today, we examine arguably the biggest hole on the roster: CB. The Falcons cut long-time CB1 Desmond Trufant in free agency in an effort to save cap space, but have made very few moves to shore up the depth at the position. Just how big is the need at CB, and will the Falcons target the position early in the 2020 NFL Draft? Let’s examine the depth chart.

Current Depth Chart

Isaiah Oliver
Kendall Sheffield
Blidi Wreh-Wilson
Josh Hawkins
Jordan Miller
C.J. Reavis

The depth chart looks a lot different at the top heading into 2020 with the cut of Desmond Trufant. As it stands now, third-year player Isaiah Oliver is tabbed as the CB1. Oliver has all the athletic traits and size needed to fill that role, but has struggled with inconsistency over his first two seasons. Manning the slot will be second-year player Kendall Sheffield, who had an inspiring rookie season after starting off a little slow. CB3 is likely to be Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who is probably best-served as a reliable depth piece. He’s performed admirably when called upon to start and has the flexibility to line up on the outside or in the slot, but making him a full-time starter is asking for trouble.

For depth, the Falcons have the recently-signed Josh Hawkins—an XFL standout who clearly fits Quinn’s athletic and size profiles for an outside CB. He also has prior experience with new secondary coach Joe Whitt Jr., which could give him a leg up in training camp. Second-year player Jordan Miller also profiles as an outside CB in Quinn’s defense, but will be suspended for the first three games of the 2020 season. Former UDFA C.J. Reavis spent 2018 with the Jacksonville Jaguars before joining Atlanta’s practice squad in 2019. He’ll have a chance to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

Is there a draft need?

With Trufant’s exit, the CB position is arguably the biggest need on the Falcons roster heading into the 2020 NFL Draft. While Trufant hadn’t had an elite season in awhile, he was still a solid CB1 for Atlanta throughout his tenure. The team will now be depending almost entirely on young players to start, with little proven depth behind them. Adding an impact player at CB in the draft—or perhaps by targeting a veteran after camp cuts—is a key part of improving the defense in 2020.

Luckily, 2020’s CB class is among the strongest in recent memory. Altogether, I have 5 CBs with either first or late-first round grades, and 5 more with second or late-second round grades. The Falcons can likely sit at 16 and see if C.J. Henderson falls to them. If not, they can simply wait until the second round and take one of a whole host of quality prospects like Utah’s Jaylon Johnson, Clemson’s A.J. Terrell, or Alabama’s Trevon Diggs. There are even options like Virginia’s Bryce Hall and Notre Dame’s Troy Pride Jr. available later on Day 2.

In short, CB is a key need for the Falcons. But due to the relative strength of the class in the 2020 NFL Draft, Atlanta can be somewhat flexible with where they make the selection. The second round may actually be the sweet spot, depending on how the board falls. I’d personally lean towards DT Javon Kinlaw at 16, with a CB like Jaylon Johnson at 47, but I could also see a combo like C.J. Henderson at 16 and Justin Madubuike at 47.

What are your thoughts on the CB corps for the Falcons? Do you think the team is planning to add a CB early in the 2020 NFL Draft? When would you target the position, and who are some of your favorite prospects?