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In the end, the Falcons prioritized substance over sizzle in 1st round of 2020 NFL Draft

Atlanta’s trade-happy ways in a critical year gave way to staying put and filling a need.

NFL Combine - Day 6 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

History changes under your feet like quicksand. A few years from now, whether A.J. Terrell is a bust or a Pro Bowler, fans will debate whether he was the right pick at #16, not whether the Falcons should’ve made one of the 20 or so trades they were linked to. Smoke isn’t solid ground, and because the many rumors Atlanta was linked to came to naught, we’ll mostly forget about them except as a vague reminder that Thomas Dimitroff is someone who loves to talk trade and sometimes even trade.

That’s a shame in way, because it obscures what the Falcons actually did on Thursday. Despite a lot of pressure on this front office and coaching staff to get it right, they did not sell the farm for Chase Young or Jeff Okudah, and they didn’t even surrender valuable picks to get Javon Kinlaw (admittedly my preferred selection) or C.J. Henderson. They stood pat and nabbed a guy they clearly valued, a move that’s sensible but wasn’t a given after the Falcons evidently made calls everywhere, and wasn’t a given...well, given this team’s history.

You need look no further than this offseason to see why I might be nervous. The new jerseys, the pickup of former UGA stud and Rams RB Todd Gurley, and even the Dante Fowler signing suggested the Falcons were pushing for headlines. All the draft rumors suggested a front office that relished being in the limelight even if they weren’t legitimately pushing for any moves in particular. In that environment, when an owner wants to see wins and positive fans and a front office is under a lot of pressure, it can be all too easy to succumb and try to keep making flashy moves for the short term flash of fire that entails. The Falcons didn’t.

I don’t love the Terrell pick because I don’t believe he has the upside of an elite cornerback. I do like it because I believe at worst he’ll wind up being in the neighborhood of Desmond Trufant, a player I loved and defended often during his run in Atlanta. Terrell has upside beyond that but even if he doesn’t realize it, he’ll slot comfortably into the #1 cornerback spot. The fact that he may not realize his potential in year one, which could help lead to the end of Dimitroff and Quinn’s runs in Atlanta, further increases my appreciation for the move. It’s a five year draft pick, not a one year panic move.

This is still an incomplete draft class, and I may sour a bit on the Terrell pick if the Falcons fumble their remaining selections. Given that he’ll likely be a rock solid starter right away, given that the Falcons now have a young and intriguing cornerback group, and given that they didn’t sacrifice draft capital to get this far, I’ll go ahead and say this is far better than I would have expected Atlanta to fare given all the talk about this team’s playoffs or die aspirations.

Now it just all has to translate into the remaining picks, the rest of the offseason, and the on-field play, where things have so frequently gone awry of late. Let’s hope that’s where the true change is coming.