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Examining the Falcons’ 1st-round options: Linebacker

Will Atlanta boost the middle of their defense with the first round pick?

Indiana v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Having a draft pick in the top 5 is actually somewhat rare for the Falcons. The last time it happened was in 2008 in the aftermath of the Michael Vick scandal and the Bobby Petrino disaster of 2007. Having a pick this high gives you a host of options, with the hope being that you won’t be here again for a long while.

In this series, we’ll take a look at all the different ways the Falcons can use this pick to rebuild under a new regime. Today, we consider the option of drafting a linebacker.

Why it makes sense

Even though the Falcons have a promising group of linebackers in Deion Jones, Foye Oluokun and Mykal Walker, the likely shift to a 3-4 could make this position even more important. Dean Pees is probably going to come in and want linebackers that he can deploy near the line of scrimmage or in coverage. He utilizes the blitz a good bit, so having another athletic linebacker to add to the mix could become an anchor for a defense in need of major retooling, especially given that Oluokun is a free agent next year.

If you believe the Falcons offense should be far improved in 2021, getting a potential game changer at linebacker could lift this defense enough to make the team an immediate playoff contender again. At the very least, it makes them better for the future.

Why it might be the wrong move

As with several other positions, a lot of NFL analysts believe a pick inside the top 5 is too rich for the linebacker position, no matter how good they are. Hell, even Luke Kuechly was picked outside the top 5. Likewise, if you’re looking to invest in the defense, linebacker may be the only position with relative stability heading into 2021.

The secondary needs an infusion of talent and the defensive line has some glaring holes. Investing in a position of strength may not yield as much of an overall defensive improvement as filling one of those other roster gaps. Plus, the Falcons have had pretty good fortune in finding quality linebackers outside of the first round. All three guys mentioned above were taken in the 2nd round or later, making it clear you can (and perhaps should) look to scoop up values later on.

What do you think? Would you support grabbing a linebacker with the first round pick? Let us know in the comments below.