Now we wait. The Falcons aren’t on the clock until the fifth round now—they have three selections today—and the most exciting selections have already been made. This is where Terry Fontenot and the front office add interesting depth, take a swing on a couple of players they really like, and potentially address punter. They’re not going to set the world on fire, but important roster building work will still take place, especially because after this they’ll stock the rest of the roster with undrafted free agents.
What should the team look to accomplish today? Let’s run through a few areas.
Stock offensive line depth
You’re likely not getting an immediate starter in the fifth round. What you can get is worthwhile depth, and the Falcons have a need for just that.
Right now, unless the Falcons are planning to switch Germain Ifedi to left guard for the first time in his NFL career, Jalen Mayfield’s only real competition comes in the form of veteran Colby Gossett and second-year center/guard Drew Dalman. I’d expect Dalman to factor in at center more than guard and for Gossett to serve as a pure backup, and he’s only on a one year deal to begin with.
Adding Georgia’s Jamaree Salyer or Texas-San Antonio’s Spencer Burford would give the Falcons depth with upside on the interior over the long haul, and a player who would be good enough to push for a starting job down the line if Mayfield falters again at left guard. The lack of investment in the position to this point would seem to suggest that the Falcons have their eyes on an upgrade either in the draft or via free agency following it, but I’d love to see them snag someone worth developing.
Upgrade at punter
I know drafting a punter seems repugnant to many fans, especially after the Falcons wound up burning one on Sterling Hofrichter, a player who was victimized by regime change in Atlanta. There are a handful of really well-regarded punters in this class, however, and Atlanta somewhat unusually has left themselves with no proven veteran option and no competition at the position to this point. It’s just Dom Maggio, who the staff may like a lot, but wasn’t able to get any action last year despite a revolving door at the position.
San Diego State punter Matt Araiza is a fun player who be a killer addition for special teams coordinator Marquice Williams, but Penn State’s Jordan Stout and Georgia’s Jake Camarda are also worthy choices if Atlanta wants to sink a sixth or (after a trade down) seventh round pick into punter. It may be a tough sell with so many team needs, but as Matt Bosher taught us over a decade ago, if you get the right guy the expense is worth it.
Follow the talent
Forget 2022. Atlanta’s long-term needs are many and daunting, and no matter how much you like what they’ve done this offseason to this point, the need to add more players with upside and a chance of being long-term contributors for the next great Falcons team is readily apparent.
So don’t fret too much about positions, no matter how much I’d like to see that guard help or how logical punter seems. If Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir is still there when the Falcons are up again in the fifth round, don’t fret about all the free agent signings and the investment in Drake London and just add another intriguing option to the group. Remember, only London, Calvin Ridley (who seems unlikely to be back), and Frank Darby are currently under contract after next season.
Or add hyper-athletic Sam Houston State cornerback Zyon McCollum to perhaps the team’s only true short-term strength, the corner group, because his upside is considerable and you know he’ll be a factor on special teams right away. With Casey Hayward likely to only spend a year or two in Atlanta and only A.J. Terrell, Darren Hall, and Avery Williams set to be around multiple seasons, swing for the upside McCollum would bring as a high-end reserve or potentially even starter if all goes well.
The Falcons need to think best player available as much as possible when their turn does come up today, because the one thing they definitely do not have enough of is talent more or less across the board. If they have the opportunity to get a couple of players who they believe can be starters in a year or two with time and coaching, it will be well worth the investment.