We’re a little over two weeks out from the start of the 2023 NFL Draft! It’s an exciting time filled with mock drafts, scouting reports, and roster building talk from all corners of the NFL. It’s also time for us to kick off our Draft Roundtable series here at The Falcoholic, where we’ll be bringing you hot and fresh takes from the crew here at the site.
Our first topic concerns the biggest draft needs remaining for the Atlanta Falcons. The team was one of the most active in free agency, signing at least five projected starters on defense and a number of significant contributors on offense. This is still a roster in need of a significant talent infusion, and the team is armed with eight picks in the 2023 NFL Draft to further accomplish that goal.
Read on for our takes on the biggest draft needs remaining for the Falcons.
Still plenty of needs, but they aren’t as dire
The Falcons did a great job in free agency, addressing almost all of their biggest needs with potential starters—or at the very least, intriguing rotational players. That being said, a number of spots are still in need of significant talent. Left guard is perhaps the most glaring, but it’s also unlikely to be an early target. For what it’s worth, the team’s lack of moves at that particular spot suggest they’re at least somewhat comfortable with the brewing competition between Matt Hennessy (who started three games in 2022), 2022 sixth-rounder Justin Shaffer, 2021 third-rounder Jalen Mayfield, and futures addition Kyle Hinton.
Then there are a cluster of needs that I consider very likely to be addressed in the first three rounds of the draft: edge rusher, cornerback, and wide receiver. All three are pretty significant, and I think you could make a strong case for EDGE and CB in the first round. Wide receiver, on the other hand, is probably more likely to be targeted on Day 2.
Outside of those, linebacker, running back, and safety could all use improved depth. I view those positions as likely Day 3 targets, where the Falcons currently have five picks (two 4ths, 5th, two 7ths). Or they could draft Bijan, of course. —Kevin Knight
Talent. Oh, and edge rushers
The Falcons have done a nice job of building up the roster via free agency, to the point where there are very few positions where they have to add talent. You and I would be upset if they muddled through with their current depth chart at left guard, wide receiver, edge rusher, and a few other spots, but if they had to they could do it.
What this Atlanta team needs is talent. I’m not necessarily pro-Bijan Robinson at No. 8—it’s intriguing but I’m not expecting it—or advocating for a pure “best talent available” all the way down through seven rounds with no mind for what positional needs remain. What the past few seasons have revealed is that the Falcons simply don’t have enough talent on this roster to beat up other teams. If this team can land a handful of great players, I’m not overly concerned about which positions they take up, because in both the short term and the long-term the need for impact talent is still considerable. There may come a day where the Falcons’ needs are so few that they may want to seriously consider drafting to fill them for the long haul and affordably, but right now they’re not close to that.
If I was identifying a specific positional need or two, I wouldn’t hesitate to say edge rusher and wide receiver. The Falcons are going to move guys around under Ryan Nielsen so the need may not be as dire as it appears, and Arnold Ebiketie is a player I’m banking on to improve in 2023. There’s still an anxiety-inducing lack of proven high-end pass rushing punch from that group currently, and I have been begging the Falcons to remedy that for so long I can’t stop now. Similarly, while this team will lean heavily on their tight ends, use their backs as pass catchers, and probably use a third receiver sparingly, their depth chart is simply too barren at the moment to feel great about heading into 2023.
In the end, though, give me players who can be special for a team that wants to be special. It’s that simple. —Dave Choate
It’s been EDGE for 15 years
I know I’m old because I keep wanting to talk about the times of standard definition television. Back in the standard television times, I recall one time where the Atlanta Falcons entered a season with two legitimate pass rushers. The year? 2006. It was John Abraham and Patrick Kerney as the bookends (with Rod Coleman providing some impressive interior pressure).
In Falcons fashion, the offseason pass rush hype died thanks to injuries, the Falcons finished the season with a loss to Chris Weinke, Jim Mora got fired, Mike Vick was arrested and sent to federal prison but at least Bobby Petrino didn’t stick around the full season.
Since then, we’ve only had hope entering the season. For another six years, we had to hope the Falcons could add a bookend to Abraham. We saw Jamaal Anderson, Ray Edwards, and a few more not worth mentioning. Then the Falcons cut Abraham. There was a short period where hope was the Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley duo. Dwight Freeney and Beasley had good showing in the early part of the 2016 season. It somehow got even grimmer. One year it was Steven Means and Dante Fowler — the Falcons lost a lot.
The top defenses usually have three starter-quality EDGEs. I’ve been desperate for two for 15 years; one in the last five years would have been great as well. This year, I’m not sure who is worth the 8th overall pick. But the Falcons have needed an EDGE since standard definition. Things have gotten only more desperate in the last few seasons. — Matt Chambers
Trenches, trenches, trenches
I actually love what the Falcons have done so far this offseason overall, plugging hole after hole when it came to linebacker, safety, and even beginning to address the trenches with multiple signings on the defensive line.
The job isn’t finished, however, and I would still very much like to see the team continue to keep building the trenches on both sides of the football. David Onyemata and Calais Campbell were good starts for sure but I’d still like to see the team continue to add depth and to find another good edge rusher.
On the offensive side of the football, re-signing Kaleb McGary helped stabilize the tackle pairing but the interior part of the O-line remains a question mark. Left guard is the biggest remaining hole in my opinion, and the rotation of Matt Hennessy and Drew Dalman did nothing to relieve the stress that’s come at the center position.
Whether the team uses its first round pick on the best lineman available, the best edge, or pure BPA with a different position remains to be seen. But I’d like to see more emphasis on the trenches come draft time even if it doesn’t specifically happen on Day 1. - Adnan Ikic