The Atlanta Falcons really don’t (and probably won’t) overthink this year’s NFL Draft selection.
Two years of grinding out of cap hell and establishing disciplined roster methods have allowed the Falcons to splurge wisely in free agency and position themselves to just take a good football player in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Think about that. The Falcons really can just take a good football player in this year’s draft at any position! They’re not backed into a corner to force an unwise pick, and they’re not so full of high-salary players that they can’t justify adding to virtually any position on the roster that’s not on special teams.
This year, the Falcons can basically do whatever they want. They have been patient with their money and haven’t rushed the roster more than they’ve had to when injuries have set in. Atlanta has plenty of promise, and they didn’t make one single move in free agency that makes you sick to your stomach. That has to be a win for this franchise, right?
As much hand-wringing as there is during this time of the year as to what team does what in the draft with the first-round pick, it feels pretty relaxed with the Falcons if you’re not forcing unrealistic expectations on them. Unlike some years, the team isn’t having to cover holes in a bursting dam with as many fingers as possible. They really can just ... take someone they really like and be cool with it.
The Falcons could take a pass rusher like Georgia’s Nolan Smith, Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness, Clemson’s Myles Murphy and maybe even Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, and you’d probably feel okay about it. The team brought in a defensive coordinator in Ryan Nielsen that can develop defensive linemen. There would be a good situation for whomever came in on the defensive front.
The Falcons could take a cornerback in Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez or Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon, and it’d make a ton of sense. In a pass-happy league, having a cornerback room featuring A.J. Terrell, Jeff Okudah, Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, Cornell Armstrong, Darren Hall and a first-round draft pick would inspire a ton of confidence on the back end.
The Falcons could take a blue-chip guard prospect like Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski or a versatile guard-tackle in Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. Atlanta has shown a particular knack for developing offensive linemen since head coach Arthur Smith and OL coach Dwayne Ledford came to town, and either Skoronski or Johnson could thrive in this scheme.
Having such a strong guard tandem with a draft pick and Chris Lindstrom would really help boost the offense’s potential and give quarterback Desmond Ridder an easier time getting adjusted to full-time starting responsibilities.
The team could just make the most enjoyable, enticing pick possible in Texas running back Bijan Robinson, who could be the best player in the entire draft. Imagine adding an electric talent like Robinson in an offense that also features wideout Drake London, tight ends Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith, running back Tyler Allgeier and do-it-all offensive spark plug Cordarrelle Patterson.
Like, seriously, how would that not be impossibly fun? At the very least, it’d give the Ridder decision a quicker return with so much talent around him to boost his play. Robinson can really just do a ton, and we’ve seen elite talents at his position make very swift impacts.
What if the team got a quarterback like Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson or, heck, even Kentucky’s Will Levis? While, sure, Stroud, Levis and Anthony have their detractors, and the odds of this are much lower than anything else. Stroud and Robinson seem to have very high ceilings, and maybe Smith’s staff could unlock those?
Heck, maybe even a guy like Alabama’s Will Anderson or Georgia’s Jalen Carter falls to eight? Neither of them feel particularly likely for various reasons, but those guys wouldn’t have folks upset for the on-field potential, that’s for sure.
Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba probably isn’t happening at eight, but it really wouldn’t be as bad as some Falcons first-round picks have been in the past at first glance.
When the Falcons make their selection on Thursday night, they’re most likely going to walk away with a player you’re at least somewhat pleased with. Unless you’ve convinced yourself that it’s one player or bust, there are just so many satisfying avenues for the team to take that really could make them even better for the fall. Seriously, this doesn’t happen often for Falcons fans...if at all.
The beauty of this offseason in Falcons football is that they’ve made a lot of really smart moves and have put themselves in a position to take the “best player available.” It’s probably “best player for them” in the grand scheme of thing, but think of all the years where that’s not what the Falcons did in the draft. Think of all the years when the team forced positional need to chase a goal line that was fading further into the distance. This really doesn’t seem to be one of those years. This year’s pick might just be a layup for a good player.
Soak it in. We might not always be here. This year, the Falcons have an easy decision to make with their first-round pick. They just have to take a good player. Odds are that regardless of which one they end up with, it’ll work out.