After scooping up running back Bijan Robinson with the 8th overall pick, the Falcons now have several picks left to make, including two on the draft’s second day. They can add talent and address needs after adding yet another high-upside weapon to their offense, and the expectation should be that they’ll focus on adding help at positions of need.
If recent history is our guide, the players the Falcons pick in the second and third rounds will be more likely to contribute in 2024 than 2023. Richie Grant was a relative non-factor in 2021 and blossomed into a capable starter in 2022, while Jalen Mayfield was supposed to develop but was thrust into action that year. Last season, Troy Andersen, Arnold Ebiketie, Desmond Ridder, and DeAngelo Malone were all to some degree eased into significant roles, and are expected to have larger ones this year. Might the Falcons do so again?
We’ll know tonight, but in the meantime, let’s talk about remaining needs on the roster. In honor of the team’s apparent commitment to best player available, I’ll eschew positional needs for our first entry.
#1: Good players
I’ve beat this drum for months now, but the most dire need for this Falcons team is simply talent. That was the animating spirit behind the Robinson selection—game-changing talents at any position are game-changing talents—and it will likely be the animating spirit for day two.
The Falcons will want to draft players who can be impactful for multiple seasons, even if their road to year one value is a little less clear on a team stocked with short-term free agent options. If Atlanta comes out of the second day with a couple of very promising players that aren’t at, say, punter or fullback, we’ll feel pretty good about their desire to keep improving the talent level of the roster after a couple of years of scrounging to get by with cheap signings and undrafted free agents. Their biggest need is still just talent.
#2: Left guard
We’ve talked about this before, too. The Falcons can surely get some level of competent play out of Matt Hennessy, Jalen Mayfield, Justin Shaffer, and others, but are they looking for a short-term level of competence or the kind of high-end play that could lift this offense further?
If a quality guard is available—and several should be—it would be nice to see the Falcons wed talent and need and come away with a really good one for now and in the future. They’d have to really believe in at least one of their current options not to do so.
#3: Wide receiver
The Falcons will use Bijan Robinson as a slot receiver and kick Cordarrelle Patterson out wide at times, and Kyle Pitts will line up all over to create mismatches. Given that, the need at receiver isn’t quite as dire as it would seem, but it’s still a significant need. Mack Hollins is currently the de facto No. 2 receiver and is capable enough—especially as a blocker—but beyond Drake London there just isn’t any proven, high-end talent.
Snagging a player the Falcons believe can be a factor opposite London over the long haul, even if they take some time to get up to speed, still feels like a good use of draft capital. There are quite a few set to be available in Round 3, if all goes well.
I am a big Arnold Ebiketie fan, and the Falcons have stocked this group with Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree to join Lorenzo Carter and DeAngelo Malone. There’s competence and better production here than the Falcons have had for a little while, but they still truly need more high-end talent.
Day two should offer a few options, even with a late run on the position in the first round, and it would be nice to see the Falcons scoop up a player with a bright future given that they can afford to bring someone along slowly. This team doesn’t want to go into 2024 with Ebiketie, Malone, and a bunch of question marks, after all.
The team has solidified a group of starters with A.J. Terrell, Jeff Okudah, Jessie Bates, and Richie Grant. Unless they love Jaylinn Hawkins, Mike Hughes, or Dee Alford as their nickel back, however, there’s still an opportunity to add a talent who can handle a significant role in this secondary.
Brian Branch is the name that comes readily to mind here, given that he did indeed fall out of the first round, but the Falcons should have plenty of options on day two, including safeties like Sydney Brown and Jammie Robinson that they’ve spent significant time with. Pre-draft reports indicated they’d be interested in safeties and wide receivers on the second day, so don’t be surprised if they land one today.
What other needs would you put near the top of this list?