The first two picks for the Falcons brought in a hyper-talented running back and a stellar run blocking left guard, but Falcons fans were thirsty for defensive help heading into the third round. They’ve gotten it now, with Atlanta picking up Ohio State defensive end Zach Harrison with pick 75 in the third round.
Harrison fits the mold of what new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen appears to be looking for in his defensive ends, as he’s a big (6’5”, 275 pound), rangy player who promises to be effective against the run more or less from day one. The question is whether this coaching staff can unlock his pass rushing potential, as he has been capable but not stellar in that regard to this point his career. He’s landing in a place where he can take some time to develop, as the Falcons have re-stocked their defensive line this offseason, and where there will be larger opportunities in the future.
And make no mistake, there’s potential here. Harrison can move when he needs to, has the strength to disrupt blocks, and probably just needs time and refinement at the NFL level to become at least a useful rotational pass rusher. The plus run defense out of the box will only help him get playing time, but if he can become a fearsome edge rusher and join (hopefully) rising players like Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone in causing fits for offenses, the Falcons will be thrilled and so will we.
If nothing else, the team addressed our desire for defenders and snagged another player who should be able to help out a re-tooled defensive front. That’s a welcome development.