- The biggest need, the hidden need and what else the Falcons should be looking for in the 2019 draft.
Two weeks ahead of the NFL draft, Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling are breaking down draft needs for all 32 teams. You can also see every team in a single post here.
Biggest Need: Defensive End
Vic Beasley is a one-trick pony (or, actually, two tricks: rushing with pure speed outside, and looping inside on long stunts, where he’s dependent on a defensive tackle creating space for him). If he doesn’t yield 12 sacks in a rotational role this year, he’ll likely be allowed to walk next year in free agency. Third-year pro Takk McKinley aligns opposite Beasley, though on film McKinley’s initial burst and startling power look more destructive inside. Putting him at nickel defensive tackle alongside star Grady Jarrett and finding another speed rusher on the edge would be the best way for Atlanta’s four-man rush to generate the pressure that their single-high coverage-based scheme demands.
Hidden Need: Interior O-line
The Falcons signed James Carpenter and Jamon Brown in free agency, but unless the offense under returned coordinator Dirk Koetter is transitioning from an outside-zone running scheme to an inside-zone scheme, these moves are ill-fitting. Carpenter and Brown are experienced moving east-west in outside zone schemes, but both are better suited for north-south movement (Carpenter especially). If the Falcons are sticking with outside zone, they need more athletic guards. If they are indeed going to more inside runs, they could soon need a new center. Alex Mack, 33, is still elite in an outside-zone scheme, but his $10.5M cap number in 2020 might be too much in a different system.
Also Looking For: Linebacker
Deion Jones will almost certainly be signed to a lucrative long-term deal when his rookie contract expires after this season. That, however, likely means De’Vondre Campbell, whose contract also expires at the end of the year, will get away. The Falcons snuck 2018 sixth-rounder Foyesade Oluokun into their rotation more and more as last season progressed, plus 2017 third-rounder Duke Riley, though inconsistent, has the raw speed that Dan Quinn’s run-and-chase scheme demands. But even if those two ascend (and that’s a big if), depth at linebacker will soon need to be replenished.
Who They Can Get
In the middle of the first, Alabama’s Jonah Williams and Oklahoma’s Cody Ford could both get consideration as collegiate tackle who could kick inside, but Atlanta could also wait until Day 2 and grab someone like Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom for their outside-zone scheme. If it’s an edge rusher, Florida State’s Brian Burns fits the bill. Michigan LB Devin Bush (whose father and namesake was drafted by the Falcons with the 26th pick of the 1995 draft), would fit perfectly in Dan Quinn’s defense as De’Vondre Campbell’s heir apparent.
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