The disappointing Atlanta Falcons were favorites to win the NFC in 2018, and they’ll need to really make a splash in this year’s draft to calm an uneasy fanbase.
The 2019 NFL Draft will be key not only for the Atlanta Falcons, but for head coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff.
Atlanta was a favorite to come out of the NFC as Super Bowl representatives in 2018, but injuries, subpar play by the offensive line, and some questionable play-calling by former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian derailed that train.
Is 2019 an all-or-nothing year for the Falcons? The NFL Draft will have a lot to do with that perception, both from fans and from Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
State Of The Team
The Falcons are wasting the Matt Ryan era. An unexpected run to the Super Bowl followed by the most embarrassing Super Bowl meltdown in football history has this franchise and the fan base on edge. Owner Arthur Blank has let it be known that anything other than a Super Bowl run in 2019 will cost people their jobs – specifically General Manager Thomas Dimitroff.
The Falcons have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL but do have a couple of areas that need attention quickly. Head coach Dan Quinn has now put together his third staff since being hired in 2015 and will assume the defensive coordinator responsibilities as he did in the latter half of 2016.
If Matt Ryan and the new/old offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter can get on the same page in a hurry, the schedule sets up nicely for them to make a return atop the NFC South standings with their eye on Miami in early February.
Total Draft Picks
The Atlanta Falcons have nine draft picks in 2019, including fourth and fifth-round compensatory picks.
- Round 1, No. 14 overall
- Round 2, No. 45 overall
- Round 3, No. 79 overall
- Round 4, No. 117 overall
- Round 4, No. 137 overall (Compensatory)
- Round 5, No. 152 overall
- Round 5, No. 172 overall (Compensatory)
- Round 6, No. 186 overall
- Round 7, No. 230 overall
Top 3 Draft Needs
Interior Offensive Line: While I maintain that the Falcons will address the offensive line need during Free Agency due to the high importance, coming out of the combine and heading into free agency this remains an important need and should take top priority. Matt Ryan was hit and sacked more last year than he had been in his entire career. Jake Matthews is a solid left tackle and Alex Mack remains one of the top three centers in the NFL. However, they alone cannot protect Matt Ryan.
Interior Defensive Line: Grady Jarrett is no longer the best-kept secret of the NFL. His coming-out party in Super Bowl 51 followed by his performances the last two seasons have made him a household name across the league. However, he needs a running mate. Last season the Falcons chose Deadrin Senat with the 90th overall pick and he showed flashes of being a very good player. That said, he has a lot to learn and looks more like a great backup than a starter. Looking across the talent available in this year’s NFL draft, the Falcons will more than likely take an interior defensive lineman to pair with Grady Jarrett.
Secondary: Two seasons ago, it looked like the Falcons were set in the secondary for years to come. However, injuries, awful play, and roster cuts have the Falcons secondary looking bleak at best right now, and sorely in need of a youth injection. If the Falcons are going to somehow make the leap back into the top ten defenses in the NFL they’ll need to address the depth issues at corner and create some competition in order to have guys ready for the NFL grind.
Top 3 Draft Targets
Wilkins will be high on many draft boards and somehow possibly overlooked on many others. During his career at Clemson, Wilkins was a three-time first team All-American at two different spots, and a two-time national champion. His versatility allows him to play techniques one through seven on the defensive line which would help the Falcons more than any other player in the first round given their defensive scheme. More importantly, the player you get off the field and in the locker room makes him the best overall player in this draft.
Given the secondary need of this team and the fact that Coach Dan Quinn loves him some LSU players, Greedy will be a guy to keep an eye on when the Falcons are on the clock. Greedy is a player that can have an instant impact on the secondary and will provide more than a few highlight plays along the way.
Edwards has been one of the best offensive linemen in college for the last couple of years. While he has played tackle during most of his career at Wisconsin, I believe he will best serve as a guard in the NFL. Given the need for interior offensive line as well as competition at right tackle, Edwards should be a guy to whom GM Thomas Dimitroff gives serious consideration.
Decision Maker (Or Who To Blame If Things Go Wrong)
Falcons Owner Arthur Blank has already said that this offseason is very important to him, and if things do not go as planned that both GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn are on the chopping block. However, he went on to further say that they are not mutually exclusive and one could be fired will the other retains his job. Most take that to mean, Dimitroff is on the hot seat after 11 seasons at the helm of the team.
Dimitroff has never drafted offensive lineman well. He has had a couple of hits (Jake Matthews and Joe Hawley) and some atrocious misses (Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes just to name a couple). He has had some major draft issues at other spots too. He passed on Clay Matthews and instead took Peria Jerry out of Ole Miss in 2009. In 2014, he took Ra’Shede Hageman in the second round based on one workout, which puzzled everyone at the time, and then more recently the Jalen Collins experiment and Duke Riley pick are haunting.
Best/Worst Pick In Current Draft Slot
Historically, who was the best pick and the worst pick based on where the team is currently picking.
The Falcons have had a pick fall between the 10th and 20th lots in the first round 12 times in franchise history. When looking at the best and the worst taken in the middle picks of the first round, it gets kind of tough to decipher the best.
Best Pick: Mike Kenn – Offensive Tackle – Round 1 (Pick No. 13) in 1978 NFL Draft
The greatest Falcons player every chosen in the middle of the first round was Mike Kenn. The offensive tackle out of Michigan would be the 13th pick in the 1978 draft and would go on to play in 251 games for the Falcons over 16 years and three decades. Kenn would be inducted into the Falcons ring of honor in 2008. His 251 starts are the Falcons record for most games started and played, including 94 consecutive games.
Worst Pick: John Small – Defensive Tackle – Round 1 (Pick No. 12) in 1970 NFL Draft
The worst Falcons player every chosen in the middle of the first round would be John Small, defensive tackle out of The Citadel. Small was picked 12th overall by the Falcons in 1970 and would go on to play in only 33 games during his three years in Atlanta, playing in only 18 more before he was out of the league after the 1974 season.