Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is the Senior Football Editor for Rotoworld's NFL Page, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) leads Rotoworld's college football and NFL draft coverage. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential draft-day solutions.
For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.
Falcons Team Need No. 1: Defensive Line
While SLB/LE Vic Beasley and DT Grady Jarrett are building blocks up front, the Falcons otherwise lack difference makers in the trenches. LE Ra’Shede Hageman, RE Adrian Clayborn and newly signed NT Dontari Poe are entering contract years. The Falcons need an edge rusher to complement Beasley, who wore down as last season progressed. They must also upgrade a run defense that finished 29th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
Falcons No. 2 Team Need: Guard
The Falcons value athleticism and second-level blocking ability in their zone-run scheme, which Steve Sarkisian is expected to keep in place following Kyle Shanahan’s departure. 34-year-old RG Chris Chester retired after the season, leaving converted DL Ben Garland and ex-Colt Hugh Thornton to battle for starting duties at right guard. All in all, the Falcons need more talent on their interior line, where LG Andy Levitre and C Alex Mack are both on the wrong side of 30 with year-to-year deals.
Falcons No. 3 Team Need: Quarterback
The Falcons quickly went from perennial pretender to respected contender on Scott Pioli’s watch as a personnel evaluator. They really don’t have many needs. Thus, the Falcons are in position to begin using annual draft picks at quarterback, an old Ron Wolf approach that has paid major dividends for teams like the 1990s Packers and 2000s Patriots. Dead-armed 36-year-old Matt Schaub presently sits behind 32-year-old Matt Ryan, whose contract expires after 2018.
Other Considerations: Tight End, Running Back
2017 NFL Draft: More coverage here
Norris’ Mock Draft
Round 1 (31): EDGE Derek Rivers, Youngstown State - An athletic edge player who can rush the passer. Those traits are difficult to find in free agency, so even if he has a limited role, Rivers can impact games. Kansas State EDGE Jordan Willis is also a possibility if on the board at 32.
Round 2 (63): G Nico Siragusa, San Diego State - The Falcons need a right guard. I know Siragusa played on the left side, but let’s not worry about that right now. Siragusa is a lot of fun to watch, especially as a mauling run blocker.
Round 3 (95): DL Jaleel Johnson, Iowa - This DT class is shallow, but Johnson is one of the best out there. He wins with hand use and bend and has a pass rushing plan. He tested like a poor athlete, but the positives outweigh the negatives when watching Johnson at Iowa.
Round 4 (136): S Eddie Jackson, Alabama - At one point I thought Jackson could still wind up in the second round. However, Jackson’s process is silent and it appears the media side is more impressed by him than those in the NFL. He’d fill a free safety role for Atlanta.
Round 5 (174): LB Dylan Cole, Missouri State - One of the most athletic linebackers in this class joins an athletic linebacker unit. Cole needs to improve quite a bit in order to see the field consistently.
Round 7 (249): TE Cethan Carter, Nebraska - A receiving tight end at this price? Yes.