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Brian Burns
AP
Draft Decisions

NFL Draft Needs: Falcons

by Josh Norris

Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) is Rotoworld's Senior NFL Editor, and Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) is Rotoworld's lead Draft Analyst. Together, they're breaking down every team's biggest needs and offering potential solutions in April’s draft.

For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.

Notable Pre-Draft Additions: LG James Carpenter, RG Jamon Brown, TE Luke Stocker, G/C Adam Gettis.

Starting Offense

QB: Matt Ryan
RB: Devonta Freeman
WR1: Julio Jones
WR2: Calvin Ridley
SLWR: Mohamed Sanu
TE: Austin Hooper
LT: Jake Matthews
LG: James Carpenter
C: Alex Mack
RG: Jamon Brown
RT: Ty Sambrailo

Starting Defense

RE: Takk McKinley
LE: Steven Means
NT:  Deadrin Senat
3T: Grady Jarrett
MLB: Deion Jones
WLB: De’Vondre Campbell
SLB: Vic Beasley
LCB: Desmond Trufant
RCB: Isaiah Oliver
SCB: Damontae Kazee
FS: Ricardo Allen
SS: Keanu Neal

Team Needs

Silva's Analysis

Defensive Line: Keeping Jarrett went a long way toward lessening this need, but the Falcons have up-front depth and pass-rush concerns regardless. Dan Quinn’s defense ranked bottom eight in sacks (37) and bottom seven in quarterback hits (79) last year, unsuccessfully fielded in-season trade offers for Beasley and finishing dead last in the NFC in tackles for loss (68).

Offensive Line: Brandon Fusco was a free agent bust before breaking his ankle in October, and right guard competitor Brown got overpaid by the team. Last year’s Falcons wound up playing musical chairs at both guard spots, and C Mack is 33. An Atlanta rushing offense that ranked sixth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA under Kyle Shanahan in 2016 fell to 16th in 2017, then 21st in 2018. Assistance is needed throughout the interior, and Sambrailo is a low-reliability right tackle option.

Quarterback: Atlanta is a talented team that underachieved mainly due to injuries, mostly on defense. MLB Jones (foot), FS Allen (Achilles’) and SS Neal (ACL) combined to miss 38 games, and their presumed healthy returns will shore up weaknesses. Although Matt Ryan showed no signs of 2018 decline – his yards per attempt (8.1) and QB rating (108.1) were both second best of his career – he turns 34 in May and has been backed up inadequately by 38-year-old Schaub. Atlanta also figures to add to its running back stable with Coleman’s deal expired. Freeman (knee, groin) and Ito Smith (knee) are coming off surgeries.

 

Falcons 2019 Draft Picks

Norris' Options

1 (14). EDGE Brian Burns, FSU - Burns is a legit top 10 talent. He tested in the 94th percentile and won with athleticism in college. That translates. And we know the Falcons brain trust prioritizes athleticism along the front seven. This certainly could be offensive line as well after the injuries the team dealt with.

2 (45). OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State - Risner could certainly be a first-round pick, but the overall point here is the Falcons need to invest more in their offensive line. Risner has right tackle and center experience, so it is certainly feasible he could play guard as well.

3 (79). CB Sean Bunting, Central Michigan - A physical press corner with great athleticism. Bunting might not stay in phase at all time, but he fights to get back into position. There are also games when he asserts his physical dominance against his opposition.

4 (117). DL Renell Wren, Arizona State - Upfield disruption is Wren’s game. Too often he was asked to play directly next to the center, but no matter the alignment Wren has shown his first two steps can create instant pressure.

4 (137). RB Bryce Love, Stanford - Love suffered a torn ACL in his final game at Stanford. Without Tevin Coleman, the Falcons lack a big play threat in the backfield. Love constantly maximized his blocking for big gains in college.

5 (152). CB Clifton Duck, App State - You know who I thought of when watching Duck? Damontae Kazee. That kamikaze style of tackling through ball carriers. It wouldn’t surprise me if his ultimate home is in the slot.

5 (172).QB Gardner Minshew, Washington State - Over 1,100 attempts during his collegiate career. Minshew gives off Case Keenum vibes.

6 (186). LB Ulysees Gilbert, Akron - Athletic linebacker depth, and a player the Falcons have reportedly shown interest in during the draft process.

7 (230). WR Jakobi Meyers, NC State - Big slot receiver for a team whose big slot receiver is about to be on the wrong side of 30.

Josh Norris
Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .