Anytime you lose a Super Bowl, it’s hard to look back on the positives throughout the season. It also becomes increasingly easy to justify some drastic moves to “fix” the team in hopes for redemption next season. One glaring issue that we saw from Atlanta last season was the lack of pressure from an improving defense. Vic Beasley Jr. had some really good games, leading the league with 15.5 sacks, but only six other defenders contributed sacks for the Falcons (two of them were cornerbacks). Atlanta has been seeking a pass rush ever since the departure of John Abraham and, while Beasley looks promising, there needs to be that solid pass rusher to play opposite of Beasley to draw the double and triple coverage away from him.
The Falcons Should Trade Down in Draft
Many experts believe Atlanta should draft Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton with the 31st pick in the Draft. Charlton has a rare combination of size and athleticism and had an impressive senior year at Michigan, leading the team with nine and a half sacks along with 13 tackles for loss. Although he didn’t run as fast as expected in his 40-yard dash, Charlton still impressed at his combine.
Another name being discussed for the Falcons to take at 31 is T.J. Watt—younger brother of J.J. Watt–who is coming out of Wisconsin as a linebacker but could easily play defensive end. Watt is not as big as Charlton, but he’s pretty fast (ran a 4.69 at the NFL Scouting Combine) and strong for his size. Watt finished his senior year at Wisconsin with 63 tackles (15.5 for loss) and 11.5 sacks and was named a second-team All-American.
Either player going to Atlanta at 31 would be a great pick, and both players can potentially be special, but it’s doubtful either Charlton or Watt will make it that far with the attention they’ve garnered. Also, Atlanta has signed former Dallas defensive end Jack Crawford, who fits Dan Quinn‘s “fast and physical” template he wants in his players. Crawford only started ten games for Dallas in 2016, but he finished the year with 25 tackles and three and a half sacks.
The Falcons also landed free agent defensive tackle Dontari Poe of the Kansas City Chiefs. Poe was a dominant force in his five years with KC, racking up 200 tackles, 13 sacks, 12 pass deflections and two forced fumbles. The star interior lineman’s resume also includes becoming the biggest player in the NFL with two rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown.
The acquisitions of these two pass rushers alleviate some pressure to find a defensive lineman in the first round. Pass rush is still something that needs to be addressed, but it’s more of a concern for depth now which can be filled in a later round. One defensive end who could definitely be waiting in the second round for Atlanta is Jordan Willis from Kansas State. Willis had an impressive combine and is definitely a fast and physical type of player. He finished 2016 being named the Big 12’s defensive player of the year after finishing the season with 53 tackles (17.5 for loss), and, a conference leading, 11.5 sacks.
Atlanta has made some smart off-season moves so far and addressed most of the needs. The only real need Atlanta has for the draft is adding depth to the roster. I don’t think Watt or Charlton will make it to the 31st pick and I think it would be better for Atlanta to just trade down. Atlanta could easily add a pass rusher and an offensive lineman with their two second round picks. Regardless of what happens, Dan Quinn has earned my trust and I believe he and Thomas Dimitroff will make the right decisions for the team on draft day.