As one of the best young teams in all of the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons are looking to build off of their 2016 Super Bowl run. With one of their biggest needs residing on the defensive line, the Falcons helped solve part of their issue with the signing of Dontari Poe. However, Atlanta is still one more playmaker away from having a truly dominant defensive line. That one playmaker is Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker.
The Atlanta Falcons Should Draft DeMarcus Walker
DeMarcus Walker is one of the best pass rushers in the entire 2017 NFL Draft class. He excels at getting to the quarterback and refuses to let any offensive linemen keep him from getting in the backfield. Last year, Walker racked up a whopping 16 sacks, good for second most in the FBS. Walker also recorded 21.5 tackles for a loss and wrecked havoc on opposing offenses. Walker’s phenomenal swim move to get to the backfield is an asset that will certainly suit him well in the NFL.
Walker would be a perfect fit alongside the newly signed Poe and Vic Beasley With great speed on the outside, Walker would make the Falcons defensive line one of the NFL’s best. He would be able to draw double teams away from Beasley, the NFL’s sack leader in 2016. In addition, his strength would greatly enhance Atlanta’s rushing defense.
Replacing Dwight Freeney
With defensive end Dwight Freeney currently sitting in free agency, Walker would be the perfect replacement for the aging legend. Freeney’s role in 2016 was almost exclusively as a pass rusher, with very few responsibilities outside of pressuring the quarterback. Walker would be a phenomenal replacement for the 37-year old. Even if the Falcons decide to bring Freeney back for another season, he is clearly nearing the end of his great career. By drafting Walker, the Falcons are assured of a young defensive end that can be on the roster for at least the next couple of years.
Walker could also play the same exact role as Freeney in 2017. After all, new defensive line coach Bryant Young may want to start veterans like Adrian Clayborn and Jack Crawford over the 22-year old Walker. As a player, Young was a phenomenal pass rusher, which could be a trait he helps instill in Walker. Playing in more of a third-down pass rusher role could allow Walker to gain valuable experience while not sacrificing the Falcons chances of winning. Given the fact that the Falcons are defending NFC Champions, it is unlikely for an incoming rookie to get a heavy dose of minutes right away anyway.
In the end, Walker would be the perfect pick for the Falcons in the 2017 NFL Draft. As of now, Walker is projected to go in the third round by CBS Sports. However, it would not be that much of a reach for the Falcons to take him with their second-round pick. Walker could end up falling to them at the 95th overall pick in the third round, but if the Falcons want to make certain they have Walker on their roster come 2017 they should take him in the second round. There are few options in the draft with as much upside as Walker, giving the Falcons no reason to pass up on the Florida State standout.