There seems to be a theme amongst Atlanta Falcons fans across the internet. Ask any of them who the team should draft and you usually will get the same answer, Ed Oliver. While there may be some fans out there who want another prospect the majority of the fan base is banking for Oliver to be there at 14 when the team makes its selection.
So, what happens if that’s not the case? What if Oliver is not on the board at 14, what are the teams next options? While Oliver does consistently fall in mock drafts seen across the internet, he is still a top five player in this year’s class and could be taken well before the Falcons come on the clock.
Atlanta Falcons Draft Options If They Don’t Go With Ed Oliver in the First Round
Of course, the first option is Brian Burns from Florida State. Again, Burns is another top-five player who could fall out of the top 10. Burns has the best bend in the class and compliments it with great hand usage and counter moves. He added weight at the Combine and still was plenty of explosive, showing he could realistically play at that weight without a problem. Assuming he’s on the board at 14, he should be highly considered for the team. Especially with Vic Beasley’s future up in the air, the team could use some star talent off the edge.
Going back to the interior defensive line, Christian Wilkins is an option as well for the team. A four-year starter for the Clemson program, Wilkins was an all-American during his career and made his name known since the moment he stepped on the field. Talk to anyone within the program and you’ll hear rave reviews about the kid. He has made it known that when drafting him, you are getting much more than a football player. Wilkins’ character off the field is unquestioned. He got his degree in two and a half years and was working on his Master’s during his final year with the team.
But don’t be fooled. Wilkins isn’t only a culture guy. He also happens to be a really good football player as well. He has the makings of a true plug and play starter for any team who drafts him. Best suited as a three-technique but can line up anywhere needed on the interior. He brings a unique combination of quickness and power to the table. He has a good anchor and can drop his hips to hold his gap. He’s also quick to take control of the intended gap and has the change of direction skills to move gap to gap in certain situations. He’s relentless in pursuit and will never take plays off as well.
Sliding Wilkins next to former Clemson defensive lineman Grady Jarrett would make a great duo for years to come. Wilkins also has some upside rushing the passer and could be an impact here with further development.
It’s always good to have a backup plan and franchises, just like any other organization, tend to do so. Looking at the Falcons depth chart, the team doesn’t have major holes that need replacement from early picks. That is good but puts the team in an interesting position come draft day. If the above options aren’t available, then what direction will the team choose to go? Is trading back or trading up a realistic option? And if so, would we pull the trigger if given the option?
After Deion Jones got injured, it revealed a weakness in the team’s roster. While Jones is one of the best linebackers in the league, the team lacks great depth outside of him. Adding someone else to the position should be a top priority for the team. Looking forward, Michigan linebacker Devin Bush would be a great fit for the Falcons defense.
He would be an instant plug and play guy beside Jones playing the weak side. Bush has the range to make an impact on all three levels of the field. He’s a true sideline to sideline defender who can match runners speed getting to the outside or meet them at the line of scrimmage. Not only that, but Bush is excellent in coverage and has the fluid hips needed to turn and run with any slot receiver or tight end. Some may worry about his size but it’s the new trend for linebackers and he certainly fits the mold.
The Falcons are big into athletic linebackers who can cover, and Bush fits that mold to a T. It wouldn’t be surprising if the team veers off course to select him. They have shown to do so and take the best player available approach instead of taking players outside their true value.