2020 NFL Draft: The Falcons’ first-round conundrum

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Thomas Dimitroff loves to trade up, but I really do not hope he gets that itch in the 2020 NFL Draft. When asked about the upcoming Draft, Dimitroff said the Falcons will be picking at 16 “for now”. Certainly this is GM speak, no team is going to give up their strategy to the press, or close the door to potential deals. But with that being said, a trade up in this Draft could be a catastrophic mistake for this organization, and for Dimitroff personally.

If anything, the Falcons should be looking to trade down in this year’s draft. The Falcons already have a top-heavy roster in terms of talent. You take the top-10 players on all NFL rosters, and Atlanta may possibly be the best. What this team lacks is depth, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

The Falcons do not have any compensatory picks headed their way in 2020 after opting for a law-of-large-numbers approach with free agents in 2019 that did not pan out. While Dimitroff pulled off a great trade acquiring a second-rounder for Mohamed Sanu, he should not get too comfortable. The reality is that, at this point, the Falcons should be looking to add as many quality bodies as possible on rookie contracts. The bigger the draft class, the better.

The last time the 16th pick was dealt in a trade back situation was in 2018. The Baltimore Ravens packaged up their 5th round pick and were able to move back to 22nd overall, and pick up the first pick in the third round. Baltimore then later moved back a few more spots and packaged their 6th rounder in another trade with the Titans, picking up a fourth-round pick.

This is a strategy I would love to see Dimitroff pull off in order to add more quality young bodies on rookie contracts. In theoretical terms, if the Falcons were able to pull that off they would have a first-rounder, two second-rounders, two third-rounders, and two fourth-rounders.

But it isn’t always that easy. There should be suitors for deals. That should not be the problem. There are always teams in the first round looking to get their guy. The problem is due to their tight cap situation. The Falcons almost HAVE to take a pass rusher with their first selection, and one that can contribute immediately. I am a big believer in the best-pick-available approach, but it is such a glaring need that it is simply the reality. And they HAVE to hit on that pick.

Bringing in a guy like Ryan Kerrigan could certainly help too. He is a guy who can help the Falcons get to the QB and not cost them a compensatory pick this time next year. But the Falcons will really have to evaluate this pass rusher class, and if a guy is available later in the first that they like more, or think is a similar talent, they should try to pull off a similar approach. Another advantage of this is it would give the Falcons the opportunity to draft multiple pass rushers. This may end up being the best route, as they need to put together a completely new rotation of pass rushers, not just one star.

I recently did an article on some pass-rushing options in the upcoming draft. The Falcons should have a few options in the first round. It will just be a matter of when they think these players will still be available. Zack Baun, Bradlee Anae, and Jose Uche are quality options that could be had in the second or third round who would complement a first-round rusher. If they can pull off getting two of those three guys in this range, they may not even have to draft a pass rusher first overall, but one thing no general manager has is a crystal ball, and it is a risk that the Falcons frankly cannot afford to take.

I am sure the Falcons are evaluating their options in all sorts of scenarios, but this may very well be the best way for the Falcons to see a huge boost in 2020 without continuing to commit cap space suicide. I would just hate to see them go all in for one guy in a trade-up situation when the odds are astronomically against them finding a one-man fix for a plethora of needs.

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