The Atlanta Falcons have substantial holes to fill on both the offensive and defensive line, but also have a need at cornerback with the departures of Brian Poole and Robert Alford from the secondary. The promising news is this draft class is littered with defensive talent. How Atlanta chooses to approach the draft is kept in-house for obvious reasons, but I believe drafting with a balance between team needs and the best player available is the most effective way to maximize the draft. That is what Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn will be looking to do when the Falcons are on the clock with the 14th pick.
Round 1 Pick 14
The Falcons should follow their draft board when it comes to this pick. Whoever is available that the team graded the highest is who they should take. This pick could be an unexpected one, like Calvin Ridley last year and Keanu Neal in 2016, especially if there is a quarterback frenzy in the first ten picks, allowing a top ten talent to fall into Atlanta’s lap.
Prospect- Ed Oliver
If the Falcons luck out and Oliver is available at 14, this would be a home run. Although a little light for an interior D-lineman, Oliver plays much bigger than what he is listed at. He possesses elite athleticism and a quick twitch jump, which paired with his leverage, is scary for guards that are notoriously less athletic than tackles in the NFL. Lining Oliver up next to Grady Jarrett should have Falcons’ fans salivating. Though, there is worry about Oliver’s habit of being beaten with down blocks and double teams.
Prospect- Greedy Williams
Selecting Williams might not cover the team’s most severe needs, but again, this draft is loaded with defensive line talent that will be available on Day two. The long corner out of Baton Rouge who played a bump and run style coverage at LSU would fit very nicely in Dan Quinn’s defense. Quinn, who enjoys having bigger corners, would have a field day dialing up the pressure with Greedy on an island, much like Richard Sherman from Quinn’s days as defensive coordinator in Seattle.
Greedy is another product of LSU’s defensive back coach, Corey Raymond, who constantly produces NFL talent on the back end. Williams’ most glaring issue is facing bigger bodied receivers, but competing with Julio Jones every day is the best practice a young corner could hope for.
Prospect- Jawann Taylor
If the Falcons like the defensive line prospects that will be available on Day two, an offensive lineman’s name could be called 14th overall. Though this wouldn’t be a “sexy” pick, Taylor is a day one starter, solidifying the offensive line at right tackle.
Taylor is a nasty run blocker who shows great initial contact when he punches. He can effectively process blitzes, which will only improve next to a highly intelligent player like Alex Mack. When matched up with Brian Burns, another player who will hear his name called on Day one, Taylor performed magnificently. He does struggle with false starts, but I think it’s because he can’t wait to put his massive paws on defenders.
Round 2 Pick 45
What the Falcons do with their first-round selection will affect how they approach the second-round. I would enjoy seeing the best player available approach instead of reaching on a player that fills a hole.
Prospect- Jaylon Ferguson
Jaylon Ferguson amassed 17.5 sacks and 26 tackles for loss his senior year at Louisiana Tech. He has several go-to moves in his arsenal and is stout against the run, using his lower body as an anchor. I believe he is athletic and instinctive enough to play all along the defensive front during passing situations.
Like all Day two selections, there are question marks. He must develop more pass rushing moves to be effective in the NFL. He also lacks some flexibility needed to bend around the edge, both of which can be fixed. But as noted by some scouts, his effort levels weren’t where they needed to be during the early parts of the season.
Prospect- Dalton Risner
Risner is another nasty offensive lineman with fantastic straight arm punching ability. Scouts have said his ability to get to the second-level gives him first-round potential, as he is patient and calculated in his approach when taking on linebackers. The Kansas State product has shown incredible body control and finishes his blocks with style.
Although, his aggressive blocking style shows in his footwork. His lateral movement is subpar, pounding the ground with his heavy feet. Scouts also noted that he is sluggish when coming out of his stance.
Prospect- Jachai Polite
Polite is a first round talent, but concerns of his maturity and character could result in the edge rusher falling to Day 2. Polite is a very instinctual pass rusher that gets off the ball as fast as anyone in this draft class and uses an array of pass rush moves that build off of each other, which is next level. He possesses incredible flexibility in bending around the edge, second only to Josh Allen. If perfected, Polite’s spin move could become a trademark around the league.
His deadly speed comes at a cost, however, in the form of weight and strength. Polite must develop more hand power/violence to swipe or chop opponents off of him. Pulling guards will also give Polite trouble, which might affect his playing time, forcing him into a strictly pass rushing role.
Round 3 Pick 79
Prospect- Chase Winovich
I had the chance to see Winovich play in the Chick-fil-a Bowl this past January, and the most apparent thing I took away from listening to him was his high character. After being blown out by Florida, which was his final game as a Wolverine, Winovich handled naïve interviewers with class. Though he is a stand-up, respectful man off the field, he is the exact opposite on the field.
The long-haired edge is a rabid and physical defender known for playing with a chip on his shoulder. He is willing to do the dirty work and play a role in whatever scheme he is forced into.
On the negative side, his hard-charging bull rush style limits his awareness and causes him to lose sight of the ball. Scouts also note that he plays feet first then with his hands, which NFL tackles will eat up. He must develop better punching techniques to go along with his already impressively heavy hands to disengage tackles as well as set up other pass rush moves.
Prospect- Charles Omenihu
The University of Texas product has an NFL-ready build. He is extremely long and has a pad rattling first punch. His rip-and-bend move is his best, and he possesses a killer hand swipe technique that allows him to disengage from long-armed tackles
Omenihu does lack body control and balance which is essential for pass rushers in the NFL, and even though he has impressive measurables, it shows in his rigid style of play. Scouts also note his struggles against mobile quarterbacks and telegraphed pass rushing approach. Omenihu is a raw prospect but could potentially play a role in the depth of the defensive line as a rookie and develop into something special down the road.