The Falcons are in sole possession of first place in the NFC South after capturing their first road victory with Desmond Ridder as a starter, topping the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay over the weekend.
As the trade deadline approaches, everyone is talking about who Atlanta should acquire, which is a much different tune than fans have become accustomed to. Since 2018, it’s been who are the Falcons trading away, not who are they trading for because of their proximity to the playoffs.
The postseason is the goal, and the surest path to that is winning the division. If the Falcons do so, they’ll punch their ticket for the first time since 2017 and host a postseason game for the first time since 2016.
With that would come the new regime’s first draft pick outside of the first eight selections. Right now, the Falcons sit around the 19th pick, and in the latest mock draft from Jordan Reid of ESPN+ (subscription required), Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith spend a first-round pick on a defensive player for the first time in their tenures, landing Washington edge defender Bralen Trice.
19. Atlanta Falcons (4-3)
Bralen Trice, EDGE, Washington
If there’s one positive to take away from the Falcons’ first seven games, it’s their defense. That said, the edge-rush production has been underwhelming. The Falcons have a 35.6% pass rush win rate off the edge, which ranks 29th in the NFL.
Here’s our solve: Trice is a power rusher who wins by overwhelming blockers at the point of attack, and at 6-foot-4 and 274 pounds, he fits the mold of what Atlanta covets in defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen’s scheme. He has been limited to one sack in 2023, but he had nine last season.
There’s no long-term answer at the position. Bud Dupree is on a one-year deal and isn’t guaranteed another contract. As of right now, he hasn’t produced quite as many had hoped. That’s not to say he’s been a dud, though. Against the run, Dupree’s impact has been night and day compared to what the Falcons used to have.
Moreover, Arnold Ebiketie hasn’t developed as quickly as most fans anticipated. A lot of the edge unit’s lack of production should be attributed to these two. Still, Dupree is just a stop-gap veteran, and Ebiketie deserves more time to develop.
Bralen Trice is the exact type of player that Ryan Nielsen covets. He’s big and long, resembling the past Saints edge defenders. I don’t know if he’s the best player available at this spot, but Falcons fans should count on whoever that prospect is to be selected, regardless of the position.
If there’s one thing this regime has done, it’s stick to their guns, which is BPA. Trice might prove to be the best prospect, giving the Falcons the pass rusher they have been searching for, but if he’s not, the club can find the answer in free agency.
This free agent class is loaded with highly productive pass rushers. The Falcons should absolutely be interested.
Photographer: Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire