The anticipation around the NFL Draft is reaching its peak with a little more than a month to go before the Cardinals select with the first overall pick. For the first time in the history of the franchise, The Falcons will be picking 14th overall, which will leave them some high-quality prospects to choose from.
Going into the offseason, the most glaring problems on the team lie in the trenches. The elite pass rushers in 2019’s draft class, such as Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, and Kentucky’s Josh Allen are expected to be taken within the first five picks. Trading up that far in the draft appears unlikely for The Falcons, even though general manager Thomas Dimitroff has not been shy to do so in the past (Example: Julio Jones). In a loaded defensive class, there could be several fascinating defensive prospects remaining with the 14th pick – like Ed Oliver, Christian Wilkins, and Montez Sweat – but the best value at that spot may exist on the other side of the ball
Finding help on their offensive line, which was porous during the 2018 campaign, remains a must. Dimitroff has already begun the overhaul through free agency as news broke on March 12th about the signings of guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown.
Carpenter, who previously played left guard for the New York Jets in 2018, adds a veteran presence to the group, something Matt Ryan will be sure to appreciate. The eight-year pro and Augusta, Georgia native, stands at an impressive 6-foot-5, 321 pounds.
Brown is another beefy guard listed at 6-foot-4, 340 pounds. The signing of both players takes an offensive guard out of the running for the Falcons’ first pick.
Despite the two early acquisitions, Dimitroff will still be looking to draft a young, college standout to lineup next to either of the veterans at the right tackle position. The Falcons recently announced they would be parting ways with Ryan Schraeder as a post-June 1st cut and now have Ty Sambrailo as their only choice to take over the role. While Sambrailo was serviceable last season in Schraeder’s place, he shouldn’t be handed the starting job without legitimate competition.
The prized tackle in the 2019 Draft Class is Alabama’s, Jonah Williams. Throughout his career in Tuscaloosa, Williams started every game, was a Lombardi Award finalist in 2018, and a unanimous first-team All-American. Williams earns high praise despite his lack of traditional size, making up for it with quickness and versatility, having started over ten games at both right and left tackle.
If Williams is the #1 offensive line prospect, then Florida’s Jawaan Taylor is a close second. The 6-foot-5 former Gator earned Second Team All-SEC honors from Athlon Sports. Known best for his pass protection (an area where The Falcons have struggled), Taylor is a well-rounded player possessing plenty of upside. The main concern that most scouts have is his hand placement, but this is an area that can be taught at the NFL level, and should not deter team’s desperate for tackle help like the Falcons from drafting Taylor in the top half of the first round.
Taylor and Williams are just two examples of a deep OL draft class. If teams with earlier picks, like the Jets or Giants, jump on Taylor and Williams, The Falcons can still pick up a solid pass protector such as Andre Dillard or Dalton Risner by trading back or wait until the second round. Either player would upgrade The Falcons in the trenches and help reduce the frustrations of Matt Ryan, as well as thousands of fans across the state of Georgia.
Even if The Falcons choose to pick a defensive player with the 14th pick (such as DT Ed Oliver), expect them to look for a high-value offensive lineman in the proceeding rounds. Any upgrade to that unit can only work in The Falcons’ favor and help extend the career of their soon to be 34-year-old QB.