The Falcons have a plethora of needs heading into the 2020 offseason. With limited cap space available, they will have to turn to the draft to give the team its boost heading into next season, a make it or break it year for seemingly everyone in the organization.
With Austin Hooper and Vic Beasley heading for free agency in 2020, it is only natural to wonder what the next step for the team will be at tight end and pass rusher. Will the Falcons franchise tag Hooper and work out a deal? There have not been negotiations quite yet, but it is still early, and the team did hold on to him at the trade deadline for a reason. Beasley’s late-season surge, and the always rising cost of pass rushers in free agency, likely have priced him out of their price range. But pass rusher is a need the Falcons have neglected for years on end: the waiting for an answer needs to come to an end.
The Falcons also have a decision to make on Devonta Freeman, who while still talented, has shown wear and tear and has been unable to stay healthy. With their tight cap situation, they may opt to release him and use the savings elsewhere.
Fortunately, a few guys stood out to me that I think can be great mid-round picks for the Falcons to strengthen them at those respective spots, and rebuild for the future.
Anae has not gotten nearly enough love as a prospect, but his performance in the Senior Bowl may change things. He got pressure all day long, forced an interception, and racked up three sacks against some of the best linemen in the country. Anae is a natural pass rusher. He is a perfect fit for a 4-3 defense, and with some improvement to his technique, he can be a dominant force in the NFL. He is the all-time sack leader in the history of the University of Utah.
Bradlee Anae made some money in Mobile this week. The @Utah_Football All-American had 3 sacks and several hurries. One hurry forced an interception. Congrats @BradleeAnae on a great showing in the @seniorbowl #Utes #UtesInTheNFL #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/nfkai2cq6c
— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) January 26, 2020
Yea, I’d say he would look excellent in red and black. Anae likely improved his stock as high as the second, or possibly even the first round after previously being viewed as a mid-round pick. If the Falcons can grab him in the second round, it would be a massive get for the organization. Anae had 13 sacks last season and has the tools to continue his success at the NFL level.
Joshua Kelley has had a nice couple of seasons for UCLA after transferring from UC-Davis. But his performance in the Senior Bowl caught the attention of scouts, as he rushed for 105 yards on 15 carries. Like Anae, for the duration of the game, his consistency was simply too hard to ignore.
Even if the Falcons retain Devonta Freeman, Kelley would be great fresh legs to have in the backfield in the mid-rounds. He runs with physicality and is a smart vertical runner. There is a big difference between Pac-12 linebackers and NFL linebackers, but Kelley will continue to try to run defenders over:
With a ton of junior running backs deciding to return to school, Kelley will be amongst the best options as a mid-round selection and potential successor to Freeman.
Don’t even check the box score to see how Harrison Bryant did on Saturday. He did not have a catch. But sometimes, events like the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine are best used to evaluate concerns scouts already have surrounding individual players. Bryant has already shown his incredible receiving skills for a tight end in college, but his ability to be an effective blocker has been of question. The tight end out of FAU made a handful of impressive blocks in the game, proving that he may very well be able to hold his own in that area.
Mentions that he’s heard some comparisons to Dennis Pitta. pic.twitter.com/xgYzVzXchk
— Kevin Fielder (@TheKevinFielder) January 25, 2020
In case you’d like to see his receiving ability, check out the highlight tape below:
We all know it is foolish to expect production from a rookie tight end, but Bryant is worth a look, even if the Falcons come to terms with Austin Hooper. He looks like he can be an excellent starter in the pros, and if he can block like that at the next level, he will be among the best.