Falcons roster needs ahead of NFL Draft and prospect to fill one

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 03 Reese s Senior Bowl

Some NFL teams fill roster needs through the draft, but there are few clubs who will draft the best player available, regardless of the position. The Falcons are one of them.

Terry Fontenot has spoken dozens of times about his admiration for Ozzie Newsome and the work he did in Baltimore, which has become the blueprint for many franchises. The Ravens seemingly come away with one of the top prospects of every draft by just sitting and waiting for other teams to reach on prospects because of roster needs.

Fontenot has remained consistent in his approach, and it’s fair to expect him to do the same in his fourth draft. Still, this cycle feels a little different because of the expectations surrounding the team.

The Falcons went out and signed Kirk Cousins, giving the top quarterback on the market the largest free agent deal in the league. That move has dramatically shifted expectations, and therefore they should shift Fontenot’s approach to the offseason, at least a little bit.

The roster still has a couple of glaring needs and shouldn’t rely on the draft to fall in a specific way to fill them. ESPN recently talked about those needs, and Michael Rothstein nailed them.

Top three needs: WR, EDGE, CB. While Atlanta added a lot to its offense — including quarterback Kirk Cousins and three new receivers — it hasn’t added a clear playmaker opposite No. 1 receiver Drake London. There could be an opportunity to do so with the No. 8 pick or in the second round.

The Falcons haven’t done much defensively other than re-signing defensive lineman Kentavius Street, so their perpetual search for pass-rushers continues, along with figuring out the cornerback spot opposite A.J. Terrell. Don’t discount the interior of the defensive line, either, where 30-year-old Grady Jarrett is coming off an ACL tear, David Onyemata is 31 and Ta’Quon Graham is in the final year of his rookie contract. — Michael Rothstein

The Falcons need to seriously upgrade the defense at the first and third levels. Atlanta can’t go into the season expecting Arnold Ebiketie, Lorenzo Carter, DeAngelo Malone, and Zach Harrison to shoulder the load of the pass rush from the edge.

In that same breath, asking two of Antonio Hamilton, Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, and Clark Phillips to man the other two corner spots with A.J. Terrell seems like a whole lot of hope and prayers.

For a team with championship aspirations, that’s not good enough. But again, a couple of rookies could fill the void. Cam Hart out of Notre Dame is ESPN’s choice:

Prospect to fill a need outside Round 1: Cam Hart, CB, Notre Dame. If the Falcons solve the edge rusher hole in Round 1, finding quality cornerbacks on Day 3 will be a value play. Hart is a fourth-rounder on my board, but the three-year starter didn’t allow a touchdown in coverage in 2023 and had three forced fumbles as a tackler. — Miller

I just don’t like relying on the draft to fill glaring needs. It’s not wise, and it hasn’t been Terry Fontenot’s M.O. since taking over for the Falcons.

Photographer: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire
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