One draft can change an entire team’s identity, and Falcons fans should be well aware of that after the 2017 NFL draft. Terry Fontenot was with the New Orleans Saints, who had one of the best drafts of any team in recent memory. Mickey Loomis found six starters in 2017, three of which have been Pro Bowlers or selected as All-Pros. The Saints took Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Alvin Kamara, Alex Anzalone, Trey Hendrickson, and Al-Quadin Muhammad that year. Meanwhile, the Falcons not only butchered the entire draft, but they traded up in the first round to select Takkarist McKinley.
The trade with the Seattle Seahawks cost the Falcons a couple of picks. If there were one decision the Terry Fontenot-Arthur Smith regime would take back from the Thomas Dimitroff era, it would be this one. Beginning with McKinley’s actual return, which has been overwhelmingly disappointing as he was cut last year then failed to land on another roster because of failed physicals.
In 49 games, the former Bruin has 17.5 sacks… after being touted as a “high-motor, relentless pass rusher” coming out of college. His energy on draft night was infectious, but it never came to fruition as he struggled with injuries, and even when he was healthy, he performed subpar. But outside of Takk’s disappointing time in Atlanta, the prospects taken after him is where the facepalming ensues.
Going into the 2017 draft, the Falcons had needs at pass rusher, safety, and guard but decided on the fiery pass rusher out of UCLA. TJ Watt was taken four picks later; Ryan Ramczyk was taken six picks later; Budda Baker was taken ten picks later; Marcus Maye was taken 13 picks later; and Marcus Williams was taken 16 picks later. Hindsight is always 20/20, but this is a tough pill to swallow given five All-Pros were selected shortly after, and they all played positions of need for the Falcons.
On top of that, the Falcons gave up a third-rounder — the 95th pick — to move up in the first round. Trey Hendrickson, Eddie Jackson, and Carl Lawson went after that and would’ve paired perfectly with any of the aforementioned prospects the Falcons missed in the first round by moving up for McKinley.
If the Falcons’ brass could take back one pick from the old regime, it has to be this one, which is actually two picks. Watt, Ramczyk, Baker, Maye, or Williams in the first round combined with Hendrickson, Jackson, or Lawson in the third round would put Atlanta in a much more favorable position than they currently are.