Ranking the top NFL Draft targets for the Falcons in Round 1

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As of now, the Falcons have a couple of glaring needs on the defensive side of the ball. The pass rush needs multiple bodies off the edge, and they have to add at least one starting-caliber cornerback. That’s non-negotiable if the Falcons want to be competitive in 2024.

Terry Fontenot doesn’t like to enter the draft with glaring needs. The Falcons prefer to operate with a best player available approach, and there’s no reason to expect that to change in Fontenot’s fourth draft. With that in mind, that’s how I’ll be ranking my top potential draft targets for the Falcons when they are on the clock at the end of the month.

5. Jared Verse

Verse could have come out last year and been a first-round pick, but he decided to return to school in hopes of helping Florida State to a national championship. That didn’t happen, but it was to no fault of his own. Verse dominated across the defensive line, racking up nine sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He’s an ideal fit in a 4-3 scheme, which would have been perfect for Ryan Nielsen; however, the Falcons plan to switch back to a 3-4 base defense under Jimmy Lake. That could play a factor come draft day, but Verse remains one of the best pass rushing options in this year’s class, an area that must be a focal point for Terry Fontenot.

4. Joe Alt

Even though the Falcons will follow a best player available approach rather strictly, exceptions can be made. The Falcons don’t have a pressing need across their offensive line, particularly at tackle. They recently extended Kaleb McGary, who was better last season in the first year of a new deal, and Jake Matthews has been a stalwart at left tackle for a decade. For that reason, Alt comes in at #4 on this list, but the Falcons could do a lot worse than drafting the future of the left tackle position for the next decade. Jake Matthews isn’t going to be around for much longer, and McGary’s play has been inconsistent his entire career, even if it’s been much better of late. If it’s truly a best player available approach, the best offensive tackle in the draft class has to be in consideration.

3. Dallas Turner

Dallas Turner is the most popular player mocked to the Falcons right now. Everyone expects Atlanta to finally address a problem that has plagued the organization for over a decade in the first round. Turner is a once-in-a-generation type athlete, standing 6-4, 245 pounds with the ability to run a 4.4 40-yard dash. He’s a ball of clay that, with proper development, could become a premier NFL pass rusher. However, the key is the development. The Falcons have been dreadful at developing pass rushers over the years throughout multiple regimes, and Turner is not a can’t-miss prospect that can thrive if not coached up properly.

2. Rome Odunze

If we’re talking about the safest possible prospects for the Falcons in the first round, look no further than the wide receiver position. The top three receivers — Marvin Harrison Jr, Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze — all have extremely high floors with star potential. In a typical draft, they’d each be the first receiver taken off the board. That’s the kind of impact they can have on an offense immediately, and the Falcons could certainly use another receiver. It isn’t their most pressing need after acquiring Darnell Mooney and Rondale Moore, but Moore is more of a Swiss Army Knife fourth option while Mooney is best out of the slot. Adding a true #1 threat across from Drake London would put the Falcons skill position group up there with the best in football.

1. Malik Nabers

I’m going to assume Marvin Harrison Jr. won’t make it all the way to eight, and it’s likely Nabers won’t either. However, it seems like there’s at least a chance Nabers could be available, and if he is, the Falcons would be fools to go in another direction. Positional need aside, there aren’t many more talented players in this draft than Malik Nabers. He’s the type of receiver that could make a Pro Bowl in year one, capable of running the entire route tree and is elite after the catch. The thought of having him in this Falcons offense should have new OC Zac Robinson drooling.

Photographer: Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire

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