Should the Falcons seriously consider this draft prospect?


There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to improve the Falcons pass rush.

A defense’s pass rush is comprised of two main components — pressure and coverage. One can make up for the other, and vice versa. Atlanta has had trouble consistently sacking quarterbacks for what feels like a lifetime.

This offseason brought up a new wave of expectations when the Falcons signed Kirk Cousins to a $180 million free agent deal. No longer is a postseason berth good enough. Arthur Blank surely has expectations of some playoff success; a one-and-done appearance would be disappointing to the big man I imagine.

To do that, the Falcons have to upgrade the pass rush. Whether it’s Dallas Turner or Laiatu Latu, most draft pundits believe Terry Fontenot will draft an edge defender.

However, there is more than one way to skin a cat, remember? What about bolstering the secondary? Giving A.J. Terrell a long-term running mate like Quinyon Mitchell or Terrion Arnold would positively impact the pass rush and so would bolstering the interior defensive line.

In the CBS Sports mock draft from Ryan Wilson, the Falcons land a prospect that has gained tremendous steam in recent days — Byron Murphy.

The Falcons have needs at edge rusher but Murphy might be the most disruptive defender in this class. Take him here, and in a class where the pass rushers are deeper than the defensive linemen, circle back in Round 2 to find that edge player.

For much of the offseason, Dallas Turner was the consensus favorite to go 8th to Atlanta. Betting markets and draft experts agreed. However, a change took place over the weekend when betting odds shifted for Latu to go 8th overall.

Latu is still the current betting favorite, but Murphy’s name continues to be brought up. Adam Schefter of ESPN recently connected the Falcons to the Texas product, who he dubbed a sleeper to be the first defender off the board.

“It’s possible a defender might not be picked until Atlanta at No. 8 or Chicago at No. 9. Murphy could be a consideration for both teams. Murphy, who had five sacks last season, is talented, plays a coveted position and has gotten clean character reports. He might interest new Falcons coach Raheem Morris, who had Aaron Donald dominate at that position when he was the coordinator in Los Angeles,” Schefter said.

Schefter wasn’t the first to connect Murphy and Atlanta, though. Daniel Jeremiah was the first that I had heard, saying last week that he should be taken seriously as the potential top defender off the board.

“If you ask me who the surprise top 10 pick, or who is someone that we just didn’t see coming, that’s Byron Murphy,” Jeremiah said in response to a question from D. Orlando Ledbetter about Laiatu Latu’s medical concerns.

It may not be what Falcons fans imagined, but the interior offensive and defensive lines have become premium positions. Falcons fans should know better than most.

Atlanta has invested heavily in that facet of the roster. Grady Jarrett and Chris Lindstrom contract extensions, David Onyemata’s free agent contract, and a second-round pick spent on Matthew Bergeron.

The Falcons don’t have an obvious need for another interior defender, but it certainly would give the pass rush more juice. Moreover, Fontenot has never been afraid to add to a position of strength. After all, the Falcons drafted Bijan Robinson despite Tyler Allgeier coming off a record-breaking rookie campaign.

Maybe Fontenot does something similar this year with another Texas Longhorn. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

Photographer: Christopher Leduc/Icon Sportswire

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