We are one month away from the NFL Draft, and the Falcons roster is struggling to keep its head above water. Atlanta has addressed a few positions of need in free agency, including EDGE and cornerback. However, the personnel still represents a bottom-five roster as it stands today.
Given the departures of Matt Ryan, Foye Oluokun, and Russell Gage, the Falcons are in desperate need of talent across the board. Terry Fontenot made a few free-agent acquisitions that I loved, namely Casey Hayward. However, the first-time general manager is still bargain shopping to round out the roster as the draft approaches.
Fontenot has been steadfast in his strategy for the draft — best player available. To do that, the former Saints executive signs free agents to fill positions of need to put the team in a place to select whichever prospect is highest on their big board. However, there are still some glaring deficiencies.
1. Wide receiver
This is probably at the top of every outlet’s list, and rightfully so.
The Falcons receiving core is currently comprised of Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby, Auden Tate, and a few more depth pieces. Those are three WR3s at best in this league, which won’t get it done in today’s pass-heavy NFL. There isn’t a more pressing need on the roster than wideout.
Even if the Falcons go into the draft and come away with a couple of high-end prospects, fans shouldn’t expect immediate impacts. It isn’t uncommon for rookie receivers to excel in this league, just look at Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson; however, the Falcons’ offense isn’t close to that of the Bengals and Vikings. With Marcus Mariota under center and a poor offensive line, the pass-game is going to struggle no matter who they draft.
Even after the signing of Lorenzo Carter, the Falcons need pass rushers. The former Dawg is a welcomed addition; he’ll be an every-down player for Dea Pees. Still, he’s nothing more than a low-end OLB2 in this league. With Ade Ogundeji and James Vaughters rounding out the group, the edge is as weak as ever. This unit could use another veteran and a high-end prospect to create an even average rotation in this league.
It was challenging to decide where to put linebacker and defensive line, but since Grady Jarrett is still under contract, I figured the linebackers were the more pressing need. As the roster stands right now, Deion Jones and Mykal Walker will pair as Pees’ linebackers. Jones’ production has taken a dip in recent years, while Walker has never been a full-time player in the league yet. The Falcons could really use one of the prospects from the 2022 draft class. Devin Lloyd, Nakobe Dean, Christian Harris, Quay Walker, and Chad Muma all have ‘leader of the defense, three-down linebacker’ in them and would immediately transform the position group.
4. Defensive line
Jarrett makes this group much better than it really is; Marlon Davidson has just not become the player many thought he would, Ta’Quon Graham has a lot to love in his game, but expectations have to be tempered for a second-year interior defender, and Anthony Rush is nothing more than a run-stuffing nose tackle. The Falcons need to add to this group in April’s draft.
5. Offensive line
It feels like this should be much higher, but in reality, Atlanta only really needs to upgrade at left guard. Matt Hennessy wasn’t great by any means, but he was head and shoulders better than Jalen Mayfield. Kaleb McGary better get his ‘lasts’ in during the season because I doubt he ever plays for the Falcons again after 2022.
Drew Dalman is an intriguing prospect, but I don’t know if he’ll be able to overtake either starting center or left guard job. The team could really use an impact player at one of those positions, though; how many swings and misses will a front office take in the draft before they solve the issue through free agency.
There are plenty of other positions the Falcons could really bolster, but these are the top five in my eyes. Atlanta could use a long-term solution and short-term backup at quarterback. They need a tight end to pair with Kyle Pitts. The safety group looks a lot better with Erik Harris back, but the position’s future could be in question if Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins disappoint. Then, there are the special teams’ needs. The Falcons need a punter and long snapper, which aren’t incredibly pressing but still undervalued.
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