25th, 28th, 27th, and 25th: These are the rankings for the 2018 Atlanta Falcons’ defense in points allowed per game (26.4), yards allowed per game (384.5), passing yards allowed per game (259.6), and rushing yards allowed per game (124.9). Those numbers are not even close to what is necessary for the Falcons to make it back to the Super Bowl. Draft day is an opportunity to pick up young talent and improve the team. The Falcons need to bolster their defense. So what do they do??? They draft TWO offensive linemen in the first round. Improving on the O-line is vital for Atlanta, but not addressing the defense at all may prove to be the wrong decision moving forward.
Who the Falcons took at #14:
Chris Lindstrom (OG, Boston College)– Lindstrom is regarded as the best guard in the class. Matt Ryan was sacked 42 times in 2018 – the second highest number in his career. At 6’4” and 306 lbs, Lindstrom should slot in at right guard from day one and will probably perform very well. But who could have been the selection had they decided to go defense instead?
Who was available at 14:
Brian Burns (OLB, FSU)– Burns was ranked as the 14th overall prospect in the draft. He is an explosive pass-rusher with the ability to drop into coverage as well. Burns is more of a developmental prospect at this point while Lindstrom is more ready to contribute.
Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)- The 6’ 5”, 342 lb defensive tackle is a mountain of a man and would have been a lovely addition next to Grady Jarrett. With Grady’s future in Atlanta up in the air, Lawrence may have been the guy to replace him. The Clemson product commands double-teams and splits them more often than not while also flashing pass-rush potential. Lawrence may be a guy at 14 the Falcons wish they would have snatched up.
Deandre Baker (CB, Georgia)– The former Dawg had slipped on draft boards for reasons that I do not feel are correct. Baker has not given up a touchdown in – wait for it – 2 FREAKING YEARS!!! This includes games where he covered Deebo Samuel, Jerry Jeudy, and Calvin Ridley. Baker would have been a solid choice to slot on the other side of Desmond Trufant.
Now let’s assume everything turned out the same, and the Falcons trade back into the 1st-round at 31. Here is the pick they made, as well as some of the names that Atlanta could have taken instead to upgrade the defense.
Who the Falcons took at 31:
Kaleb McGary (OT, Washington)– The 6’ 7”, 317 pound, former Husky is a prototypical body at right tackle. McGary was brought in to bolster the run game, which is his specialty. The Falcons see something in him that disagrees with the rankings. Kaleb was the 8th ranked tackle and 73rd prospect overall. The Falcons must know something we don’t. Time will tell.
Who was available at 31:
Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)– The 6’ 2” former Bayou Tiger is a name that was synonymous with the top-10 picks for a while. Somehow, he has dropped out of the 1st-round altogether. Williams is built for man-coverage and has the speed to make up for any mistakes he may make. He can be soft at times in run support, but most corners are. See how he develops to know if the Falcons made a mistake.
Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)– The Falcons took a Husky, but did they choose the right Husky? Murphy, a 5’ 11” corner is ranked as the top corner in the draft. He has the ball skills necessary to cover in man and zone. He also is said to be a physical corner in run support. The Falcons can always use more physicality out of the secondary.
Chase Winovich (DE, Michigan)– Although he may be a carbon copy of Brooks Reed, Winovich is an exciting prospect. At 6’ 3”, 256 lbs, the Michigan Man is too small to play defensive end with a hand in the ground but would fit nicely as an outside linebacker who can stop the run. Looking back at the defense ranks from last season – 124.9 yards per game allowed on the ground is atrocious for a defense in the NFL. Winovich has the potential to help lower that number while also flashing an array of pass-rush moves to get after the QB.