With the 16th pick in the NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons select…

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This is a fun series that I’ve enjoyed doing over the past two years, where I attempt to predict who the Falcons will land in the first round. In 2018, I nailed the Calvin Ridley pick, as Atlanta ignored their most significant needs and took the best player available. That looks to have turned out pretty well, with Ridley looking to be a Pro-Bowl caliber talent in the near future. Last year, however, I completely whiffed on Chris Lindstrom, who I didn’t even mention as a possibility throughout the entire article. This isn’t a perfect science — and it’s going to be even more difficult with all the rumors about the Falcons moving up in the draft — but I’m going to give it my best go.

First, let’s address the trade-up rumors. The Falcons have supposedly had conversations with teams throughout the Top 10 and even the Top 5. However, how much of that is smoke and how much of that is fire is nearly impossible to tell. The reality of the situation is Atlanta’s defense isn’t one piece away from becoming formidable. They need a corner (probably two of them), another edge rusher, and interior defensive lineman, and a linebacker. Mortgaging away several selections this year and next to move well into the Top 10 does not seem like the right choice. The highest I could see them trading up is around eight, and that would have to mean one of Simmons, Okudah, or Brown is still available (potentially Kinlaw, but I’ll narrow it down to those three). I don’t see that being extremely likely, and even if it is, the team that is sitting at 8th overall would have to be willing to part ways with their selection. It’s just tough to imagine the Falcons moving up that high with so many holes on their roster, so despite the rumors, I’m going to say they avoid moving up into the Top 10.

A smaller trade up the board is much more fathomable, costing them like a third or fourth-round pick, but let’s talk about another scenario that hasn’t been focused on nearly enough — moving down. The Falcons are in a prime position to back up a few spots and still land a guy they like while picking up some extra draft capital. To me, the ideal pick for Atlanta would be Javon Kinlaw at 16. I don’t think it will happen, but there is a slim chance. I could see the Falcons moving up a few spots to select him, but if they opt not to, the next crop of prospects is very iffy.

Most experts and teams disagree about who the second-best cornerback in the draft is behind Okudah. Is it C.J. Henderson? Fulton? Diggs? Dantzler? Someone else? There are a bevy of quality options available, and if the Falcons like several of them, they can move back and will almost certainly be able to pick one of them in the 20s, or perhaps even later. This is what I would do, given the Falcons only have six selections in the draft. The problem is — it’s not exactly Thomas Dimitroff’s M.O, who has a tendency to be ultra-aggressive already and is sitting on a sizzling hot seat.

So do I think the Falcons are going to trade up, stay put, or move down? Truth is — I have no earthly idea, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Thomas Dimitroff and Co. have a different plan depending on the way the draft shakes up in front of them, and that will ultimately decide what the Falcons end up doing. But that is not a good enough answer for this article, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say they stay put. Yes, I know… BORING, but here’s why.

As I said earlier, Kinlaw is the dream pick that could fall to Atlanta. However, I don’t see that happening. The 49ers snag him if he’s not already gone before then. The Falcons decide not to trade up into the Top 10 because the two prospects they had their eyes on, Jeff Okudah and Isaiah Simmons, were far too pricey — both are gone in the Top 6 picks. However, the Falcons still have several guys high on their draft board available, and the selection will come down to what their focus is on — most significant need or best player available.

The most significant need is undoubtedly cornerback. The Falcons are currently penciled to start Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield, which isn’t encouraging to begin with, and have very little quality depth behind them. They need to add a starting-caliber corner in this draft. In this hypothetical situation, I’m predicting the Falcons will have their pick of the litter when it comes to cornerbacks outside of Okudah. I don’t expect Henderson, Fulton, or the rest of the crew to be selected before 16th because they all have their faults. If I had to give an edge to which corner I believe Atlanta is favoring, it’s C.J. Henderson because of the organization’s ties with Florida players, but I’m not sure he’s the best of the bunch, and I do not think he is the best player available, which is what Thomas Dimitroff’s focus is typically on come draft night.

At this pick, that title belongs to K’Lavon Chaisson out of LSU — a player the Falcons have had ties with throughout the draft process. The athletic specimen was a bit underwhelming on the stat sheet in college, but that doesn’t speak to his potential. He’s a fast and physical player that can be moved all over the field as a pass rusher, linebacker, and even in coverage.

People like to compare Chaisson to Beasley because of their physical profiles. But to be frank, that’s just a lazy comparison. Outside of the way they look and their speed, the similarities stop there. Chaisson is more versatile, much better against the run, more technical in his pass rushing, and most importantly, loves the physical aspect of football — something Beasley always shied away from. If Chaisson makes his way to the Falcons at 16, he’s the best prospect available and fills a position of need. I also don’t see him falling much further than 16, which takes trading back out of the question. He’s much more of a sure-thing than any of the corners the Falcons could take here, and Atlanta will still have a fantastic chance of landing a starting-caliber cornerback in the second round or later.

So with the 16th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons will select: K’Lavon Chaisson, Linebacker, LSU


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