The wound from Super Bowl LI is still healing for the Falcons and their fans after blowing a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots. At this point, all you can do is look forward to the NFL Draft in hopes that they’ll re-tool and comeback even better for the 2017 season.
As they proved this past season, the Falcons are pure dynamite on offense and can hang with the best of them in shootouts. However, you don’t always want to get yourself in that position where you have to lean on points. To combat that, the Falcons should focus on tightening up the screws on defense, which I’m sure the defensive-minded Dan Quinn will be happy to do.
ATL: 2nd RD (#38), 4th RD (#113), 2018 5th RD
LAC: 1st RD (#31)
With all the high-end pass rushers off the board at 31, the Falcons find a suitor willing to trade up out of the early 2nd round range into the tail-end of the 1st round as they compile more picks in the process. If one of the top QBs slides down the board, the Chargers are a prime candidate to trade up as they are desperate to bring in their QB of the future with Philip Rivers nearing retirement.
Round 2 (Pick 38): Tim Williams, EDGE, Alabama
Had it not been for some character issues and some hiccups along the way, Tim Williams very well would be in the conversation among the top edge rushers in the class. The Falcons are in a spot where they can take the chance on a player like Williams, especially when you consider the upside. Williams was an explosive, ferocious pass rusher for the Crimson Tide who is far from an unfinished product. The best may be yet to come, and there isn’t a better coach to get it out of him than Dan Quinn. Aside from Vic Beasley, the Falcons struggle to produce consistent pass rush. If Williams reaches his potential, the Falcons have a scary, young tandem coming off the edge.
Round 2 (Pick 63): Dalvin Tomlinson, DL, Alabama
Another Alabama defender? Doesn’t seem too farfetched to me. As it’s been well-documented, the Crimson Tide are a powerhouse in college football and boast the top defense year after year. While Tomlinson isn’t as flashy as a guy like Williams, he is among the best pure run stoppers in this class and would provide a huge jolt to the Falcons defensive line. Even with Dontari Poe signed, depth on the interior remains a need as Poe could hit the free agent market next year, along with guys like Ra’Shede Hageman and Courtney Upshaw.
Round 3 (Pick 95): Dorian Johnson, G, Pittsburgh
This would be a tremendous value pick for the Falcons late in the 3rd round. Dorian Johnson is pro-ready, the definition of a “plug and play”. While the team signed Hugh Thornton in free agency, he’s a subpar starter at best. Dorian Johnson will come in right away and challenge for the starting job at right guard and add another solid piece to that Atlanta offensive line. If anything, Johnson takes over in 2018 when Thornton’s one-year deal expires.
Round 4 (Pick 113): T.J. Logan, RB, North Carolina
With Devonta Freeman set to hit free agency following the season, the Falcons have to be prepared for the worst. T.J. Logan was severely underrated during his time at North Carolina – often overshadowed by other offensive contributors including Mitch Trubisky, Elijah Hood, Ryan Switzer, Mack Hollins and Bug Howard. Logan posted a 4.37 at the Combine – the fastest among all RB participants. Logan is a big play threat who contributes in a variety of ways whether it’s as a runner, receiver or returner. Not the ideal replacement for Freeman, assuming he does leave in free agency next year, but Logan provides a coveted spark and will mesh well with Atlanta’s weapons.
Round 4 (Pick 136): Cole Hikutini, TE, Louisville
Even after drafting Austin Hooper in the 3rd round of last year’s draft, the Falcons continue to their weapons corps with the selection of Cole Hikutini. A guy like Levine Toilolo adds solid depth, but is more of a situational player. Hikutini adds another element and allows the Falcons to run more 2-TE sets, which seems to be a developing trend in today’s NFL. Hikutini was the security blanket for Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. He brings great size for a move TE at 6’4”/247 and has a good overall receiving skillset.
Round 5 (Pick 174): Connor Harris, LB, Lindenwood
Connor Harris is the epitome of a Dan Quinn football player. Tough, physical, instinctive with leadership qualities. Harris saw mass tackle production playing at the D-II level and played with a non-stop motor at Lindenwood. The Falcons have a solid, young trio manning the LB corps, but they really lack quality depth. Harris can move all over and make an impact. He kind of looks like Dan Quinn too, for what that’s worth.
Round 7 (Pick 249): Ashton Lampkin, CB, Oklahoma State
Despite what the common narrative may suggest, the Falcons actually have a good, young group of corners which includes: Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Jalen Collins. While the Falcons may not address corner as soon as some project, it’s still necessary as Trufant is set to become a free agent next offseason. Lampkin will add some depth and compete for a role in Atlanta’s secondary. He has a lot of experience as a press corner which could translate in certain situations at the next level.