Goober Pyle

What we learned: After Falcons’ latest loss, it’s OK to look toward NFL draft

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https://theathletic.com/1310744/2019/10/21/what-we-learned-after-falcons-latest-loss-its-ok-to-look-toward-nfl-draft/

 

Only once in the Super Bowl era has a team started 1-6 and reached the postseason. That occurred way back in 1970 when the Cincinnati Bengals were defeated six times in their first seven tries. They went on to reel off seven consecutive wins, which included a victory over the then-Boston Patriots, to reach the postseason. In today’s NFL era, this seems like a near-impossible feat. Sure, the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs started 1-5 before winning 10 games in a row. But four of those first five losses were by 10 points or fewer in what were competitive outings.

The 2019 Falcons rarely have looked competitive, which has been a bizarre revelation considering the talent on the roster and the money spent to build this team.

But for whatever reason, nothing has been in sync through seven games. At 1-6, the players still must maintain focus on each game ahead. That’s their job, and that’s all they can do at this point. For the outsiders and observers, it’s now OK to look ahead at how this team can improve in the 2020 NFL Draft.

With the expectations the Falcons entered the year with, it’s crazy to think this is where things stand. But Atlanta hasn’t been proficient in a lot of areas this season. The offensive line, which the team invested $80 million, hasn’t held up on a weekly basis. The running game has been stagnant against better teams. The defensive front seven has produced a league-worst five sacks. The secondary has struggled in just about every facet of the game.

If the season ended right now, the Falcons would have the fourth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. If this holds, and Atlanta does, in fact, wind up with a top-five pick, there would be quite a few directions the franchise could go.

Cornerbacks

The Falcons need cornerback help in the worst way. Through seven games, Atlanta ranks 28th in the NFL, allowing 274 passing yards per game. Quite honestly, if not for the Minnesota Vikings’ ability to run the ball at will in the opener combined with attempting only 10 passing attempts, that number could be even worse.

Atlanta’s top two corners at the moment are Desmond Trufant and Isaiah Oliver. Trufant, who has missed the past two games with a toe injury, will be in the fourth season of a five-year deal in 2020. If Atlanta makes a financial decision with Trufant, it could save $4.95 million against the cap. Oliver, who is in his second season and first as a starter, was relegated to sharing time with Blidi Wreh-Wilson in Sunday’s 37-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Rookie Kendall Sheffield is now seeing more playing time than Oliver at this stage of the season.

It’s clear to see why this is a major area Atlanta needs to address.

The top cornerback prospect at the present time is Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah, according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler. Big and physical at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Okudah waited his turn with the Buckeyes and has three interceptions this season. Brugler noted that Okudah reads and reacts quickly on plays, which is a trait Atlanta certainly could use. Alabama’s Trevon Diggs and Florida’s CJ Henderson would be other first-round cornerbacks to keep an eye on once the draft season gets going.

You can make a case for going after a cornerback or a pass rusher early in next year’s draft. The coverage needs to be better so teams can’t quick-game the Falcons’ defense to death. But Atlanta needs edge defenders who can win one-on-one battles with better consistency so they can get the quarterback on the ground more often.

Pass rushers

The best pass rusher, according to just about every draft expert, is Ohio State’s Chase Young. It seems like the Buckeyes routinely put out stars who can get after the passer, and Young is the latest in line to do so. For an Ohio State team that hasn’t been challenged, Young has 9.5 sacks.

Brugler has Young pegged as his top overall prospect in next year’s draft. Considering the Falcons aren’t technically in need of a quarterback — we’ll get to this a bit more in a moment — looking in this direction would make great sense.

Another edge defender who probably would go in the top 10, if the draft were next week, is Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa. Epenesa has only three sacks this season but has seen an uptick in attention compared to previous seasons. Second- and third-round edge defenders may include Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos, Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham, Alabama’s Terrell Lewis, Notre Dame’s Khalid Kareem and Boise State’s Curtis Weaver.

Defensive tackles

Although Grady Jarrett is in the team’s long-term plans, Jack Crawford is in the final year of his contract, and Tyeler Davison is operating under a one-year deal. Therefore, this could be a position the team targets in the early rounds.

While a first-round selection would be unlikely, the top defensive tackle is Auburn’s Derrick Brown. Brown has great athleticism and explosiveness and also happens to be a big body at 6-4 and 325 pounds. Having an outstanding game against Georgia two weeks ago, South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw (6-5 and 308 pounds) is also one who could continue to climb up draft boards.

Utah’s Leki Fotu is having a good senior season with 5.5 tackles for loss in the five games he has appeared in. Fotu could wind up being a potential third-round prospect.

Interior offensive line

With Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary manning the tackle positions, the Falcons appear set there in the near future. Chris Lindstrom figures to upgrade the line at right guard once he’s cleared to return from his broken foot. The Falcons still could try to add another guard, although it wouldn’t make much sense to take one early in the draft with so many other positions of need.

It will be interesting, however, to see what the franchise does at center. Alex Mack has one year remaining on his contract, with the team able to free up $8 million with his release. And, of course, that will be one of the toughest decisions this franchise has to make when the offseason arrives. But whether Atlanta keeps Mack in 2020, it probably would be a good idea to search for his successor.

If Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey turns out to be an early second-rounder, and the Falcons do, in fact, have a top-five pick, he would certainly be a great addition to the offensive line. But considering how tough it is to identify offensive linemen in the later rounds, it could be prudent for the Falcons to take one earlier than it might be expected.

Quarterback

By no means is this meant to suggest the Falcons should move on from Matt Ryan. And for the record, Ryan is going to go down as the greatest quarterback in franchise history whenever his time comes to an end in Atlanta. He’s also very much still in the prime of his career.

But if the organization goes through a roster reconstruction that coincides with a new head coach who happens to have a different offensive philosophy, which also coincides with getting Arthur Blank’s blessing to make such a drastic change, then the possibility could at least exist that the team heads in this direction.

In the hypothetical that Atlanta hires a new head coach with an offensive background, and that person wants a quarterback of his choosing, that’s when the first pick could go in this direction. And with it being the most high-profile position on the field, everyone knows the big names at the top of the list: Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Washington’s Jacob Eason and Georgia’s Jake Fromm. Brugler noted that Utah State’s Jordan Love is receiving considerable buzz from NFL scouts, too.

 

 

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We need to stop this crazy non sense and focus on building a big heavy interior DL.

We can draft a ton of DEs that always fail here or Cbs that get abused.

Until we have a bigger and dominant DL none of that will matter and edge and secondary players will always fail here.

No more 1st rd DEs until we fix our interior DL.

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4 minutes ago, MAD597 said:

We need to stop this crazy non sense and focus on building a big heavy interior DL.

We can draft a ton of DEs that always fail here or Cbs that get abused.

Until we have a bigger and dominant DL none of that will matter and edge and secondary players will always fail here.

No more 1st rd DEs until we fix our interior DL.

 

The DEs aren't failing because of the interior d-line. They are failing because they lack pass rushing moves and proper development.

 

Abe was a really good pass rusher with less talent on the interior d-line.

vitaman, Osiruz, vel and 1 other like this

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There are so many glaring holes on this roster...it's hard to focus on what the biggest need is.

For me, it is a tossup between an edge rusher and a good corner...but they need a safety, at least one more linebacker, a starting guard and a running back.

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Falcons would be crazy to pass on young but they may be in a position to pick up a lot of picks in a trade back in such a potentially QB heavy draft. No way AB gives his blessing to move on from Matt Ryan

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11 minutes ago, DawnOfThemBirds said:

 

The DEs aren't failing because of the interior d-line. They are failing because they lack pass rushing moves and proper development.

 

Abe was a really good pass rusher with less talent on the interior d-line.

This is why I say edge rushers are my preference when it comes to pass rushers. Grady is a strong interior presence as it is, yet we still don't get enough off the edge to take advantage of that. How many times a game do you see him in the backfield,  only to have the QB roll out on the edges and make a play?

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15 minutes ago, DawnOfThemBirds said:

 

The DEs aren't failing because of the interior d-line. They are failing because they lack pass rushing moves and proper development.

 

Abe was a really good pass rusher with less talent on the interior d-line.

Nope, it's been over a decade since TD came here and we keep wasting picks on edge rushers that always fail instead of building a good sized interior DL.

We can keep trying the same crap over and over wasting 1st rd picks on edge rushers or try something different for a change and build a big DL that can collapse the pocket and command double teams. That will allow our edge rushers to perform better.

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28 minutes ago, MAD597 said:

We need to stop this crazy non sense and focus on building a big heavy interior DL.

We can draft a ton of DEs that always fail here or Cbs that get abused.

Until we have a bigger and dominant DL none of that will matter and edge and secondary players will always fail here.

No more 1st rd DEs until we fix our interior DL.

Agree.  We will always be a soft defense until this is our philosophy.

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8 minutes ago, shockerfalcon said:

Falcons would be crazy to pass on young but they may be in a position to pick up a lot of picks in a trade back in such a potentially QB heavy draft. No way AB gives his blessing to move on from Matt Ryan

I'm typically someone who prefers having a few extra picks but in the case of 2020, Chase Young is one ^&*& of a way to give the new regime something to work with, and passing on him for more picks wouldn't be a good idea by any means. Chase Young is what this team has missed since Abe was here. I realize the overall lack of talent we have and the idea that more picks would help, but a difference maker like Young is what can transform a defense and makes guy around him better. 

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6 minutes ago, MAD597 said:

Nope, it's been over a decade since TD came here and we keep wasting picks on edge rushers that always fail instead of building a good sized interior DL.

We can keep trying the same crap over and over wasting 1st rd picks on edge rushers or try something different for a change and build a big DL that can collapse the pocket and command double teams. That will allow our edge rushers to perform better.

 

The only 1st round pass rushers TD has drafted were Beasley and Takk.

 

The rest of them were mid to late rounders.

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This summer, it was this is the deepest roster in Falcon's history. Now it's there are too many holes. It's probably somewhere in between. There is plenty of talent, just crappy systems and coaches.

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8 minutes ago, MAD597 said:

Nope, it's been over a decade since TD came here and we keep wasting picks on edge rushers that always fail instead of building a good sized interior DL.

We can keep trying the same crap over and over wasting 1st rd picks on edge rushers or try something different for a change and build a big DL that can collapse the pocket and command double teams. That will allow our edge rushers to perform better.

If the goal is a good sized interior DL you can pick up guys for that in FA... TD has just shied away from that... other than 2017.

If you want to see an example just look at a team in the division.  Both of the Panthers starting DTs came in FA.

You can get big DTs in FA at a decent price.

A good pass rusher is hard to find.  Especially for the Falcons.

red falcon and Dr Long Shot like this

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Just now, CTann said:

I'm typically someone who prefers having a few extra picks but in the case of 2020, Chase Young is one ^&*& of a way to give the new regime something to work with, and passing on him for more picks wouldn't be a good idea by any means. Chase Young is what this team has missed since Abe was here. I realize the overall lack of talent we have and the idea that more picks would help, but a difference maker like Young is what can transform a defense and makes guy around him better. 

I get what you’re saying but if a team comes with a RGIII type trade offer it would be hard to pass up. If these QBs are as good as advertised after the pre-draft process you better believe teams are gonna come calling 

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16 minutes ago, shockerfalcon said:

Falcons would be crazy to pass on young but they may be in a position to pick up a lot of picks in a trade back in such a potentially QB heavy draft. No way AB gives his blessing to move on from Matt Ryan

If we somehow land the 1st overall pick we'd be crazy to pass on Tua. Matt will be 35 next year and this team isn't close to being contender.

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5 minutes ago, DawnOfThemBirds said:

 

The only 1st round pass rushers TD has drafted were Beasley and Takk.

 

The rest of them were mid to late rounders.

It’s sad because that should be enough ... I’m done with Vic but maybe with new coaching Young and Takk can be scary duo 

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1 minute ago, Bobby.Digital said:

If we somehow land the 1st overall pick we'd be crazy to pass on Tua. Matt will be 35 next year and this team isn't close to being contender.

Tua is overrated and just had knee surgery  I’ll pass. Besides there is no decline in Matt’s play it’s too early to take a first round QB

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39 minutes ago, DawnOfThemBirds said:

 

The DEs aren't failing because of the interior d-line. They are failing because they lack pass rushing moves and proper development.

Abe was a really good pass rusher with less talent on the interior d-line.

This, 

the Des have been atrocious. We also need CB, center, RB, and FS.

My first round choice is the obvious Swift. He needs to be a priority. 

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19 minutes ago, MAD597 said:

Nope, it's been over a decade since TD came here and we keep wasting picks on edge rushers that always fail instead of building a good sized interior DL.

We can keep trying the same crap over and over wasting 1st rd picks on edge rushers or try something different for a change and build a big DL that can collapse the pocket and command double teams. That will allow our edge rushers to perform better.

Most of the leaders in sacks have dominant/strong edge rushers. If they're getting interior pressure, they still have the talent on the edges to convert on that pressure. 

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9 minutes ago, shockerfalcon said:

Tua is overrated and just had knee surgery  I’ll pass. Besides there is no decline in Matt’s play it’s too early to take a first round QB

Agree to disagree about Tua. But if the staff feels like Tua is a legit franchise QB then you have to go with the 22 year old. Keeps us set at the most important position by far for the next decade at the very least. 

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59 minutes ago, MAD597 said:

We need to stop this crazy non sense and focus on building a big heavy interior DL.

We can draft a ton of DEs that always fail here or Cbs that get abused.

Until we have a bigger and dominant DL none of that will matter and edge and secondary players will always fail here.

No more 1st rd DEs until we fix our interior DL.

I was told I was an idiot for saying "size matters" on the DL.  I am in full agreement that this defense needs a big stud at DT to pair with Grady.  Penetration in the middle will make EVERYBODY better.

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26 minutes ago, DawnOfThemBirds said:

 

The only 1st round pass rushers TD has drafted were Beasley and Takk.

 

The rest of them were mid to late rounders.

And any future ones we draft or sign will fail until we build a good interior DL.

Signing scrubs to surround Grady is not going to work

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10 minutes ago, Bobby.Digital said:

Agree to disagree about Tua. But if the staff feels like Tua is a legit franchise QB then you have to go with the 22 year old. Keeps us set at the most important position by far for the next decade at the very least. 

Tua isn't overrated but he isn't a great pro prospect either. Justin Herbert is vastly better pro prospect 

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26 minutes ago, Sun Tzu 7 said:

If the goal is a good sized interior DL you can pick up guys for that in FA... TD has just shied away from that... other than 2017.

If you want to see an example just look at a team in the division.  Both of the Panthers starting DTs came in FA.

You can get big DTs in FA at a decent price.

A good pass rusher is hard to find.  Especially for the Falcons.

A good pass rush is hard to find cause we keep signing or drafting scrubs to surround Grady.

Focus on building the interior DL and pass rushing will improve.

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