By Travis Jaudon, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Falcons certainly have some issues they need to address in this years draft.
I could spend time explaining what they need and when they need to try and get it, but you’re smart, and even if you weren’t, you could still figure out that the Falcons desperately need an edge pass rusher on their roster.
Atlanta has needed a pass rusher for the past three seasons, and time after time they have failed to draft an end or outside linebacker with their first pick. This season should be different however, as new coach Dan Quinn has been as saying what we
all already knew: Atlanta is going to target a pass rusher with their 8th overall pick.
Luckily for the Falcons and their fans, this draft class has talent aplenty when it comes to guys who can get after the passer. Getting after the passer, something the Falcons haven’t done in some time, is a way (one of many) to help out a secondary that was dead last against the pass last season averaging 280 passing yards against per game. If the Falcons can improve their pass rush, they may well improve the rest of their defense too.
I see three guys right now who are worthy of the Falcons’ 8th pick. This is not to say I only like three pass rushers in this draft, that’s far from the case.
When drafting ends and linebackers it is important that teams don’t “reach” too early, if Atlanta can move back 5-8 spots and still get a quality edge rusher, they should do so without hesitation. If not, one of these three guys should be the choice.
Dante Fowler Jr. is first on my list of players the Falcons should be targeting at the 8th spot in round one. A junior outside linebacker (OLB) out of Florida, Fowler is as athletic as they come on the defensive side of the ball. At 6’3” and 261 pounds, Fowler still managed to run an impressive 40-time at the combine showing scouts that he is quick enough to play coverage as well as big enough to play on the strong side. One scout told NFL.com of Fowler: “He will be way better in the pros than what he is now.” Considering he was an all-conference player in the SEC, that bodes well for whoever picks Fowler.
Vic Beasley ranks second on my list of potential first round picks for Atlanta. The Clemson product, Beasley ran a lightning quick 4.53 40-yard dash at the combine causing one scout to tab him as “one of the best pure edge rushers in the draft.” He measures at 6’3” and 246 pounds and showed remarkable consistency while at Clemson. He left school as the Tigers all-time sack leader, so it’s clear he knows how to get to the quarterback. It also doesn’t hurt the Falcons any that he is a Georgia native. Beasley would be a steal at the number 8 spot for Atlanta.
Randy Gregory is my third and final target for the Falcons 8th overall pick. Assuming the other two targets are off the board, Atlanta would do well with picking Gregory here. Standing 6’5”, Gregory batted down four balls last year at Nebraska. His 34” arms led one scout to refer to them as “long, lanky levers.” He’s raw but this OLB has all the physical tools to be a star in the NFL. Gregory can play all three downs as he showed surprising toughness against the run for the Cornhuskers. He is a bit of a project, which would scare some teams away at this spot in the draft, but Gregory is well worth the wait.