The Falcons are going to draft according to their needs, and one of their biggest needs is defensive end. If they don’t at least partially solve that in free agency, the pressure will be on for them to use their first round pick on a pass rusher who can replace or at least supplement Vic Beasley.
But I hope the Falcons won’t overthink it if they get to #14 and the best player available is not a defensive end, but a defensive tackle like Houston’s Ed Oliver or Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons. If that’s the case, the Falcons shouldn’t dwell too much on the fact that they have Grady Jarrett (who is about to get a lucrative extension, yes please), Jack Crawford and Deadrin Senat. They should go get that player.
I say this not just because I very much hope Oliver lands in Atlanta, but because of the short-term and long-term outlook for such a player in Atlanta. In the short term, a player who can wreak havoc on the interior is still incredibly valuable, and it gives the Falcons three such players. It allows the Falcons to potentially put together lines that feature Takk McKinley, Jarrett, Crawford and a rookie defensive tackle for a line that mixes sizes and viciousness. And it allows them to pair a potentially elite player with Jarrett if (or perhaps when, given his production) Crawford exits in free agency in 2020. Deadrin Senat will still have a role on obvious run downs, too.
That’s not even mentioning that this could be a strong defensive end class in free agency, and I’m hopeful Atlanta will invest the money in the position necessary to really upgrade it with Brooks Reed in the final year of his deal, Beasley struggling and not much else going on.
You’re not going to hear me complain if the Falcons significantly improve their defensive line, no matter how they do so. I just hope they don’t overlook a potential great in favor of fixing the weaker end position.