NFL Draft prospects are gearing up to hit the road and head to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine in just a couple of days. This is a critical time for players as they look to showcase their talents through mental and physical tests. How well they perform can help them move up the draft board or vice versa.
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- Question of the Week: Who do you re-up in 2023?; Analyzing Nielsen, Gray hires; Pressing defensive needs; What to glean from Super Bowl; Pressing offensive needs
In addition, this will allow Falcons scouts and personnel to meet and evaluate prospects up close throughout the week in preparation for the 2023 NFL Draft. Here, we take a look at five realistic options that the Falcons can take with the No. 8 overall draft pick:
1. EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson
The edge rusher position is arguably the Falcons' top priority heading into the draft, before free agency at least. Atlanta had the second-fewest sacks (21) in the the 2022 season. Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone fared well in their rookie campaigns but the Falcons have to continue to build up the edge rusher position. Myles Murphy has a combination of size, speed and physicality to emerge as a dominant edge rusher in the NFL with guidance and time, of course, and I believe defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen can help the Clemson product get there.
2. OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
The state of the offensive line remains uncertain. Kaleb McGary and Elijah Wilkinson are set to be free agents this offseason. Both lineman played critical roles in helping to establish the Falcons' offensive line as a top-5 unit, per PFF, in 2022. If neither players are re-signed, Atlanta should look towards drafting offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. As mentioned previously in Wednesday's Bair Mail, PFF lead draft analyst Michael Renner said that Johnson is the closest thing to a "lab built" offensive tackle. He has all the physical tools you want in your offensive lineman: athleticism, toughness, height and speed. If the Falcons ultimately decide to draft an offensive lineman at No. 8 overall, Johnson is the guy.
3. CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
The Falcons secondary struggled during the 2022 season due to key injuries and a lack of depth. They ranked 25th in passing yards per game allowed (231.9), per Team Rankings, and sat in the bottom half of the league with only 10 interceptions. The Falcons need a versatile cornerback. I suggested Illinois' Devon Witherspoon because I think he would compliment A.J. Terrell and the Falcons' secondary well. He's a physical defensive back who's proven to be efficient in both man and off ball coverage when covering tight ends and wide receivers, in addition to being able to stop the run. Under the guidance of Jerry Gray, a former secondary coach and now Falcons assistant head coach/defense, Witherspoon would be a great asset to Atlanta's defense.
4. EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Like Myles Murphy, Tyree Wilson's name has been linked to the Falcons quite often. The Texas Tech product has the upside to be a force on the Falcons defensive front and reminds me a lot of New York Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. Wilson has great size and strength, and proved to be a dominant edge rusher in college. Though, Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports mentioned that there are concerns about his speed coming off the edge.
5. DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Grady Jarrett needs help on the defensive interior. It's uncertain when Ta'Quon Graham will return due to a knee injury he suffered last season and four defensive lineman including Abdullah Anderson, Jaleel Johnson, Matt Dickerson, and Vincent Taylor will all be free agents this offseason. Even if the Falcons acquire a defensive lineman through free agency, Bryan Bresee would still be a solid option for the Falcons to take. Despite the injuries Bresee dealt with at Clemson, he's displayed that he can be threat along the interior due to his natural strength, size and motor. There's no question that Bresee wouldn't be a great addition alongside Jarrett.
Join us as we take a look back at our favorite photos of our home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, during the 2022 Atlanta Falcons season.