The Falcons roster is slowly starting to take shape. Atlanta was never set to be big spenders in free agency, choosing to flesh out the depth chart with veterans available later in the process and willing to signing shorter-term, prove-it-type deals.
They've added a number of them – and yes, you're right to have noticed a certain Bears/Titans slant – that should be able to make solid contributions during the 2022 season.
I like the Casey Hayward signing for sure, which strengthens the entire secondary. More recent adds Rashaan Evans and Anthony Firkser were smart moves as well, helping at key spots. The roster remains thin, at receiver and edge rusher especially, and needs talent most everywhere.
While free agents could continue trickling in the NFL draft remains the primary (and most important) talent acquisition opportunity left. That's the primary focus for Falcons fans, so let's dive back into that pool again in this Wednesday Bair Mail:
Christopher Duke from Covington, Ga.
Bair, the more that I examine the draft, the more I'm leaning towards maximum utilization of our #8 pick. In this case, I mean trading down to get additional draft capital. With majority of the draft experts and mock drafts suggesting that we're going to go WR at #8 (as it's no secret that it's just ONE of our biggest needs), it's difficult to dismiss the notion of being able to get value at WR later in the draft. 2 teams come to mind in a "trade-down" scenario, and those teams are Green Bay and Kansas City. Since both of those teams desperately need WR's as well, can you see a scenario in which we trade #8 to GB for #22 and #28, or trading #8 to KC for picks #29 and #30? If you were Terry and Arthur and these situations presented itself, would you make either move? Your thoughts?
Bair: I think a trade down would be beneficial, with the right partner and for the right compensation package. Most folks just ask about a trade down without thinking of the partner. Christopher has included a pair in this question, with Green Bay and Kansas City recently acquiring a second first-round pick.
Those are interesting options, even though I’ve mentioned adding 2023 capital in the past, but it's also a long way to go down. Dropping to 29 and 30, especially, is far. You're adding a different caliber of player at 29 than you would at 8. I'd want something else in both deals, instead of a straight first-round swap. I'm more interested in Green Bay's selections, but both teams would have to think they're a player away from a Super Bowl run, which maybe they are.
That also means they might be aggressive in getting up there, possibly for a receiver or an edge player. They could land the top WR at No. 8, which might be worth the jump.
Overall, I think a trade down is a worthy strategy. I'd bet the Falcons take a lot of calls about possible deals just before and during the NFL Draft. I'll will all depend what happens at the top of the draft. There's a good amount of uncertainty there.
Martin Foreman from Columbus, Ga.
Hey Bair! Aging Falcons fan here since 1966! With the fairly long Falcons history, we've had few occasions to celebrate. Back in 1998, I thought that would change. Back in 2016, I thought that would change. Obviously, it didn't. I could talk a long time about Falcons' management as well as my Falcons but, alas, we can't do that. Here's my question for this time. Currently, who has the final say on who the Falcons draft and do you agree, the Falcons first 5 draft picks, in no particular order, should be DE, OT, WR, CB, S, QB? For the last 4 picks, I have C, RT, NT and RB.
Bair: Thanks for the question, Martin. I'm going to look at this like a question about the Falcons needs, and whether there are tiers of them. I truly believe the Falcons will take the best player available, with a premium position slant at the top of the draft.
Tori McElhaney addressed this topic in a story posted Wednesday a.m. I don't think quarterback is in the top tier, but that's just me. The Falcons have long said they want to build around the QB. Build around Marcus Mariota and set the next guy up well. There's no rush there. There is a rush on edge rusher and receiver and cornerback. I think running back is a top-tier need worthy of a relatively early pick. Center and guard could be address despite recent adds there, and I think the long-term answer at right tackle isn't on the team yet.
If we're just talking need here, I think getting multiple edge rushers and receivers are more important than some other issues. Selecting one of those options shouldn't preclude the Falcons from taking another one a round or two later.
We take a look at eight options for Atlanta's first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Bill Whitten from Killen, Ga.
In deciding who to draft at #8 or to trade down how much of what the Falcons decide takes in consideration who is available next year on what they eventually choose to do this year?
Bair: The Falcons scouts are focused seniors coming out of each draft, until the juniors declare. There are too many prospects to focus on anything else. That said, these scouts watch a ton of tape featuring underclassmen and obviously take mental notes. They know who's coming out when and how good certain players are. It's impossible to look at Ohio State receivers Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave and not see quarterback C.J. Stroud play. Same with Bryce Young if you're scouting Jameson Williams or John Metchie.
They know which talents to keep an eye on, and discussed that some in a recent press conference.
"We do have to look at that, and we have to look at – again, you don't want to feel pressured to do something, but you have to look, not just for myself, but it's funny when you're watching tape on players, you always – me and Arthur were talking about some underclassmen the other day because when you're watching tape on other players you see those guys, and that's important to not just look at this year but to look at next year and think big picture," general manager Terry Fontenot said. "So that's a great question, and we do as a GM and as a head coach, we definitely look into the future and what's coming in the next draft classes."
Arthur Smith chimed in on this as well: "We have a great scouting staff, too. That's their charge. By the time we're having conversations here on the '22 draft, a lot of our scouts, they've been studying these guys for years. You're not necessarily talking about write reports, but unless you've got your head in the sand, they're constantly – they know what's going on in the college game."
Call for questions
We're back on schedule with the mailbag, so submit your questions right here for inclusion in Friday's Bair Mail.