MOBILE, Ala. – Over the last two years under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons have drafted offensive players with their first-round picks.
This a year where that could change.
The Falcons need more playmakers on defense, especially at defensive end. Atlanta finished No. 29 in the league in sacks with 28 on the year.
Former first-round pick Takk McKinley is expected to be healthy for the 2020 season after ending the season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Unless the Falcons decide to re-sign Vic Bealsey before the start of the new league year on March 18, the former first-round pick is set to become a free agent.
Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn will likely address the defensive end position via free agency or the draft.
NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks offered his thoughts on who he believes the Falcons will draft with the No. 16 overall pick.
"I really like A.J. Epenesa out of Iowa and the reason why I like him is because he has a chance to come off the edge, he is a guy who is great with his hands," Brooks said. "[He's] an outstanding finisher and when I think about the Falcons and their brand, he's a 100 percent effort guy. He is the kind of guy Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff like. He fits the bill."
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound defensive end registered 26.5 sacks during his three seasons at Iowa.
Another prospect Brooks thinks could be a fit is outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson out of LSU. Chaisson is as explosive as they come and has a high motor. Chaisson finished his career in Baton Rouge with 9.5 sacks and 92 tackles.
"If it's not [Epenesa], LSU has a pass-rusher in K'Lavon Chasssion who is absolutely outstanding," Brooks said. "A great athlete, speed, speed, speed, off the edge. With his change of direction and first step quickness, he would be a perfect complement to Takk McKinley on the other side."
Brooks noted how important generating pressure in the Falcons' defense and adding a player like Epenesa or Chaisson would help immensely.
"They still need pass rushers," Brooks said. "It's one of the most important part of their defense. At some point, they'll find a guy that hits. This might be the year it hits."