With less than two weeks to go until the first name is called on draft night, we are not any closer to knowing which direction the Falcons will lean in this year's NFL Draft.
At this time last year, it felt pretty straight forward. Everyone knew quarterbacks were going to go 1-2-3, especially after San Francisco moved into the No. 3 spot to grab Trey Lance. With the Falcons at No. 4 last year and Kyle Pitts being - without question - the best player available, it felt like a done-deal from the get-go that he would be a Falcon.
This year? Circumstances do not feel nearly as simple. At No. 8, the Falcons have to sit back and watch the picks play out before them. Who could fall to them? And what need should they attack first?
Though Terry Fontenot has said time and time again that the Falcons are not in the market of drafting for need, the current roster has made it so that even if the Falcons go after the best player available there's a strong likelihood that person will fill a need on this roster.
Recently, I ranked the Falcons greatest positional needs as we head into the final stretch of evaluations prior to the start of the draft. My top two needs were edge rusher and wide receiver.
In this week's Question of the Week installment, Scott, Kris and I debate: Do the Falcons go after an edge rusher or wide receiver with the No. 8 overall pick?
Tori: My answer should be pretty obvious since I already ranked how I viewed said needs last week, but in case you need to be smacked over the head with a two-by-four, I put edge rusher before receiver.
Personally, I think quality edge rushers are going to be a hotter commodity in the first round because 1) this is one of the most talented groups of edge rushers in a long time and 2) the edge rusher position is one just about every team with a top 10 pick has a need for.
Because of these two notes, I feel as though receivers will drop to the later picks of the first round and even into the second in a way top edge rushers won't.
This is why - at No. 8 - I believe the Falcons should take the best edge rusher available instead of the best receiver available.
With two picks in the second round and two in the third, I think it would behoove the Falcons to go after a receiver after the first round. However, I would not completely write off the possibility of the Falcons using a combo of those picks to get themselves back into the bottom of the first round for a receiver that falls, because at the end of the day I do think good receivers will fall in this draft.
Kris: In recent years, this is expected to be one of the deepest drafts at both the edge rusher and wide receiver position, but the gap between the top edge rushers in this draft and receivers is vastly different. The top four edge rushers, Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Travon Walker, and Jermaine Johnson, could be gone before the Falcons even pick at eight. They are all expected to be franchise-changing players that can rejuvenate a team's defensive line. But the gap in projections between the edge rushers outside the top four seem considerably more significant than the gap between the receivers.
If the Falcons select a receiver at number eight, they would likely be the first team to take one. While this receiver class is deep as the edge rusher class, there aren't the projected immediate production edge rushers. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said he doesn't have any receiver in this class rated higher than last year's top three receivers off the board in Ja'Marr Chase, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle, the top three receivers taken last season.
I think answering this question based on position is challenging because it depends on who is on the board. While the Falcons' receiver room is barren and desperate for a star, they could likely find one in the second round or even by trading back late first because of how deep this wide receiver class is and the slight difference in talent. It's tough to say the same about edge rushers.
Ultimately, if the choice is between edge and receiver and the top four rushers are gone at eight, go receiver, but if any of the four are available, I think the Falcons should go edge.
Scott: Mr. Rhim is dead right when he says "who" is far more important than "what position." That's why I wouldn't raise an eyebrow if they went cornerback here, but only for Sauce Gardner, or offensive tackle if any of the top three fell.
In terms of "who," Garrett Wilson's a guy I can get behind. I like him a great deal, even more than Drake London, but I'd probably like Chris Olave or Treylon Burks even more if he came with a trade down and the additional picks that come with it.
If it seems like my "who" over "what" argument is skirting the rules of this question, it ain't. Edge rusher and receiver are MASSIVE needs of equal scale. With all respect due to Ms. McElhaney, I would've ranked the needs in a tie. That's how much the receiver corps needs talent. And, as I've said before, I think adding a second edge rusher or receiver is more important than adding a first tackle or cornerback or rusher. Quarterback, in case you're asking, is below all that.
Here's an ideal scenario, in my mind, and it comes with a somewhat radical plan. Go edge rusher at No. 8 if Walker, Hutchinson, Thibodeaux or Walker are available. Then take receivers with BOTH second round picks. Unless, David Ojabo's sitting there at No. 43. Then take him (essentially) for 2023 and go with two receivers after that.
While so much focus has centered on pass rush, let's not forget how unstable the receiver room is. Less than a month ago, Frank Darby was the only receiver under contract who caught a pass the previous year. In its current form, you could say the same thing about the position this time next year. They need talent and continuity and guys to develop so they're prepared to help a new quarterback whenever he comes Atlanta's way.