FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes some "what-ifs" from the 2018 NFL Draft as well as a power ranking of the 32 draft classes.
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CBS Sports: NFL Draft what-ifs for all 32 teams
The NFL Draft is a tantalizing blend of chaos and preparation. Teams spend months perfecting their draft boards and then work hard to get into a position to select the player they want on draft night. With that in mind, CBS Sports' R.J. White went through his "what-ifs" for each NFL team – something that could have fallen perfectly for a team if things had been slightly different.
Atlanta didn't have to do much maneuvering early in the draft, and they still landed some highly-regarded players in wide receiver Calvin Ridley and cornerback Isaiah Oliver. The Falcons landed their defensive tackle in the third round, selecting Deadrin Senat, but White wonders if there was a better scenario that could have played out.
"Calvin Ridley was a great addition to the offense, but when the Falcons passed on Taven Bryan, it surprised a lot of people," White writes. "Outside of the first-round prospects, the team had shown a lot of interest in two guys at the position: Sam Houston State's P.J. Hall, and Fort Hays State's Nathan Shepherd. The former was taken one pick ahead of Atlanta in the second round, and the Falcons went with corner Isaiah Oliver at No. 58 instead of Shepherd, who was taken early in the third. So the team ended up with Deadrin Senat with its third round pick. Oliver was a good value, so it's hard to hate that pick, but I'm sure most expected the defensive tackle position to be a higher priority in this draft."
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NFL.com: Power rankings the NFL's 32 draft classes
Although none of the rookies from the 2018 draft class have yet to set foot on a field during a meaningful NFL game, comparisons are already being made. Yes, it's a fun exercise to do and leads to some compelling conversation, but NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein's draft power rankings should be viewed through that frame of mind.
Atop Zierlein's power rankings are the New York Giants, who added running back Saquon Barkley and guard Will Hernandez, among others. The Cowboys, Colts, Buccaneers and Ravens round out the rest of the Top 5 for Zierlein. The Panthers are the next NFC South team on the list, earning the 14th spot in the rankings, while the Saints earned the lowest spot on Zierlein's list at No. 32.
The Falcons sit at No. 23 for Zierlein, who liked the value the team got with some of their picks. Here is what he had to say about Atlanta's draft:
"Ridley was the top wideout in this draft and adding him to a roster where he doesn't have to play the role of WR1 should benefit him. Oliver is long, athletic and a solid value in the back half of the second round. I love the trade up for Gage in Round 6, as he's a plus special-teams performer and underrated receiving option."
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