Early Bird Report: Falcons address defense in projected 2020 mock draft


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes a way too early projected 2020 mock draft as well as Matt Ryan's inclusion in a list of veterans helped most by the draft.


Given how completely wrong most mock drafts are in the days ahead of the NFL Draft, it's astoundingly futile to try to project the first round one year out. And yet, that's where we are.

ESPN's Todd McShay understands that his projected 2020 mock draft isn't going to turn out to be accurate, so he instead is viewing this as an opportunity to introduce fans to some of the early top prospects for next year's draft. He also is basing the order of the draft on Football Outsiders' early projected records for the 2019 season.

That projection has the Falcons selecting at No. 12, and McShay believes they will address the defensive line with their first pick, drafting Purdue defensive tackle Lorenzo Neal.

"The son of longtime NFL fullback Lorenzo Neal, this 315-pounder would help in the middle of a Falcons line potentially losing Grady Jarrett after the 2019 season," McShay writes. "He made 30 tackles, including three for loss, last season."

To see the rest of McShay's early projected 2020 mock draft, click here.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

NFL.com: Veterans helped most by the NFL Draft

As Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said following the NFL Draft, quarterback Matt Ryan was pleased with the team's first two picks. By upgrading the offensive line in the first round with the selections of Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary, the Falcons should make Ryan's life a bit easier moving forward. That's why NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal included Ryan on his list of veterans who were helped most by the draft.

"GM Thomas Dimitroff made protecting Ryan such a priority in the draft that the 2017 MVP couldn't help but thank his boss via text," Rosenthal writes. "Adding two first-round offensive linemen continued an offseason plan laser focused on fixing the Falcons' problems up front (see also: free-agent acquisitions of James Carpenter and Jamon Brown)."

To see which other veterans were helped most by the draft, click here.

CBS Sports: The best draft pick for each NFL team

With their first pick in last week's draft, the Falcons addressed a major need by selecting offensive guard Chris Lindstrom. It may not have been the exciting type of pick Atlanta fans were expecting, but it's one that could go a long way towards improving the offense.

That's why CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson tabbed Lindstrom as the best pick the Falcons made during the 2019 NFL Draft.

"Chris Lindstrom is a mauler," Wilson writes. "And while taking an interior lineman in the middle of the first round isn't a sexy pick, Lindstrom fills a huge need. Keeping Matt Ryan upright is critical, which leads us to our second-favorite pick from the Falcons' haul: running back Qadree Ollison, who has more in common with James Conner than might be apparent upon first glance."

To read what else Wilson has to say about Atlanta's draft, click here.

ESPN: Revamped line could key Falcons' resurgence

After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015, the Falcons are hoping to make a return trip in 2019. It appears they believe the key to doing that centers around protecting quarterback Matt Ryan and stronger production on the ground.

At least, that's the message the team sent in last weekend's draft, when the Falcons selected two offensive linemen in the first round. Atlanta is hoping the addition of Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary will add both athleticism as well as grit and toughness up front on the offensive line.

"Make no mistake about it: We knew what we needed to do this offseason and that was to continue to fortify that line and make sure that we were protecting Matt," Dimitroff told reporters after the draft. "And we weren't going to run into what we ran into last year."

ESPN's Vaughn McClure wrote at length about how an upgraded offensive line could spark a Falcons resurgence, which you can read here.

NFL.com: Post-draft power rankings

How did the NFL Draft affect the national perception of the league hierarchy? NFL.com released a new version of post-draft power rankings to reflect the changes to each team in the draft. The Falcons, despite doubling down on arguably their biggest need, dropped one spot from No. 16 in the post-free agency power rankings to No. 17.

"Mixed reviews on the Falcons' draft decisions, as not everyone was in like with the selection of Christopher Lindstrom at 14th overall," NFL.com's Elliott Harrison writes. "My colleague -- and the ultimate draftnik -- Lance Zierlein felt the former Boston College guard was a second-rounder. The Falcons then selected offensive tackle Kaleb McGary 31st overall, which should provide some oomph in the ground game. Atlanta has now retooled the O-line so completely that every projected starter up front is a former first-round pick. Wow. That's never happened before in the common-draft era, in case you were wondering (hat tip to Adam Schefter). You weren't? Cool."

To see the rest of NFL.com's post-draft power rankings, click here.

ESPN: Biggest question for each team following the draft

The 2019 NFL Draft has officially wrapped, and the Falcons added a number of players at positions of need. But what remains the biggest question facing the team moving forward?

In a piece covering the top remaining question for each NFL team following the draft, ESPN's Vaughn McClure wonders if the Falcons are really set at right tackle.

"Sure, they traded up back into the end of the first round to take Kaleb McGary out of Washington, but coaches and scouts around the league believe McGary is "raw" and incapable of handling top pass-rushers right now," McClure writes. "The Falcons signed Ty Sambrailo to a three-year extension after he replaced the released Ryan Schraeder at right tackle, but Sambrailo is viewed around the league as more of a backup. Stay tuned."

To see what the biggest remaining question is for other NFL teams, click here.

ESPN: McShay's best value picks for each NFL team

The Falcons drafted seven players in the NFL draft, but which did ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay deem the best pick. McShay makes sure to discern that best pick doesn't necessarily mean the best player but rather the combination of team needs and value at the time of the selection.

McShay tabbed the Falcons' best value pick as their first pick of the NFL Draft, guard Chris Lindstrom.

"The Boston College product turned heads with his 4.91 40-yard dash at the combine, and once you add in his length, you can see why he excels in pushing speed rushers past the pocket," McShay writes. "He has very good lateral mobility as well, and he is very good when blocking at the second level (Atlanta's run game was 27th in rushing yards in 2018). Combined with the team's pick of Kaleb McGary at No. 31, the Falcons did a nice job targeting a need."

To read McShay's top value picks for every other NFL team, click here.

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