FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons placing their finishing touches on their draft plan as well as a do-over for the 2018 NFL Draft.
In less than a week, the 2019 NFL Draft takes place in Nashville. The even marks the culmination of years of scouting work done by NFL teams, but that work is largely complete at this point.
Speaking with the media on Thursday, Falcons coach Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff provided an update on where things stand in their draft approach. After the free agency moves the team has made, Dimitroff says he feels good about where the Falcons stand entering the draft.
"It's a very collaborative group, with the coaches and the scouts," Dimitroff said. "We've run all kinds of comparatives and have a really good feel for who is going to be a good fit for our team and who's going to contribute early."
D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote about this topic in greater detail for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which you can read here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
NFL.com: 2018 NFL Draft do-over
It's much easier to reflect back on previous drafts with the benefit of hindsight than it is to predict what will happen in the upcoming draft, which is perhaps why so many people dabble in draft do-overs. NFL.com's Adam Rank did just that, re-drafting the 2018 draft with a season's-worth of information to call upon.
Calvin Ridley went earlier in Rank's re-draft, landing with the Buffalo Bills at pick No. 22. The Falcons opted to go defense with Ridley off the board, selecting former N.C. State defensive tackle B.J. Hill.
"The Falcons' defense was wrecked last year," Rank writes. "They couldn't stop anybody. Hill was pretty good during his rookie season, finishing with 5.5 sacks."
Hill started 12 games for the New York Giants in 2018, recording 48 tackles, six tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. To read the rest of Rank's NFL Draft do-over, click here.
ESPN: Breaking down the Falcons' 2019 schedule
The Falcons' 2019 schedule was released Wednesday night, and it offers a couple of important stretches. Atlanta has a tough run right at the start, playing a number of recent playoff teams, and the Falcons will play five straight division opponents after their Week 9 bye.
ESPN's Vaughn McClure gave his game-by-game predictions for the Falcons, who he believes will go 10-6, and other thoughts about the 2019 schedule.
"The Falcons don't exactly have it easy with six of the first nine games against 2018 playoff teams and four of the first six games on the road, starting with a season-opening trip to face the Minnesota Vikings," McClure writes. "They won't even play a division game until visiting the rival New Orleans Saints on Nov. 10, a week after the bye. That matchup marks the start of a critical five-game NFC South stretch, ending with a Thanksgiving night affair at home against Drew Brees and the Saints. At least the Falcons get to play indoors for eight home games and four road games at Minnesota, Indianapolis, Houston and Arizona. Playing four of the last six at home paves the way for a strong finish."
To read the rest of McClure's analysis of the schedule, click here.
ESPN: Falcons take shot at Saints with schedule video
It may be the offseason, but the Falcons-Saints rivalry never stops. The Falcons' digital team took the opportunity to have a little fun at the Saints' expense in their schedule release video.
At around the 40-second mark, a Ram runs in front of Mercedes-Benz Stadium as a band of Saints fans are marching in. The Ram collides with a leading trumpet player, knocking him over, and runs off. A referee then runs onto the scene and rules that no pass interference had occurred. Seems familiar.
ESPN's Jeremy Willis wrote about the Falcons piling on the Saints, which you can read here.
SI.com: Atlanta Falcons' 2019 draft needs
As the draft approaches, more national media outlets are providing their in-depth breakdowns of each team's individual needs. Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling teamed up to provide their deep dive into the Falcons' draft needs for SI.com.
Benoit and Gramling believe defensive end is Atlanta's biggest need, saying they could use one more outside speed rusher, allowing Takk McKinley to move inside in nickel situations. The Falcons' hidden need, in their eyes, is the interior of the offensive line, and Benoit and Gramling believes the team should also be looking for a linebacker.
"In the middle of the first, Alabama's Jonah Williams and Oklahoma's Cody Ford could both get consideration as collegiate tackle who could kick inside, but Atlanta could also wait until Day 2 and grab someone like Boston College's Chris Lindstrom for their outside-zone scheme," Benoit and Gramling write of potential options for the Falcons. "If it's an edge rusher, Florida State's Brian Burns fits the bill. Michigan LB Devin Bush (whose father and namesake was drafted by the Falcons with the 26th pick of the 1995 draft), would fit perfectly in Dan Quinn's defense as De'Vondre Campbell's heir apparent."
To read the rest of SI.com's breakdown of the Falcons' draft needs, click here.