FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes an opinion on the Falcons' biggest remaining need as well as NFL executive's thoughts on Atlanta's draft.
The Falcons selected two cornerbacks in this year's NFL Draft – Kendall Sheffield and Jordan Miller – yet ESPN still believes the position is Atlanta's biggest remaining hole.
In a recent piece detailing the top remaining need for each NFL team, ESPN's Andrew Potter provided his thoughts for the NFC South and why cornerback is Atlanta's most glaring need at this point.
"The Falcons came into the offseason with two major goals: plug glaring holes in the defensive front seven and rebuild their offensive line," Potter writes. "Veteran free agent Tyeler Davison and the returning Adrian Clayborn help immensely with the first of those, whereas the team spent massive amounts of draft capital on the second. That leaves cornerback as the most obvious area of uncertainty: Isaiah Oliver made only two starts in his rookie season but is now first in line to start opposite Desmond Trufant. The vital nickelback spot is a contest between a recently converted safety (Damontae Kazee), a career backup with one start in three years (Blidi Wreh-Wilson), and two developmental late-round rookies in Kendall Sheffield and Jordan Miller. Even if one of those players develops quickly into a worthy starter, depth in the secondary remains a clear issue. Atlanta only needs to look back a single season to see just how important that can be."
Atlanta took steps to add to their depth in the secondary in the draft, but the Falcons are relying on a lot of youth at the position. Still, Kazee is an example of how things can break the right way with young players, but there is still risk involved.
To see the see the top remaining need for every other NFL team, click here.
CBS Sports: Ranking all 40 trades in the NFL Draft
The Falcons made three trades in this year's NFL Draft, each one to move up in the draft order. But how do those three trades stack up compared to all of the other trades made during draft weekend? CBS Sports' R.J. White ranked all 40 of the trades made in the draft, and the Falcons fared pretty well overall. In White's opinion, Atlanta had the 32nd-, 26th- and ninth-best trades in the draft.
The lowest rated trade was the Falcons' decision to move up in the fourth round to grab Kendall Sheffield, the 26th-rated trade was Atlanta move to grab John Cominsky and the team's best trade was the move back into the first round to draft Kaleb McGary.
"While Kaleb McGary wasn't as big of a steal as the three players we just mentioned, the Falcons got him for a steal rather than overpaying in the deal, and that's before you factor in landing the fifth-year option," White writes. "It would have been better if an impact defensive lineman had been there to grab, but the Falcons deserve credit for the value of this trade anyway."
To see how White rated the rest of the trades in the draft, click here.
ESPN: NFL execs unfiltered on every team's draft class
We know what those in the media think of each team's draft, but what about those who have actually made decisions in the NFL? ESPN's Mike Sando talked to several coaches, executives and evaluators to get their thoughts on each team's draft, and they felt the Falcons' moves were as much about the present as they were the future. The consensus is that they were adamant about protecting Matt Ryan, and one general manager is high on tackle Kaleb McGary.
"We think McGary can be the best offensive lineman in this draft," he told Sando. "What we don't know is exactly where that would be on the line."
To see what else they had to say about the Falcons' draft, click here.
ESPN: McShay's early 2020 projected mock 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.
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.