FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes a draft-night trade scenario involving the Falcons and a new batch of power rankings from ESPN.
Falcons general manager is not afraid to make a trade during draft weekend. In fact, he’s made one every single year he’s been in Atlanta.
The Falcons are in the market for a pass rusher, but it’s possible the guy(s) they have their eye on won’t be there at No. 14. NFL.com’s Chad Reuter wrote about eight trades that teams should make during the first round of this year’s draft, and he has the Falcons trading with the Lions to move up to No. 8.
“The Falcons reportedly interviewed defensive tackles Dexter Lawrence, Ed Oliver and Christian Wilkinsat the NFL Scouting Combine,” Reuter writes. “General manager Thomas Dimitroff is not shy about moving up in the draft to get the player he wants (see: Julio Jones). Adding a playmaker next to franchised starter Grady Jarrett gives him a great duo in 2019 and beyond -- or maybe an insurance policy if Jarrett leaves as a free agent next year. Dimitroff will likely have to give up a 2020 second- or third-round pick and one or both of their mid-round free-agent compensatory selections in this year's draft (which are now tradable). The Lions met their primary need by signing Trey Flowers via free agency and could still pick up another defensive end to replace Kerry Hyder with the 14th pick (or a corner, safety or tight end) if they so desire.”
To read about the rest of Reuter’s draft-night trades, click here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
ESPN: 2019 NFL Power Rankings: Post-free agency status report
Free agency, for the most part, is over with. This year’s free agency period drastically altered the NFL landscape with big names such as Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. swapping teams. But how have those types of moves affected the league’s hierarchy?
ESPN released a new batch of power rankings after free agency, reflecting the shifting opinions on certain teams. The Falcons, however, did not benefit from this offseason. Atlanta is ranked No. 17 in the latest ESPN power rankings with Vaughn McClure providing “On the line” as his three-words-or-less description for the team.
“Those words can be interpreted in different ways,” McClure writes. “First and foremost, it's an important fifth season for head coach Dan Quinn, who put the burden on himself by taking over as the defensive playcaller. Consecutive playoffless seasons wouldn't bode well for Quinn or general manager Thomas Dimitroff. And any hope of being in contention starts with improving talent up front on both the offensive and defensive lines, something the Falcons addressed a bit in free agency but need to revisit via the draft.”
To see the rest of ESPN’s power rankings, click here.
CBS Sports: Re-grading the 2016 NFL Draft
It didn’t take long for fans in Atlanta to realize the Falcons’ 2016 draft class was special. That class played a pivotal role in helping the Falcons reach the Super Bowl, and it has produced three Pro Bowlers to date.
At the time those players were drafted, CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco gave the class a “B” grade. Seeing some of the egg on his face, Prisco switched that mark in a recent re-grading of the 2016 draft. The Falcons were one of just three teams to earn an “A+” from Prisco this time around.
“The Falcons had a heck of a draft in 2016,” Prisco writes. “They landed safety Keanu Neal, one of their defensive leaders in the first round. Then they followed that up by getting three more starters in second-round linebacker Deion Jones, third-round tight end Austin Hooper and fourth-round linebacker De'Vondre Campbell. That's a haul, even if Neal and Jones missed significant time with injuries last year.”
The two other NFL teams that joined the Falcons in earning an “A+” from Prisco were the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys. To see the rest of Prisco’s grades, click here.
NFL.com: Ed Oliver shines at Houston’s pro day
The Falcons are in the market for a defensive tackle, and there seems to be a decent chance that they could target the position with their first-round draft pick. Houston’s Ed Oliver is a player who has been linked to the Falcons very frequently in mock drafts, and he put together an eye-popping pro day on Thursday.
According to NFL.com’s Adam Maya, Oliver ran the 40-yard dash in 4.73 seconds, which is just one one-hundredth of a second slower than receiver Anquan Boldin’s 4.72-second 40-yard dash. He also ran the short shuttle drill in 4.22 seconds – faster than Saquon Barkley’s time of 4.24 seconds last year – and had a 36-inch vertical jump – just one inch shy of Von Miller’s vertical.
Oliver’s athleticism has always been apparent, but what he did at his pro day was truly impressive.
NFL.com: Top 11 WR duos in 2019
Julio Jones is arguably the most talented wide receiver in the NFL. But the Falcons have also brought in plenty of talented players to fill out their receiving corps, including Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley. In a recent ranking of the 11 best wide receiver duos for 2019, NFL.com’s Gil Brandt pegged Jones and Ridley as the sixth-best in the league.
“I'm not forgetting veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu, who finished with slightly more receiving yards (838) than Ridley (821),” Brandt writes. “But Ridley is likely to have a stronger role in the passing game in 2019, coming off a rookie season in which he scored 10 times. Jones, of course, is one of the best in the game, having collected 10,731 career receiving yards, more than anyone but Antonio Brown (11,040) in the eight-season span since he entered the NFL. After negotiating a revised contract last offseason, Jones put himself in line for a pay raise with a league-high 1,677 yards in 2018. He also reached the Pro Bowl for the sixth time in his career.”
If that seems a little low for Jones and Ridley, you’re not alone. To see who Brandt has in front of them, click here.