Editor's Note: The "Eight at No. 8" series is an installment of eight separate stories evaluating eight different prospects the Falcons could take with the No. 8 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. With holes to fill, there are a number of directions Atlanta could go with its first-round pick. Over the course of the next few weeks, we'll take a look at eight players who could fit in the 2022 Falcons roster and beyond.
The Falcons need help in pass rush. This has been a well-documented sentiment for months at this point. Finding quality edge rushers in this year's draft class is a step in the right direction of rebuilding a position group that has been lacking in Atlanta for years.
And if you're the Falcons, you really like how deep this draft class is when it comes to the overall presence available on the edge.
- A trade for A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, and other potential draft day moves
- McElhaney: Why the Falcons should not draft a quarterback at No. 8
- Wyche: How Marcus Mariota could fit into Falcons long-term QB plan
- Eight at No. 8: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Kyle Hamilton, Malik Willis, Charles Cross, Garrett Wilson, Sauce Gardner, Jermaine Johnson II
One of the most prolific of the bunch is Georgia's Travon Walker, who has rocketed up draft boards since his pro day showing. If Walker is available at No. 8, it would be the story of the draft. And if the Falcons are able to actually take him? There would be some serious rejoicing in Flowery Branch on draft night.
Why the Falcons should take Walker
Outside of the fact that they need edge rushers? Outside of the fact that Walker is one of the best in the class? It's almost easier to ask the question: "Why wouldn't the Falcons want Walker?" No one is going out on a limb here to say that they would.
Because of the way Walker was used in Kirby Smart's defense at Georgia, there's something different about the skillset of Walker in comparison to some other edge rushers in this year's class. That's because Walker was used... everywhere. He played all across Georgia's defensive line. He dropped into space when he needed to. Thanks to his large frame, his explosiveness, his fluidity, his overall athleticism for a man with his build, Walker's versatility serves him well on the field, and will do so at the next level, too.
Oh, and he can lay the hammer, in case you were wondering. As Dane Brugler wrote in his 2022 NFL Draft guide: Walker is a violent tackler.
"Ball carriers remember his hits," Brugler wrote.
Counter punch: Why the Falcons should pass on Walker
If he's there at No. 8, they shouldn't pass on him, but for kicks and giggles let's say Walker's lack of sacks over his career at Georgia gave teams pause. Let's also say NFL coaches consider him to still be a bit raw in developing his overall pass rush techniques. Let's say all of this...
Should the Falcons still take him if he's there? Yes. Yes x10.
We take a look at eight options for Atlanta's first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
What are the odds he'll be available?
If we're writing this in January or February then the lay of the land was that he would have been available at No. 8. However, his meteoric rise up draft boards in the last two months change things completely.
Instead of a top-10 pick (or even top-15 pick), Walker is being projected by some as the first or second edge rusher to come off the board on Thursday night. With so many edge-needy teams with top-5 picks, that leaves little doubt that he will be off the board by the time the Falcons could even think about taking him.
Of course, there's no predicting draft night. So, is it still possible Walker drops into the Falcons lap? Sure. Crazier things have happened. However, with less than a week to go until the first picks are made, it really doesn't feel like the teams at the top would pass up on Walker's talent.