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Falcons' biggest roster needs? PFF identifies three areas of concern

Who or what positions should the Falcons address in free agency and the NFL Draft? 


The NFL Draft is 75 days away and almost all of the questions I get these days from Atlanta Falcons fans are about who the Falcons should pick or what positions they might target in free agency or the draft.

And that's to be expected after three straight non-playoff seasons now. The Falcons have finished 7-9 in 2018, 7-9 in 2019 and 4-12 this past season. Coincidentally or not, quarterback Matt Ryan has been sacked 42, 48 and 41 times over the last three seasons, too.

All of those aforementioned records and statistics are, well, not great, Bob.


Should the Falcons keep focusing on the offensive line? Is it time to start thinking about the future, take advantage of picking fourth overall and draft a quarterback? Or is time to start investing more on the defensive side of the ball, and address the pass rush and the back end of the defense?

These are all legitimate questions, and many Falcons fans ponder them on a daily basis when writing me at Straight from the Beek.

The folks over at Pro Football Focus have also taken a hard look at the Falcons roster recently and zeroed in on the biggest needs ahead of the 2021 season. And Ian Hartitz of PFF identified edge rusher, secondary and running back as the Falcons' three biggest areas of concern. Here's a summary of what Hartitz wrote on each:



Hartitz's analysis: "High-priced 2020 free agency addition Dante Fowler finished his first season with the Falcon as PFF's eighth-lowest-graded edge among 124 qualified players. Generating pressure has been a problem for a while now, as the Falcons were a below-average unit in 2020 (19th in pressure rate), 2019 (24th), 2018 (24th) and 2017 (No. 16) alike."

Top 2021 draft prospects:

  • Micah Parsons, Penn State
  • Kwity Page, Michigan
  • Gregory Rousseau, Miami
  • Zaven Collins, Tulsa
  • Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
  • Jaelan Phillips, Miami


Hartitz's analysis: "The Falcons are one of nine teams with fewer than $20 million 2021 dollars devoted to their safety and cornerback rooms. Only the Lions allowed more total completions of 15-plus yards; talent is needed anywhere and everywhere in this back end."

Top 2021 draft prospects:

  • Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
  • Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
  • Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
  • Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
  • Tyson Campbell, Georgia

Running back

Hartitz's analysis: "Both Todd Gurley and Brian Hill are free agents. Only the Packers, Steelers, Bills and Jets have fewer 2021 dollars devoted to the position. The likes of Travis Etienne (No. 39 on PFF's top-200 draft big board), Javonte Williams (No. 58), Najee Harris (No. 69), Michael Carter (No. 74) and Kenneth Gainwell (No. 79) could be potential draft-day targets."

Top 2021 draft prospects:

  • Najee Harris, Alabama
  • Travis Etienne, Clemson
  • Michael Carter, North Carolina
  • Javonte Williams, North Carolina
  • Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
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Tabeek's Take

While I don't disagree with any of Hartitz's points – all three of those positions must be addressed in either free agency or the NFL Draft – I'd still list offensive line as a major priority. I wrote about it in my latest mock draft. It doesn't matter who the Falcons line up behind center, on the outside at receiver or in the backfield at running back if they can't establish control of the line of scrimmage. I'll say it again and again: Games are won and lost in the trenches, and the Falcons must get better there.

Top 2021 draft prospects:

  • Penei Sewell, Oregon
  • Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
  • Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
  • Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
  • Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

If you'd like to read the entire article PFF, which summarizes needs for all 32 teams, click here.

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