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Falcons positions of need as 2024 draft week nears

The 2024 NFL Draft is less than three weeks away. What positions of need do the Falcons still have?

DISCLAIMER: The statements and opinions regarding players and/or potential future players in the article below are those of the editorial staff and are not of the Atlanta Falcons' football personnel unless noted in a direct quote.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons' vision for 2024 is slowly but surely coming into focus as the offseason progresses. They've made progress in free agency, filling a fair amount of voids on the roster. But they're not done yet, as the NFL Draft looms.

With that said, the Falcons still have multiple positions of need that can be addressed April 25-27 in Detroit. They have eight picks overall to do so, beginning with No. 8 in the first round. Below are five different avenues they can go.

Bonus: The Falcons editorial team will roll out position-specific prospects throughout the next two-plus weeks before the tentpole event. Stay tuned for those.

Southern California wide receiver Drake London stands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the Atlanta Falcons with the eighth pick of the NFL football draft Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)


Two massive holes started to form in this group when the 2023 season ended and completely opened up when the 2024 season officially began. The gaps came in the form of 6-foot-8 and 282-pound Calais Campbell and 6-foot-4 and 269-pound Bud Dupree. Both of their one-year contracts with the Falcons expired in March when the new league year began, so now the duo that combined for 13 sacks last year are officially on the market as free agents.

"I think it's definitely a priority for us, especially considering our history," Falcons head coach Raheem Morris said at the Annual League Meeting last month. "I think you want to go out and add pass rushers every single year. I don't know, as long as I'm the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, that I'll ever sit here and say I don't want to add one of those guys. I think you have to continuously add those guys every year, when you're talking about affecting the quarterback."

Regardless of what Campbell and Dupree do, the Falcons would benefit from a rookie edge rusher, one they can develop and keep rather than short deals here and there when needed. If neither Campbell nor Dupree return, too, this need becomes more of a desperation.


The Falcons have essentially restocked this position room already via free agency, signing Darnell Mooney, Ray-Ray McCloud and Rondale Moore (trade) in March alone. Those three newcomers join Drake London, who was set to be the only returning receiver in Atlanta from 2023. So, this need has been met – for the most part. Bodies have been acquired, but their responsibilities and workload have yet to be determined, which means there's still freedom to continue the search for more.

"We wouldn't put those specific those (wide receiver) one, (wide receiver) two titles on guys," Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said at the Annual League Meeting last month. "Our mindset is bringing in good football players and this guy might be featured this game, this guy might be featured this game, and it's just about doing whatever you can do to find the right matchups and win the game."

Options are always good, especially when trying to develop and establish a fresh offensive identity. The Falcons have a new head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback. They'll more than likely want to test out different personnel groupings as they figure out what works best. Depth is the best way to allow that.


Just because the Falcons got their man in Kirk Cousins through a massive free agency move, doesn't mean their done in this department. Cousins still has to have a backup. Taylor Heinicke is the easy option right now, considering he's rostered and Desmond Ridder was traded away. But even Morris has made it clear that role is not guaranteed and he's on the search for another option.

"We will let him go out there and compete for the backup quarterback," Morris said. "We will still need to add another person, obviously. You pay that kind of money, Kirk is going out there as No. 1, go get Taylor to back him up and we can figure out what you can do in this draft, moving forward to add to that room and make it highly competitive."

Even if the Falcons do prematurely name Heinicke their backup, they're allowed an emergency third quarterback. That responsibility fell on Logan Woodside last season, and he was ultimately active for only one game. Granted, he took only 10 snaps in the fourth quarter, it was the Falcons' regular-season finale, and the New Orleans Saints were up by 24 points. Woodside is available as a free agent if the Falcons don't bring in a rookie.


The lock at this position is A.J. Terrell, but he needs a man opposite of him. A consistent one. That's something – someone – the Falcons haven't had since drafting Terrell in 2020. While he has been a constant in the backfield, his partner has been different every season since his arrival. Even in 2023, Jeff Okudah was intended to be the other starter, but Clark Phillips III finished out the schedule with that role.

"We will add some more people to that room, some young pieces, but what I've seen on tape, I've been excited," Morris said of the secondary overall. "I know it's an area of need for us so to speak, but those guys played pretty well last year when you go back and look at the tape."

Okudah is gone, though, having signed with the Houston Texans this offseason as a free agent. He only had one year left on his contract anyway, when the Detroit Lions traded him to the Falcons last year, so he was initially a short-term fix anyway. Phillips returns in 2024, along with Dee Alford, who normally slides in at nickel. They'll be both be around through at least 2025, but drafting a rookie could set Terrell up long-term, especially if he signs an extension.


Grady Jarrett is on track to be healthy in 2024, recovering from a season-ending knee injury sustained in Week 8 of 2023. David Onyemata, too, should be ready to go in 2024, his second season in a three-year contract. So, the interior is ideally stocked. The concern, though, is the possibility of another injury.

"It's premier, right?" Fontenot said. "You always want pressure players, whether it's an outside linebacker, whether it's a defensive tackle, defensive end. You always want to continue to add pressure players. It's a premium position. And then you always, always want to have the big dude that can stop the run, too, so you can get yourself in positions to rush. The thing about that is they can come from a lot of different areas -- come right at the top of the draft, come in the middle, come at the end of the draft."

Sounds like the Falcons don't have to use their first-round pick on this need, but they're also aware that is indeed a need. Ta'Quon Graham is still contracted and Kentavius Street was signed again, so there are backups available on the current roster. This need therefore isn't dire, but like Fontenot said: You always want pressure players.

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