What do you view as the Falcons’ top need entering the draft?
Tabeek: I think the Falcons have a number of needs they must address before the season kicks off. They include offensive line, defensive line (tackle and edge rusher), cornerback and running back. But the most pressing need is right tackle. I’d follow that one up with defensive end and cornerback. Not only are the Falcons thin at those positions, they’re an injury away from a disaster situation (much like they experienced last season with safety and guard when they lost both starters at each position).
Conway: Offensive line. I have been going back-and-forth between offensive line and defensive line and I think with the talent in this year’s draft class, the Falcons should take advantage and continue to address their offensive line in the first round. The crop of defensive linemen is deep in this year’s draft class and I think the Falcons will be able to get their hands on a talented defensive tackle or end in the second or third rounds.
McFadden: As much as I like the top-end talent of the defensive line prospects in this class, I think the Falcons should go with an offensive lineman with their first pick. The Falcons added Tyeler Davison, a three-year starter, at defensive tackle via free agency, and they brought back Adrian Clayborn to help on the outside. Atlanta has signed four offensive linemen this offseason, but I don’t know how much they’ve really improved there. I think they could seriously bolster the line in the draft.
Do you believe the Falcons’ will be involved in a first-round trade?
Tabeek: I do not. I think if the Falcons are going to make a trade it’ll be on Day 2. If you recall, the Falcons’ first three picks in the first three rounds are Nos. 14, 45 and 79. With nine picks in the draft, I could definitely see the Falcons trading for additional Day 2 picks – somewhere in the 50s and 60s. I’d love to see the Falcons acquire five picks in the first two days of the draft and address those aforementioned needs I just outlined above.
Conway: No. I say that because I don’t think there’s a player outside of Quinnen Williams who is worth trading up for. I think Williams will be drafted as the No. 2 or 3 overall pick and what it would cost to acquire him would be significant. Not to say Williams wouldn’t be worth it, but I think the Falcons will stay put. I think the Falcons will be in a good spot to land a very good player at No. 14 given the depth in this year’s draft if they go with a player in the trenches.
McFadden: Trading up for a game-changing defender like Quinnen Williams or Nick Bosa is something I’d personally give a good, long thought, but I think the Falcons might move back if they do anything at all. If the Falcons are targeting an offensive lineman, they are going to be watching for a run at the position to start. If a run starts prior to their pick at No. 14, the Falcons should still be in a good spot to get their guy. If the run hasn’t happened by the time the Falcons are nearing their pick, they may try to slide back several spots and grab an additional pick.
Which positions would you target on Day 2 and Day 3?
Tabeek: I’ll say it again: I’d love to see the Falcons acquire some Day 2 picks – there’s a substantial gap between No. 45 and No. 79. If they select a right tackle at 14, the next picks (in no specific order) would have to be a defensive end, cornerback and defensive tackle. Another darkhorse pick? Running back. If the Falcons go defense with their first pick, count on an offensive lineman and cornerback on Day 2.
Conway: Cornerback and defensive end, that is if the Falcons go offensive line and defensive tackle with the first two picks. Those are two positions I think the Falcons could certainly target in the early rounds. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Falcons took a defensive end in the first round given the talent at that position. But adding cornerback depth is a must for the Falcons in the draft this year.
McFadden: I think the Falcons will address the offensive line, the defensive line and the secondary, in some order, in the first three rounds. There is depth in this draft at those three areas, so we could see the Falcons draft multiple defensive ends or offensive linemen. What makes this a bit difficult to answer is the fact that Atlanta has already addressed some niche roles via free agency. They could have the flexibility to get creative in the later rounds.
This will be a successful draft if the Falcons do what?
Tabeek: At the very least, the Falcons must stabilize the right tackle position, acquire a pass rusher (someone – anyone – who can wreak havoc in opponents’ backfield) and add depth at cornerback. If they can check those boxes and add a running back or two, that’d be a successful draft in my book.
Conway: I agree with Will, a starter on both sides of the trenches. Since Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff’s season-ending press conference in January, the emphasis on bolstering the offensive and defensive lines. They’ve made some moves in free agency to address the needs, but they’re not done. If the Falcons walk out of this draft with a starting tackle and defensive tackle and legit backup cornerback in the first three rounds, I think that would be about as good of a draft as you could hope for.
McFadden: Get a starter on the offensive and defensive lines. Those were by far viewed as the two biggest problem areas by fans following the season, and they happen to be the strength of this year’s draft. The Falcons have talent at a lot of positions, but they need to improve in the trenches to really reach their potential. They need to do that in this draft.
You’re on the clock at No. 14, who are you picking?
Tabeek: The best available right tackle and I’m on the record with the Falcons taking Washington State tackle right tackle Andre Dillard in my last two mock drafts. I like Jawaan Taylor, Cody Ford and Jonah Williams a lot, but I think Dillard is the pick if they go offense. Matt Ryan was sacked 42 times last season – and that can’t happen again.
Conway: Andre Dillard. I think the Falcons end the night with the best pass-blocking offensive linemen in this year’s draft. If the Falcons draft Dillard, they could now have two potential franchise tackles along their offensive line.
McFadden: There are a lot of offensive linemen in this class that I like, but it’s Cody Ford who really captures my imagination. He would become an immediate asset as a run blocker, and although he’s raw in pass protection, he’s got the natural athleticism to become very gifted in that area as well. Ford has some slight risk due to his inexperience, but he could become a dominant player for a decade.