Who is your favorite pick the Falcons made in this year’s draft class?
Kelsey Conway: Chris Lindstrom. I say that because while the Falcons have addressed the guard position in free agency with signing James Carpenter and Jamon Brown, Lindstrom was viewed as the best player at his position this year’s draft class. Not to say Brown and Carpenter won’t be good players for the Falcons, but Lindstrom is someone the Falcons can develop in their system for years to come. I look at him similar to how I look at Jake Matthews, a player the Falcons will have on their offensive line for years to come.
Will McFadden: I really like the John Cominsky and Jordan Miller picks, but I think the Falcons did well right off the bat with Chris Lindstrom. I think he’s a really capable interior offensive lineman who should be ready to make an impact right away. His athleticism and consistency jump on the tape, and he should bring stability to a big position of need for Atlanta. The Falcons improved with their first pick in this draft.
Matt Tabeek: Look, how critical is the running game to this offense and, really, to any successful team in the NFL? You must be able to run the ball. We’ve heard Dan Quinn say that over and over. Repeat after me: ‘The Falcons' offense is predicated off the run game; it sets up the play-action.’ All the great teams can run the ball when it counts. And the Falcons did not consistently in 2018. As a whole, I like what the Falcons have done with their offensive line; I can’t say I love one addition way more than any other. I think Falcons fans should be equally excited about Kaleb McGary as they are Chris Lindstrom or even James Carpenter. So I’m going with the not-so-obvious answer here and taking running back Qadree Ollison, the 152nd overall pick. The Falcons have needed at least three running backs the last two seasons, mainly due to injuries. It was not only a position of need, but Ollison can play all four downs (Dan Quinn pointed out), is big enough to move piles (he’s 6-foot-2, 225 pounds) and fast enough to take it to the house. In case you haven’t noticed, the Falcons have made a concerted effort to get bigger. And Ollison fits right in. Absolutely love the value he brings for a fifth-round pick.
What was the most surprising pick you think the Falcons made?
Conway: I’ll say Lindstrom again. I thought the Falcons would go with a tackle in the first round if they went offensive line based off the moves Atlanta had previously made. I wasn’t expecting a guard to be their first-round pick, but it seems like he was the best player on their board available at the time and someone they’re really excited about.
McFadden: I was ready to say Kendall Sheffield for this answer, but if I’m being honest with myself it’s Kaleb McGary. Not because I think it was the wrong pick but purely because I was truly surprised to hear his name called when the team moved back into the first round. The more that I watch his tape, the more I continue to like what McGary brings to the table. He’s got some nice athleticism, and there are plenty of times when he just dominated his opponents in the run game. This pick may have been a surprise to me, but I don’t think it will turn out to be a bad one.
Tabeek: I think the one pick who ended up surprising me the most was Kendall Sheffield. The first thing I thought about when I saw the pick was Sheffield’s blazing speed and him being used in the return game (the Falcons definitely need a jolt there). But GM Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn later said they see him purely as a cornerback, which this team also needs. While Sheffield has the size and speed, some scouting reports and analysts note that “quarterbacks aren’t afraid to challenge him because he doesn’t track deep balls or play his receiver well and doesn’t work to position himself to take away the passing window.” Sheffield obviously has the tools, but will need some development. But why not use him in the return game? Yes, I'm very aware of the Marcus Green pick, but Sheffield was one of the fastest players in college football last season. He broke Ohio State's 60-meter dash indoor record with a time of 6.663 seconds! Let's see if he can make an impact on special teams.
What’s the position you wish the Falcons would've addressed more?
McFadden: I’m going to stretch the boundaries of this question and say the pass rush. I love that the Falcons addressed the offensive line in the first round, although that may have prevented them from really ramping up their ability to get after the quarterback. Granted, players like Ed Oliver and Christian Wilkins were off the board at No. 14, so I understand it from that perspective. If Dan Quinn can get the most out of Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley in 2019, this will all be a moot point anyway.
Conway: I agree with Will in that I was shocked they didn’t select a defensive end higher in the draft. But, that tells me they think John Cominsky, one of their fifth-round picks, is someone they think they can develop into a reliable pass-rushing threat. Dan Quinn said he feels good about the pieces he’s added to his defensive line this offseason so that must be another reason why they addressed other needs in the draft, like cornerback.
Tabeek: No one wants to talk about injuries but they were a huge factor last season. Look at what happened to the guard and safety positions. Decimated. The defensive line also took some hits last year and it showed when Grady Jarrett and Takk McKinley were out. And when I look at the current roster, I can’t help but think the Falcons are one injury away from big trouble when it comes to defensive end and cornerback. I don’t care how much faith you have in a one player, but the backup had better be capable. We all saw what happens when that scenario unfolds. That’s why I really like what the Falcons have done with the guard and safety positions this offseason. There will be capable backups this year, no doubt about it. That’s why I think they will be very active when it comes to signing undrafted college free agents and when some of these veterans are unexpectedly cut loose before and during camp because of either numbers or because of draft picks. There will be some solid cornerbacks and defensive ends available and, hopefully, the Falcons will pounce.