The Falcons need immediate cornerback help. They have A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward and Isaiah Oliver set to be every-down players in a position of defensive strength.
That is no way means the Falcons are set at that spot. If there's an opportunity to take a dynamic playmaker or someone who could be a major contributor at a premium position, you jump at the opportunity. And Oliver's on a one-year and Hayward could be around for two, so it's possible they go with a defensive back at some point in the NFL Draft.
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- Eight at No. 8: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Kyle Hamilton, Malik Willis, Charles Cross, Garrett Wilson; Sauce Gardner
There's one target that would make me go cornerback, without hesitation, at No. 8 overall. There are others deeper in the NFL Draft who could also make a solid impact. I wouldn't go too far down, however, considering the young, developmental talent already on the roster from Terry Fontenot's first draft.
Let's take a look at some cornerback options for the Falcons, and where they might be available to them.
Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
This is just your ol' pal Scotty Bair talking here – it's definitely not Terry Fontenot writing under a pseudonym – but I'd take Gardner in a heartbeat, even with every receiver and at least one top edge rusher on the board.
He's that good. We all know the stats, that he didn't allow a touchdown at Cincinnati and only allowed 121 yards over 14 games(!!) during the 2021 season. He also nailed every stage of the pre-draft process, including the measurement part. The dude is 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. Oh, and he's fast and agile and has great instincts.
You’ve got to take him at No. 8, and it seems unlikely he'll be available at that point. Would the Falcons trade up to get him? That doesn't seem like a strategy to execute, either. If he slips, however, the Falcons should pounce.
We take a look at eight options for Atlanta's first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Andrew Booth, Clemson
Wanna set up a Clemson cornerback corps? This is the way to do it. Booth and fellow Tiger A.J. Terrell are long-term answers at the position, both ideally suited for how the Falcons like to play defense. Booth is aggressive and physical, rarely out of position to make a play. He's also someone who likes playing the run and being part of 11-man defense over out on an island. What if I told you Booth could be a Falcon along with multiple draft picks? He could well be had in the late teens or early 20s. If Pittsburgh makes an aggressive play to land a quarterback, the Falcons could get Booth and tons of loot. Oh, and Booth and Terrell are friends. Oh, and Hayward's darn good in the slot. That could be a sensational trio in 2022.
Kyler Gordon, Washington
If you're talking about Washington defensive backs in this draft, Trent McDuffie's probably the focal point. He has a teammate, however, who is pretty darn good. Gordon can play both outside and inside, where the Falcons could have a need in the near future. He has all the physical traits you want in a top cornerback, with the aggressiveness you want to see. He has some development left in him, with the Falcons coaches could work on while playing behind more established starters in 2021, unless he earns the right to play more. They could probably nab him at No. 43 overall, but probably not at No. 58.
Tariq Woolen, UT-San Antonio
The dude’s traits are crazy good. He's 6-foot-4, 205 pounds. He has great length and 4.26 speed. That suggests a high pick. The converted receiver doesn't have much experience on defense, which analysts say shows up on tape. He's raw but super talented, maybe a project to be developed. The Falcons probably can't wait deep into the draft to get someone that tall and fast, so a second round pick – maybe at No. 58?? – could be required.
Mario Goodrich, Clemson
We're in the later-round flier territory at this point, but that might be a spot to develop someone. If you're going that route before adding a cornerback, Goodrich is a, well, good way to go. Playing at Clemson helps, as does some quality college production. He’s a physical player and analysts say he could play well in zone. It might be worth it to add him to the mix later in the draft and see what he can do in the Falcons system.
Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast
Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Atlanta Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Kris Rhim. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.
Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.