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Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot looking to draft best player available — 'for us'

The 2024 NFL Draft starts Thursday, with the Falcons on the clock at No. 8 overall... as of now. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons' plan for the 2024 NFL Draft sounds simple: They want the best player available.

The complexity, however, comes in the caveat Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot added on to that statement in his annual pre-draft media availability Tuesday.

"When we talk about best player available, it's really best player available for us," Fontenot said. "Because I think sometimes when people hear 'best player available,' they're looking at some of the experts' lists. But you have 32 different draft boards. They're probably a little more similar in the top 10, but they can get very different as you go through the draft."

Those 32 draft boards Fontenot is referring to are those of the 32 teams in the league. Ultimately, they're the only ones that matter. They'll dictate the real deal, which begins Thursday with the first round and runs through Saturday with the seventh round.

The Falcons currently hold eight picks: Nos. 8 (Round 1), 43 (Round 2), 74 (Round 3), 79 (Round 3), 109 (Round 4), 143 (Round 5), 187 (Round 6) and 197 (Round 6). Obviously, that order and count can change between now and the event's conclusion. Fontenot said trade proposition calls have already been and will continue to keep rolling in.

"You've been in meetings for two straight weeks – right? – so there are some things you need to catch up on in regards to that," Fontenot said. "But that's what it is. You try to make sure you try to talk to teams so you feel real good going into Thursday as you plan to make sure you're sharp on draft day."

As it stands, the Chicago Bears have the No. 1 overall pick, followed by the Washington Commanders, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers to round out the top five. The Falcons will be on the clock with the No. 8 overall pick. That is, if they decide to stay there.

The way the Falcons approach a selection is two-fold. First, as Fontenot explained, players are divvied up into different categories. The ones he shared were impact players, elite players, solid starters, functional starters, role players and developmental players. Then, in each, there are positional needs and premier positions.

"We always want to bring in impact players and continue to build the team," Fontenot said. "But where need does come into play is when you have several players in the category, which in most cases you do."

Which means there should always be options.

"The key is," Fontenot said, "not reaching for needs."

That's where it gets tricky, weighing whether to go for a positional need over a premier position at any given time. According to, the Falcons' current positional needs are edge, cornerback, defensive tackle, safety and quarterback. Fontenot has previously named edge, cornerback and wide receiver as premier positions. Thankfully, this year in Atlanta, they're not mutually exclusive.

Either way, the Falcons have a good idea who they're going to select Thursday. Maybe even Friday and Saturday, too.

"It's the best player available," Fontenot said. "But we're going off of our board and our internal dialogue."

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