Editor's note: This is the fourth installment of a five-part series examining NFL Draft options the Falcons could use to address positions of need. We'll go over players the Falcons could take at No. 8 overall, plus considerations on Day 2 and Day 3. Here's where you can find the previous installments: Edge rushers, wide receivers and cornerbacks.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There was no Falcons position group that was as greatly impacted by free agency quite like that of the defensive line. Dean Pees said it before he retired, Arthur Smith said it as the organization searched for a new defensive coordinator and Ryan Nielsen said it when he was tabbed for the role: The Falcons needed to pump resources into the defensive front in 2023.
And they did.
- Official free agency signings: S Jessie Bates III, DL David Onyemata, LB Kaden Elliss, QB Taylor Heinicke, CB Mike Hughes, LB Tae Davis, WR Mack Hollins; DL Joe Gaziano, WR Scotty Miller, DL Calais Campbell, OL Josh Miles, OLB Bud Dupree, CB Jeff Okudah, OL Ethan Greenidge
- Desmond Ridder discusses being named the Falcons starting quarterback heading into 2023 season
- Question of the Week: Which Falcons position group is the highest priority to replenish in the 2023 NFL Draft?
The Falcons have had Grady Jarrett for years, but the last few seasons have shown how great the need is to build around him. Ta'Quon Graham will be healthy again in 2023, after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the middle of the 2022 season, but the Falcons needed more. That "more" came in the form of David Onyemata, Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree, all of whom the Falcons signed since the start of the new league year in March. They also brought back Lorenzo Carter, too, while Eddie Goldman came out of retirement.
In a month's time, the Falcons defensive front was transformed with coveted veteran presence. That doesn't mean that work is done, though.
We've already taken an extensive look at the crop of edge rushers in the draft that the Falcons could target. Now, let's focus in on the defenders along the interior. And don't forget, the Falcons have a history of finding diamonds at this position on Day 3.
Jalen Carter, Georgia
Since the 2023 draft news cycle began, Carter's name has been on everyone's lips. He was originally dubbed by many as the best and most intriguing player in the class' entirety, but in the months since he's been the biggest question mark of the draft class. With his youth, skillset and power, it's hard to imagine Carter (despite everything being said about him, true or not) falling out of the top-10. Could he be there at No. 8, though? Maybe not. But if he is? He'd be very hard to pass up for a team that has made it a priority to reshape its defensive front.
Bryan Bresee, Clemson
Bresee likely isn't a No. 8 pick, but if the Falcons choose to trade back into the first round or trade away the No. 8 pick for a later first-rounder perhaps Bresee is on their board. He's showcased powerful bursts of speed and he's someone who could fit right in Nielsen's scheme as Bresee has played three years at Clemson in the 3-technique, 5-technique and nose. He's experienced a lot and is anchored well to his spot. As a culture fit, something Terry Fontenot has spoken about frequently, Bresee fits the mold there, too, as one of the favorites of Clemson's program over the years.
Other Day 1 options: Calijah Kancey (Pittsburgh), Mazi Smith (Michigan)
Mazi Smith, Michigan
I know what you're thinking: "Wasn't Smith in the above section as another Day 1 options?" The answer is that yes, he was. However, he's here because of how early the Falcons will be picking on Day 2. They have the No. 44 overall pick in the second round. This means that guys who may have been pegged as a first rounder as some point or another may drop into Day 2 for the Falcons to grab early in the evening. Someone like Smith fits this blueprint, and he has something that may intrigue the Falcons: His size.
Though the same height as Carter, Smith has about 10 pounds on him. While some may see that as a knock against him, Smith carries his weight well. Of the top-five interior defensive linemen on draft boards, Smith is the biggest. Bruce Feldman ranked Smith at the top spot in his Freaks List last year. It could be interesting to see someone of his size take up space to free up Jarrett on the Falcons defensive line in 2023.
Gervon Dexter, Sr., Florida
Someone else who could be right around that 40 to 50 overall pick range is Dexter. He's shown flashes of the player he can be at Florida, but with the right tutelage he could develop into someone who's flashes become a consistent level of play. He also has a versatility that is notable. Florida liked to use him up and down the line of scrimmage. So, he is not pigeon-held to an even or odd front.
Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern
The Falcons have shown in recent draft cycles that they value versatility and a little freakiness. That's Adebawore. At the combine in February, Adebawore became the only player to weigh more than 280 pounds and run a sub 4.5 time in the 40-yard dash in the combine's history. In part because of his speed, Adebewore was primarily an edge rusher in college. You know what the Falcons could use more of? A big and quick presence coming off the edge. He's someone I could even see the Falcons making a move to land if the opportunity presents itself.
Other Day 2 options: Keeanu Benton (Wisconsin), Siaki Ika (Baylor), Zacch Pickens (South Carolina)
Byron Young, Alabama
The Falcons have two fourth-round picks almost back-to-back at No. 110 overall and No. 113. So, the names we're highlighting as Day 3 picks are all players who have been tagged as fourth-round options. That includes Byron Young, a four-year starter at Alabama.
Byron Young is coming off his best year, having the same number of pressures in 2022 as he did in his first three years combined. This is something a team like the Falcons could focus in on (i.e. finding a player who's on an upward trajectory, think Arnold Ebiketie in 2021). The Athletic's Dane Brugler also called Byron Young "scheme-diverse," which would be another plus for the Falcons.
Cameron Young, Mississippi State
Another name followers of the SEC may know well is Cameron Young from Mississippi State. He isn't as widely known at Byron Young is from the outside looking in, but this Young shouldn't be overlooked, either. Something to note about Cameron Young is his durability over the last two years. After returning from an ACL injury, Cameron Young has made 25 starts in the last two seasons and become a consistent presence for Mississippi State during that time.
Moro Ojomo, Texas
Ojomo is someone the Falcons likely met out in Las Vegas at the end of January when coaching the East team at the East-West Shrine Bowl. A former teammate of current Falcons defensive lineman Ta'Quon Graham, Ojomo has the largest wingspan of any interior lineman in this year's draft class. This length only helped Ojomo as a four-year starter at Texas. Though he's only 21 years old, Ojomo is a fifth-year senior who's experience outweighs his age.
Other Day 3 options: Kobie Turner (Wake Forest), Keondre Coburn (Texas), Jaquelin Roy (LSU), D.J. Dale (Alabama)
Atlanta Falcons players are back at Flowery Branch to kick off prep for the 2023 season.