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Why the Falcons didn't pick a cornerback in the 2024 NFL Draft

The Falcons rounded out their 2024 draft class with five selections Thursday, giving them eight overall. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The 2024 NFL Draft came and went. So did one obvious positional need for the Atlanta Falcons.


Of their eight picks overall, five came in the form of defensive players. There were three tackles, one outside linebacker and one inside linebacker. No one for the secondary.

"First of all, we'll definitely continue to look at (cornerbacks)," Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said. "It's 24/7/365. Once the draft ends, we're still going. Whether we're talking about a possible trade, whether we're talking about signing another player, that goes right up into the season."

As the current moment, the Falcons have seven designated cornerbacks rostered. The most notable is A.J. Terrell, a locked-in starter for 2024. He was a Falcons first-round draft pick in 2020 and has started all but five games since joining the organization. His counterpart, though, has been a rotation of teammates ever since.

Last season, Terrell's running mate began as Jeff Okudah but finished as Clark Phillips III. Okudah signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent this offseason, but Phillips is back for his second go-around with the Falcons.

So, Terrell and Phillips make up two of the seven. The Falcons also return Dee Alford, Mike Hughes and Natrone Brooks from 2023. Alford and Hughes normally play in the slot, though, and Brooks has yet to take a professional snap.

The Falcons did bring in a pair of options via free agency in Kevin King and Antonio Hamilton Sr.

King was active from 2017-21 but sat out the last two seasons due to personal reasons and an injury. Hamilton comes with eight years of experience, most recently with the Arizona Cardinals in 2023.

"All those guys can contribute with us," Falcons head coach Raheem Morris. "We feel good about a lot of those things, so we didn't add anybody within this draft structure."

Instead, other teams did.

The first cornerback off the board was Quinyon Mitchell going No. 22 to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Falcons chose quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at No. 8.

Atlanta did try to trade back into the first round. Fontenot said Friday he made calls from the moment he got off the phone with Penix until the conclusion of Thursday's work. No dice.

"We had guys that we obviously were trying to get back into the first for," Fontenot said. "It could have been a corner."

There was a run in the second round with four consecutive cornerbacks being drafted from Nos. 40-43 -- Cooper DeJean (Philadelphia Eagles), Kool-Aid McKinstry (New Orleans Saints), Kamari Lassiter (Texans) and Max Melton (Cardinals) – and three more were spread out at Nos. 50 (Mike Sainristil; Washington Commanders), 61 (Ennis Rakestraw Jr.; Detroit Lions) and 64 (Renardo Green; San Francisco 49ers). The Falcons traded up from No. 43 to 35 to secure defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro.

The point can be made without getting further into the specifics. There were 32 cornerbacks drafted throughout the tentpole event. None went to Atlanta.

"You don't want to force it," Fontenot said. "You don't want to reach in the draft. You want to have a clear vision for the players you bring in.

"Didn't work out at corner. But you're right: We'll continue to look."

Morris said: "Today."

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