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Terry Fontenot reflects on heavy defensive Day 2 of 2024 NFL Draft

The Falcons drafted defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro and outside linebacker Bralen Trice during the second day of the draft in Detroit.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons defense went 2-for-2 on Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft, and that wasn't necessarily the plan.

First, defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro was picked at No. 35 overall in the second round. The Falcons actually traded with the Arizona Cardinals to move up eight slots and secure Orhorhoro. Atlanta gained Nos. 35 and 186 (sixth round) and lost Nos. 43 and 79 (third round) as a result.

"That was the guy we wanted," Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said. "But if he goes, and other guys go, we could have taken an offensive player. Because you don't want to reach in certain spots."

Then, in the third round, the Falcons stayed put at No. 74 and selected outside linebacker Bralen Trice.

"Again, if there's a run at that position, we could have went another direction," Fontenot said. "So, we didn't go into today and say we have to take defensive players. You want to take good football players that fit our ethos, that fit what we're about and that are going to come and help us play.

"Those are those types of guys."

The Athletic's Dane Brugler ranked Orhorhoro as the fourth-best defensive tackle in his annual draft guide. Orhorhoro is a 6-foot-4, 294-pound 22-year-old out of Clemson. Last season was the only one in which he started every game he played, 12 total. He made 22 tackles, eight for a loss and five sacks. He also broke up a pass.

Trice was ranked 10th among edge rushers. He's a 6-foot-3, 245-pound 23-year-old from Washington. Trice started all but one game between 2022-23. Last season alone, though, he made 49 tackles, 11.5 for a loss and seven sacks. He also forced a fumble and broke up two passes.

"Starting with Ruke," Fontenot said. "A big, powerful, athletic man. Excellent skillset. Versatile up front. Plays the run, plays the pass. Excellent motor. Top-notch makeup. …

"And then we get into Bralen Trice. Outside linebacker. Another versatile player. Tough. Instinctive. He can play the run, he can rush the passer. Powerful, heavy-handed on the edge. Again, excellent motor."

On the flip side of the ball, the Falcons brought in quarterback Michael Penix Jr. during Thursday's first round. He was one of a record 23 offensive guys chosen.

In Friday's second round, the count was split 12 offense and 20. The third round broke down into 19 offense and 17.

That mean means offense won Day 1 but defense won Day 2, which tracks with the Atlanta's path thus far. Rounds 4-7 remain Saturday.

"Excited about the outcome today," Fontenot said. "Came out with two players that we really like, that are really going to help out our front seven."

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