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The Falcons have made key acquisitions during the free agency period with the signings of safety Jessie Bates III, defensive linemen David Onyemata and Calais Campbell, and wide receiver Mack Hollins, among other moves. But there are still pieces needed to help bolster the roster on both sides of the ball with the 2023 NFL Draft nearing in less than three weeks. Atlanta currently has a total of eight picks in this year's draft, including a top-10 pick at No. 8 overall.
- 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
- Key learnings, themes from Falcons approach to free agency
- Bair Mail: On Calais Campbell, trading up for Will Anderson, Frank Clark and taking an offensive lineman at No. 8 overall
- ESPN has Falcons taking Oregon CB at No. 8 overall in NFL Draft
That doesn't necessarily mean Atlanta is locked at eight picks. Depending on if they decide to trade up or down, if at all, the number of draft picks could change for the Falcons. Here, we'll take a look at the Falcons top three needs heading into the draft and how they could fill them in the first three rounds.
Falcons pick at No. 8 overall: Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
When looking at the roster post-free agency, the cornerback position still remains a spot that needs more depth. The Falcons suffered key injuries in this area last season, in addition to having a lack of depth pieces to fill in. This unit finished last season with 10 interceptions and ranked 25th in passing yards per game, allowing an average of 231.9 yards, per Team Rankings.
Outside of A.J. Terrell, Atlanta needs another versatile cornerback in their secondary. Devon Witherspoon will be one of the top cornerbacks in this year's draft. The Illinois product didn't allow a single touchdown in 2022, and only allowed 22 catches for 206 yards. The 6-foot 180-pound physical cornerback can play both in the slot and on the outside. Witherspoon also shares commonalities with Terrell in terms of physicality in which they both play with, quickness, and great ball awareness.
Falcons pick at No. 44 overall: Will McDonald IV, Iowa State
With veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell now in the mix, the edge rusher position isn't the Falcons most pressing need. Yet, they still need to bolster this unit with more depth. The Falcons had the second-fewest sacks in 2022 with 21. Second-year players Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone are expected to take that next step in 2023 but the Falcons must continue to build up this position group.
Will McDonald IV could make a solid addition to the Falcons defense. The 6-foot-4 236-pound edge rusher had 16 quarterback hurries, 25 total pressures, three quarterback hits and six sacks in 2022. McDonald's agility coming off the edge makes him a nightmare for offensive linemen. Under the guidance of defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, McDonald could make a solid transition to the league.
Falcons pick at No. 75 overall: Chandler Zavala, N.C. State
The Falcons recently lost Elijah Wilkinson and Chuma Edoga in free agency who both played at the left guard position in 2022. Outside of left guard, the core members of the offensive line will all be returning in 2023. Matt Hennessy, who transitioned from center to guard, saw action at left guard last season but it remains uncertain on where he'll play in 2023. The Falcons could possibly fill this position with N.C. State's Chandler Zavala in the third round. In the last two years, Zavala allowed just eight pressures and zero sacks. Zavala's strong suit comes in pass-blocking, with solid run-blocking abilities. If the Falcons are looking to draft a versatile left guard who's proven to be efficient at the college level, they should no further than Zavala.
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