As Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff often says, there are two ways to acquire players during the offseason: Free agency and the NFL Draft. Most NFL teams use those two opportunities in complementary fashion to cover their needs, and the Falcons are no exception.
The Falcons' biggest needs heading into the offseason? The trenches – offensive and defensive lines.
In free agency thus far, the Falcons have focused on the offensive side of the football, signing two guards, two tight ends, a running back and a receiver. Does that approach offer any insight into how Atlanta may approach the draft?
The Falcons' deficiencies on the defensive side have been well-documented, too. The defensive line is an area Atlanta could stand to upgrade, and the Falcons need to fill out their depth in the secondary and linebacker corps as well.
More proof? Atlanta has just three defensive ends listed on its roster at the moment.
When looking at the incoming draft class it's clear the defensive linemen are the strength of the group. Not only is there elite top-end talent with guys like Quinnen Williams, Nick Bosa and Ed Oliver, but there is plenty of depth with the defensive line as well.
That lines up very well with the Falcons biggest remaining areas to focus on, and there's a decent chance that it really is that simple.
The other interesting part of Atlanta's draft equation is that the team has nine draft picks. That many picks would allow the Falcons to take two differing approaches on draft weekend.
If the Falcons hold onto all or most of those nine picks, they could take a shotgun-scatter approach to this draft and opt to bring in a large number of rookies to develop and use. The other way the Falcons could go would be to package together a number of those picks in an attempt to move around and get exactly the guys they want.
"As much as we don't like being at 14, it affords us an opportunity to be a little more creative about whether we move up or we move back," Dimitroff said. "Everyone continues to tell me that I never want to move back, but 14 is a good place to be considering you can move back as well."
By signing specific role guys in free agency like Luke Stocker, Kenjon Barner and Justin Hardy, the Falcons don't need to add those types of players in the later rounds of the draft. They don't need to earmark certain picks to hold onto.
Now, the Falcons could certainly go in a number of different directions in the draft. But whichever approach Atlanta does decide to take, it should have some good options available in the areas it seems most likely to address.
The Falcons addressed many of their offensive needs in free agency. That's not to say Atlanta has ruled out drafting offensive players, because they definitely have not. But in a draft loaded with defensive talent, the Falcons have cleared the runway and can focus heavily on that side of the ball.