The Falcons enter this year’s NFL Draft with nine draft picks, including the No. 14 overall pick. Coming off an injury-riddled 7-9 season, the Falcons still have plenty of talent on their roster but there are some clear areas that need to be addressed.
Nine draft picks gives Atlanta a lot of options in regards to how they want to approach the draft, and the last time they entered a draft weekend with that many picks they made a franchise-altering decision.
Heading into the 2011 NFL Draft the Falcons also held nine draft picks, which helped them make the blockbuster trade to move up 21 spots and select wide receiver Julio Jones. In that trade, the Falcons sent the Cleveland Browns the No. 27 overall pick, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in that year’s draft, as well as a first-round and fourth-round pick in 2012.
Later in the draft, the Falcons swapped fifth-round picks with the St. Louis Rams and gave up a seventh-round pick to move up and select running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
So, while the record shows Atlanta selected six players in the 2011 draft, the Falcons entered that year’s event with the same number of picks they currently hold.
The strength of this year’s draft is clearly on the defensive line, an area many believe is the Falcons’ biggest need. Atlanta could stand pat at No. 14 and land a quality player, as general manager Thomas Dimitroff recently told reporters. But the Falcons clearly have enough ammo to move up in the draft if they zero in on a player they really want, and Dimitroff has proven he’s not afraid to make that deal.
With everyone healthy, the Falcons still have the talent to compete. The team might believe the addition of one more difference-maker on the roster such as Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver or Nick Bosa would be enough to put them over the edge.
At that point, is keeping all nine draft picks worth it? It wasn’t in 2011.
Of course, the Falcons might want to take a shotgun-scatter approach to this draft and use all or most of their nine picks in this draft. While there is quality starting talent on Atlanta’s roster, its depth was exposed last season when injuries took their toll.
Having, and using, nine picks in this year’s draft could go a long way towards building depth at a variety of spots such as the offensive line and in the secondary.
The last time the Falcons actually drafted nine players was in 2014. According to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, the team’s four biggest needs entering that draft were edge rusher, offensive tackle, safety and tight end.
Atlanta went defense-heavy in the 2014 draft with seven of its nine picks playing on that side of the ball, including four linebackers. The Falcon selected tackle Jake Matthews with the No. 6 overall pick, addressing a major need in the first round.
Of Jeremiah’s listed needs, however, the Falcons only drafted an offensive tackle and a safety. Three players from that draft class are currently on the team’s roster: Devonta Freeman, a fourth-round pick, Ricardo Allen, a fifth-round pick, and Matthews.
We won’t know what the Falcons approach to this year’s draft will be until the final weekend of April, but Dimitroff has a history of making things interesting.