Writers roundtable: Are the Falcons better following the NFL Draft?


Based on what the Falcons accomplished in free agency and the draft, do you think they've addressed all of their needs?

Matt Tabeek: No, but this roster is still a work in progress. As Dan Quinn has told me a number of times over the last few years, there are generally three player acquisition periods – free agency, the draft (including signing undrafted college free agents) and during camp/preseason. Before the draft, Quinn told me that they'd like to still add more pass rushers. I think they will as well as more cornerbacks, linebackers and some skill-position players who can make an impact on special teams, specifically in the return game.

Kelsey Conway: I think they've addressed most of their needs. The only position I thought they might add in the draft was another defensive end. I know Marlon Davidson can play inside and outside, but I thought they would add a defensive end to continue to add depth to the position. Heading into Day 3 of the draft, I thought linebacker was a big need for the Falcons and after they drafted Mykal Walker, that solidified the linebacker group questions I had.

Will McFadden: From a big-picture view of the roster, I'd say yes. It's easy to sit here and say that maybe they could have added another starting linebacker – I don't know if Mykal Walker is ready for that role – or should have continued to build out their cornerback depth. But that's probably being too nitpicky. The Falcons replaced their starting cornerback, edge rusher, running back, tight end and they appear to feel comfortable with what they have at linebacker and left guard. Not too bad.

Did any of the Falcons' picks surprise you? Why?

Tabeek: If we're being totally honest here, not many people were tossing around A.J. Terrell's name as the Falcons' first pick prior to the draft. While I've been pretty consistent in saying cornerback was the Falcons' biggest need heading into the draft, I thought that C.J. Henderson might be there at 16. There were some reports that Atlanta was trying to trade up, too, and I thought Jeff Okudah could have been one of the targets. But I did have Terrell going in the first round of my final mock draft, just a few spots behind the Falcons. When his name was announced, I didn't see it coming, but I thought it was great pick.

Conway: No, actually not at all. I had a feeling they would go DT/CB in the first two rounds. I guess the most surprising move was the selection of Matt Hennessy, but that move makes so much sense for the future. I think the Falcons knew their positional needs heading into the draft and covered each one.

McFadden: I was a little bit surprised the Falcons decided to draft an offensive lineman, only because it feels like they have 19 offensive linemen on the roster. It seems like they have high hopes for Matt Hennessy, though, and if he can end up grabbing that starting left guard spot while learning some of the intricacies of the center position from Alex Mack, this pick could be among the best.

Who was your favorite pick? Why?

Tabeek: It's hard not to love watching Marlon Davidson's tape – or listening to him when he's behind the mic. Dude is a quote machine! He exudes so much confidence and brashness – and I love that, especially on defense. I think this unit needs more guys like that, and I'm sure Kelsey Conway and Will McFadden are sick of listening to me talk about how, "We need more war daddies!" I think Davidson might fit the bill – all he has to do now is go out and walk the walk because he can certainly talk the talk.

Conway: Marlon Davidson, and I'm pretty sure he's the fan-favorite pick at this point. I like his ability to play inside and outside and it's hard to not like the kid when you learn his story. He seems like a player who never takes a snap off and plays with a purpose, and I think that's exactly what the Falcons needed.

McFadden: No idea why, but I always had this weird feeling that Marlon Davidson was going to end up a Falcon. Just seems like a great scheme fit and after talking with him, I think he'll be a great addition in the locker room. It should be fun watching him rush the passer alongside Grady Jarrett.

Which Falcons rookie do you think will end making an immediate impact?

Tabeek: Anytime you draft a player in the first round, especially in the top half, I think it's fair to say that you're expecting them to make an immediate impact. I think it goes without saying that if A.J. Terrell is not a starter come Week 1, I'll be surprised. (I do think Kendall Sheffield will have something to say about that, too, which is a good thing.) It wouldn't surprise me at all if Matt Hennessy and Marlon Davidson make meaningful contributions early on, too.

Conway: A.J. Terrell or Matt Hennessy because they'll both likely be starters at key positions for the Falcons.

McFadden: This is the time for me to mention A.J. Terrell, the team's top draft pick. The more I watch this guy, the more I like this pick. He's a much better player than I think he gets credit for, and he's got great upside. Sticking him with a coach like Raheem Morris should help him tap into that upside, and I expect him to be a starter very early.

Which position group is most improved as a result of the draft?

Tabeek: Well, I certainly like the look of the secondary a lot more following the draft with the additions of cornerback A.J. Terrell and safety Jaylinn Hawkins. Adding Terrell definitely bolsters the cornerbacks group.

Conway: I would say the defensive line group is the most improved at this point, and that includes the moves made in free agency. Getting Dante Fowler Jr. and Marlon Davidson are two big additions to a unit that needed more playmakers.

McFadden: With the addition of a starting cornerback and another box safety in Jaylinn Hawkins, the secondary is the group that improved the most. Terrell has the upside to be an improvement over Desmond Trufant, and Hawkins offers more ball-hawking potential and even more depth at a position that has been hurt by injuries. This was a group the Falcons needed to address, and the secondary is better coming out of the draft.

If you had to guess, which rookie will end up being a fan-favorite? Why?

Tabeek: Oh, that's an easy one – Marlon Davidson. I think it could change in time, but right now it's not even close. I do think Matt Hennessy's jersey will be extremely popular, too.

Conway: Marlon Davidson, easily. Have you seen the reaction from fans on Twitter? They already love him.

McFadden: Matt Hennessy is going to sell the most jerseys, for obvious reasons, but I'll say Davidson will be the fan favorite. He is immediately likable, and he plays with the type of doggedness that will endear him to a lot of fans.

Finally, do you think the Falcons are a better team right now than they were at the end of 2019? Why or why not?

Tabeek: Before the draft, I didn't think so but now I do. I still think they have some work to do (see my first response above), but I like the overall talent level on this roster more right now. But as the players themselves will tell you – you still have to go out and prove it on the field. Potential doesn't win games, but I love what the Falcons have done this offseason. As I go through the list of newcomers – Hayden Hurst, Dante Fowler, Todd Gurley, A.J. Terrell, Marlon Davidson, Matt Hennessy, Mykal Walker and Jaylinn Hawkins – I'd say the Falcons are having a very good offseason. Now let's go win some games

Conway: Yes, because they got legit Day-1 starters at cornerback and defensive end. Those were two positions the Falcons needed to improve on defense to get where they want to go in 2020. The additions in free agency and draft at these positions make the Falcons a better team on defense, for sure.

McFadden: I think the Falcons can be a better team, but I think they are a less talented team, overall. I don't think the issues from 2019 stemmed from talent, though. They were hit by some bad injuries again, but they had way too many glaring on-field mistakes that cost them. Those got cleaned up and spurred the turnaround. If the ball bounces Atlanta's way a few more times in 2020, the Falcons stay healthy and they play with more poise, they will be a better team.

Apr-15-2019 15-25-49

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