With the taste of the 2016 and 2017 playoff losses hardly dissipating for Falcons fans, the 2018 Draft serves as the next best opportunity for the team to gather young talent to make another playoff push. The Falcons have historically been a team that goes into the Draft with the mindset of filling positional needs rather than adhering to the mantra of taking the best player available. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that mindset, leaning too heavily on it allows for quality talent at other positions to slip by.
Despite having much of the 2017 roster intact, the losses of starting defensive tackle Dontari Poe and slot Wide Receiver Taylor Gabriel create two needs for the team: bolstering the defensive line and adding more explosive talent on offense.
Head coach Dan Quinn’s defensive mind turned the once “soft” labeled Falcons into a steadily improving fast and physical defense with a clear emphasis on speed and grit when scouting players. With that mindset still guiding the Falcons’ organization, these positional needs stand out as the direction the 2018 Draft could take them.
Two of the last three years have seen the Falcons spending a first round pick on an edge rusher to make the lives of division quarterbacks much more difficult. The continued emergence of Defensive Tackle Grady Jarrett and the departure of fellow lineman Adrian Clayborn leaves the Falcons desiring an additional piece to make a truly formidable D-line.
With the 26th pick in the 2018 Draft, top DT talents like Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne may have already been taken off of the board. The worst-case scenario may see the Falcons ending up with the Florida product Taven Bryan. Bryan excels as a truly athletic talent with the versatility to move both inside and outside of the line.
Quarterback Matt Ryan plays at his best when he’s able to spread out the ball to at least three talented pass catchers. The 2012 (Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzales) and 2016 (Julio Jones, Muhammad Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel) seasons reflected this as he led the Falcons deep into the playoffs.
The 2018 Draft may not have top 10 Wide Receiver draft talent, but the backend of the first round has several prospects that could fall into the Falcons’ hands: Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, D.J Moore, and Courtland Sutton. If the Falcons do go the WR route, Kirk looks to be the most likely prospect selected based on availability at the 26th pick. Kirk is a true slot receiver the Falcons need that can take the top off the defense and excel in the short game as well.