By: Kenneth Harrison
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
The Atlanta Falcons may not want to admit it but they are in full rebuild mode. They finished the 2021 season 7 – 10 and have the #8 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Atlanta traded quarterback Matt Ryan to Indianapolis in the offseason.
The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota but he is not a long-term solution. We are going to take a look at their biggest needs and the player they could select for that.
Wide receiver has to be the top need. Calvin Ridley is suspended the 2022 season for gambling. Before his suspension Ridley missed the majority of last season with mental health issues.
The #2 target, Russell Gage signed with division rival Tampa Bay in the offseason.
Atlanta should draft multiple pass catchers throughout the draft but if they get one in the first round, they can choose the best option.
That means Drake London (USC) or Garrett Wilson (Ohio State) will be selected, depending on which one is available.
Edge rusher is a big need. Atlanta only had 18 sacks last season which ranked last in the league. They released their best pass rusher, Dante Fowler Jr. and did little to upgrade the position in free agency.
Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux’s stock seems to be sliding as we get closer to the draft. Thibodeaux was the top player in the nation as a high school senior and he’s very talented. They may draft a great player that will have a chip on his shoulder.
Quarterback is also a big need. I thought they would have addressed that last year when they had the 4th pick and the 2021 quarterback class was deeper. They selected tight end Kyle Pitts with that pick.
This year’s QB class is not as good and none of them are actually good enough to be a top-10 pick. The top two options at the position are Kenny Pickett (Pitt) and Malik Willis. Pickett is more equipped to play immediately.
Nose tackle might also be a need. Grady Jarrett could be released or traded before Fall camp. Jarrett has been a force for Atlanta since being drafted in 2014. He does not fit well in defensive coordinator Dean Pee’s scheme. They want someone that can play in a two-gap system and bull rush up the middle.
Georgia’s Jordan Davis would be a good fit. If they wait until Day 2, UConn’s Travis Jones would be a good fit.
The last need is between tight end or running back. Head coach Arthur Smith came from Tennessee where they had star running back Derrick Henry.
The Falcons resigned Cordarrelle Patterson and retained Mike Smith. They also will not select a running back that high so they will still probably address the position later.
Smith loves to use two tight end sets. Pitts is the flex, but the Smith is going to want a more traditional player, who can be an efficient blocker while helping in the passing game.
This is likely a Day 3 selection, so keep an eye on Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson, Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar and Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer as the best options.