Atlanta Falcons: 2017 NFL Draft Preview

Tight end, David Njoku

If they decide to draft a tight end early they’ll have some excellent options. Will they be lucky enough to see David Njoku at 31?

G.M. Thomas Dimitroff and Head Coach Dan Quinn have done an excellent job reshaping the Falcons roster over the past two seasons. Besides a glaring hole at right guard and the need for more talent on the defensive line, if they can find QB Matt Ryan a weapon at the tight end position this offense could truly be unstoppable.

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Key additions

  • DE Jack Crawford
  • DT Dontari Poe
  • OG Hugh Thornton

Key subtractions

  • FB Patrick DiMarco
  • KR Eric Weems

Priority needs (Offense)

  • FB – After losing Patrick DiMarco the Falcons need to address this position unless they sign a veteran before the draft. Freddie Stevenson and Sam Rogers could be targets in the middle rounds.
  • TE – Austin Hooper and Levine Toilolo are just average players with no upside in the passing game. Unless they feel good about the potential in Hooper this is a position that Dimitroff might address early.
  • OG – The Falcons offensive line remained intact all season and was a big part of their production. That changes now with guard Chris Chester unsigned and possibly headed to retirement. This is a big question and must be addressed. If they pass on adding a free agent they’ll have to rely on injury prone pick-up Hugh Thornton and second-year developmental player Wes Schweitzer. No matter what they decide on at the guard position, Dimitroff needs to add some young depth talent to his offensive line.

Priority needs (Defense)

  • DL - Signing Jack Crawford and Dontari Poe won’t be enough for the Falcons to improve their defense up front. Tyson Jackson was a cap causality while 37-year-old Dwight Freeney and 36-year-old Jonathan Babineaux are unsigned and nearly done playing. Of the current eight rotation players on the depth chart only Adrian Clayborn, Brooks Reed and Grady Jackson are serviceable players and not one of them has a huge upside. Note: Clayborn, Poe and Ra’Shede Hageman will be free agents next season.
  • CB – This only becomes a priority need if Dimitroff is unsure about re-signing Desmond Trufant to a long-term deal after he becomes a UFA next season. Trufant is coming off a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 9 and the Falcons are not flush with cap space. Besides Trufant they have a solid trio of young talent at this position including 2016 rookie FA Brian Poole who was a major surprise by playing over 1,000 quality snaps. There is a slight chance the Falcons could explore trade options for Trufant, but we expect they’ll figure out a way to make it work.

Final analysis

Thanks to the fine scouting work by both Dimitroff and Quinn there are no major holes with the exception of right guard. This should allow them to focus on the best available players with their first few picks. Even though guard is the top need, it might be too early to select Dan Feeney from Indiana, who would be a great fit in their zone-blocking scheme. Maybe they can get him at 63. If they decide to draft a tight end early they’ll have some excellent options. Will they be lucky enough to see David Njoku at 31? Quinn also needs another pass rusher to go alongside Vic Beasley.

Top first-round options

  • TE David Njoku
  • TE Jordan Leggett
  • OG Dan Feeney
  • DE Taco Charlton
  • DE Charles Harris
  • DE Jordan Willis
  • DL Malik McDowell
  • DL DeMarcus Walker
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