The Atlanta Falcons have spent three-straight top-10 NFL Draft picks on offensive skill players. They spent big on free agency on the defensive side of the ball.
But they’re still missing the dominant-rusher despite the success they’ve had on defense in 2023.
Is 2024 the year they invest a first-round draft pick on the other side of the ball? NFL Draft analyst Jordan Reid thinks so. He has the Falcons selecting Bralen Trice of Washington with the No. 19 pick in his first mock draft on ESPN+
“If there’s one positive to take away from the Falcons’ first seven games, it’s their defense,” wrote Reid on ESPN+. “That said, the edge-rush production has been underwhelming. The Falcons have a 35.6% pass rush win rate off the edge, which ranks 29th in the NFL.
“Here’s our solve: Trice is a power rusher who wins by overwhelming blockers at the point of attack, and at 6-foot-4 and 274 pounds, he fits the mold of what Atlanta covets in defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen’s scheme. He has been limited to one sack in 2023, but he had nine last season.”
The Falcons front three of Grady Jarrett, David Onyemata, and Calais Campbell have been dominant against the run. Bud Dupree, Arnold Ebiketie, and Lorenzo Carter have been splitting time as the fourth man in Nielsen’s scheme. It’s more of a defensive end in a front four than a true edge rusher.
Trice sounds similar to 2023 third-round pick Zach Harrison. Harrison is backing up Campbell at defensive end. At 6’6 and 272 pounds, he’s a little taller than Trice, but the profile is similar.
With the very next pick, Reid has UCLA’s Laiatu Latu going to the Minnesota Vikings. He admits to Latu being a better prospect (No. 13 on his board), but has concerns about his medicals. Latu was medically disqualified at Washington before getting a clean bill of health at UCLA.
The Falcons are in a position on defense they can afford to take more of a risk. On the surface, Trice doesn’t move the needle for the Falcons’ pass rush. However, Latu most certainly does.
If Latu is healthy enough for the Vikings at No. 20, he’d be healthy enough for the Falcons at No. 19.
Speaking of the Vikings, the Falcons could address their pass rush in the next week if they make a move for Danielle Hunter. The Falcons have been linked to Hunter, who has nine sacks in seven games for the Vikings, for months.
Furthermore, if the Falcons make a move for Hunter, edge becomes a secondary need for the Falcons in 2023. He’s under contact through 2025, but would probably be looking at a restructure/extension with a new team.
The Falcons built an offense through the NFL Draft. They subsidized their defense through free agency. Could they solve their edge problem with a trade by the October 31st deadline?
It’s certainly possible.
However if they don’t, there are several solid options on the back end of the first round where the Atlanta Falcons hope to be picking in 2024.