It took 75 selections, but the Atlanta Falcons have drafted a pass rusher.
With their third-round selection in the 2023 NFL draft, the Falcons selected edge rusher Zach Harrison.
In 2018, 247Sports ranked the new Falcons pass rusher the top high school prospect in the state of Ohio. Now going into the NFL, Harrison projects to be a work in progress as a professional. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein gave him a fifth-round grade in the 2023 class.
“Harrison is big and long with the ability to neutralize base blocks as a 4-3 base end, but his gradual movement and lack of playmaking urgency limited his overall production,” Zierlein wrote. “Harrison has the physical tools to create occasional advantages early in the rush but needs to get better at capitalizing on them.
“His size and length will always be appealing, but a more fiery demeanor on the field might be needed to raise his status beyond rotational end.”
ESPN’s Booger McFarland called Harrison a “freaky athlete.” But he also described that he will need the proper coaching to develop at the next level.
At the very least Harrison satisfies a need. The Falcons have recorded 39 sacks in the past two seasons combined. That’s the fewest in the NFL during that span by a significant margin.
In free agency, the Falcons signed defensive tackle David Onyemata, defensive end Calais Campbell and edge rusher Bud Dupree. That should help Atlanta’s pass rush improve next fall.
But after drafting two offensive players to begin the 2023 NFL draft, the Falcons were still searching for long-term pass-rushing solutions. Atlanta may have found one with Harrison.
This is the third time in the last four years that the Falcons have drafted an edge rusher on Day 2. In 2020, they selected defensive end Marlon Davidson. Last year, the Falcons picked defensive end Arnold Ebiketie.
Both were second-round picks but neither has made the impact the Falcons were expecting. Hopefully, Harrison will break that trend.