Terry Fontenot Atlanta Falcons General Manager - Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Falcons Projected to Take New Direction in 2024 NFL Draft

General manager Terry Fontenot has had a clear draft strategy as general manager of the Atlanta Falcons. If a dynamic offensive playmaker is available, take him.

But ESPN’s Matt Miller predicted Fontenot to follow a different plan in 2024. Miller projected the Falcons to select Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold at No. 11 overall in his latest NFL mock draft released on December 12.

“The Falcons miss out on the top quarterbacks here and instead look to bolster the defense with my CB1,” Miller wrote. “Arnold, a 6-foot-2 redshirt sophomore, has five interceptions in 2023 while showing a physicality rarely seen from young cornerbacks in the run game.

“He’s long and aggressive, and he has the ball skills to be a star oppositeĀ A.J. Terrell.”

Landing a potential shutdown corner to play opposite Terrell should excite Falcons fans.

While he may not get the votes to make the Pro Bowl, Terrell is having another very good season. The Pro Football Focus player grades have Terrell ranked 12th among all NFL cornerbacks who have played at least 80% of their team’s defensive snaps.

Terrell has excelled most in coverage this season. That has helped the Falcons post the ninth-best passing defense through Week 14.

Pairing Terrell with another high-end young corner, along with All-Pro candidate safety Jessie Bates, could give Atlanta one of the best secondaries in the league.

Although he’s far from the consensus top cornerback in the upcoming 2024 NFL draft, Miller ranked Arnold as his top 2024 cornerback prospect on December 1. It will be interesting to see where Arnold ranks among the top cornerbacks after the pre-draft process.

Of course, the Falcons are also far from guaranteed to pick 11th. A week ago, the Falcons were leading the NFC South. The top pick a playoff team can have in the NFL draft is No. 19 overall.

Nearly half the NFL is either 6-7 or 7-6. The Falcons could easily pick 20th or later if they rally to win the NFC South this season.

However, if Atlanta’s season goes in the other direction, the Falcons could have their highest draft selection since they picked tight end Kyle Pitts at No. 4 overall in 2021.

The tiebreaker to determine draft position is strength of schedule. Atlanta’s .416 strength of schedule is one of the worst in the NFL. That’s why they currently hold the top pick among all teams with a 6-7 record.

With another loss in Week 15, the Falcons could move to as high as No. 5 in the draft order.

Clearly, there’s a lot to be sorted out before the 2024 NFL draft. But Arnold is a name for Falcons fans to keep an eye on.