The 2020 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 23. As a lead up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of each team’s current depth chart and how big of a need each position in the upcoming draft. Find all teams and the rest of our draft content in our NFL Draft Hub.
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Atlanta Falcons 2020 Draft Picks Overview
Round 1 (16)
Round 2 (47)
Round 3 (78)
Round 4 (119)
Round 4 (134)
Round 7 (228)
Atlanta Falcons Offense
by Rich Hribar
2019 Atlanta Falcons Offensive Ranks
*denotes new addition
Matt Ryan will be 35 years old at the start of the season. He posted his lowest yards per pass attempt (7.3) in a season since 2013, but he’s not a problem for the team and is under contract through the 2023 season. Backup Matt Schaub will be 39-years-old, giving the team one of the oldest sets of top quarterbacks in the league, but they are not expected to pursue a rookie passer.
The Falcons took a one-year flyer on seeing if Todd Gurley can reclaim the form he had prior to the 2019 season. But with Gurley being no sure thing on bouncing back, still carrying arthritic knee concerns, and the team having no long term commitment, they should still explore adding to the position at some point. But Gurley’s addition may give them pause on pushing the need to add a back at the top of the class down into the middle rounds. Behind Gurley, Brian Hill, Ito Smith, and Qadree Ollison are all at best ancillary components of a depth chart.
Julio Jones is 31 years old, but he still remains as good as ever. Jones has had 1,394 receiving yards or more in each of the past six seasons while only missing four games over that six-year window. Calvin Ridley increased his receptions per game (4.8), yardage per game (66.6), yards per catch (13.7) and yards per target (9.3) in his second NFL season. Over his final four games played in 2019, Ridley posted 27 receptions for 395 yards and three scores.
Outside of those two lead options, the remainder of the wide receiver room is a gaggle of unknown. After the trade of Mohamed Sanu, Russell Gage turned in 9.1 yards per catch as a baseline slot man. The team took a one-year swing on former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell to compete with Gage for the primary slot role. They also have second-year burner Olamide Zaccheaus as perimeter depth. Chasing wide receiver isn’t an immediate need with Jones and Ridley at the top of the roster, but the team could add another day three option to the room behind them.
After losing Austin Hooper via free agency, the Falcons went out and traded for Hayden Hurst from the Ravens. With two years of control of the 2018 first-rounder, Atlanta is tuning Hooper’s role over to him. Undrafted rookie Jaeden Graham only played 18% of the team snaps as a rookie, but did flash on that very limited sample with 16.6 yards per catch on his nine receptions and 12.0 yards per grab even if you remove his 53-yard long. The Falcons lack veteran depth at the position, and could circle back there post-draft since they’ve already technically taken a tight end with a draft pick in this class by acquiring Hurst.
LT: Jake Matthews/John Wetzel/Matt Gono
LG: James Carpenter/Justin McCray/Sean Harlow
C: Alex Mack
RG: Chris Lindstrom/Jamon Brown
RT: Kaleb McGary
The Atlanta offensive line was a mixed bag last season. While they ranked 13th in our pass pro efficiency and 13th in adjusted sack rate allowed, they ranked 29th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate as a group and 21st in Pro Football Focus’s pass blocking efficiency. They also ranked 24th in adjusted line yards created (3.98) per Football Outsiders.
The team used two first-round picks on linemen last season in Chris Lindstrom (14th overall) and Kaleb McGary (31st). Lindstrom, unfortunately, played in just five games (27% of the team snaps) dealing with a foot injury he suffered in Week 1. McGary started all 16 games and took a rookie beating, allowing a league-high 13 sacks for all offensive tackles.
The team has left guard James Carpenter under contract through 2022, but can get out of that contract after this season. Carpenter started 11 games for Atlanta a year ago, ranking 77-of-82 qualifying guards per Pro Football Focus.
The team also has Alex Mack turning 35 years old during the 2020 season with his current contract expiring at the end of the year.
Atlanta Falcons Defense
by Dan Pizzuta
2019 Atlanta Falcons Defensive Ranks
interior defensive line
Grady Jarrett is a star inside. He was second behind Aaron Donald in Pass Rush Win Rate last season as he single-handedly gave the Falcons a pass rush. With Jarrett on the field, it doesn’t matter that there’s not much other pass rush coming from the interior. Davison was good against the run but had a minuscule pressure rate. Deadrin Senat could bring some of that and could become a rotational player after not seeing much of the field as a rookie.
For the first time in a while, the Falcons have two legitimate edge rushers. After spending years trying to make Vic Beasley a thing, Atlanta went out and signed Dante Fowler to play across from Takk McKinley. Fowler has run hot and cold throughout his career but finished ninth among edge rushers in Pass Rush Win Rate last season. There’s little depth behind the top two, but that’s something that could be added late in Day 2 or Day 3.
Deion Jones remains one of the best modern linebackers with coverage ability but the Falcons have struggled to put decent players next to him. Not giving snaps to De’Vondre Campbell, who was a liability in coverage, should improve the group by default. But again, there’s not a lot of quality around Jones and the Falcons aren’t a team that plays a lot of Dime (just 2% last season), so those linebackers will be a need.
This is a troubling depth chart and a reason why there have been trade up rumors for a cornerback coming from Atlanta (even if a trade up with the lack of resources the Falcons have would be bad process). Kendall Sheffield held up well for a rookie — 34th in Adjusted Yards allowed per coverage snap among 92 corners with 300+ coverage snaps — and Falcons decision-makers have been high in praise. Isaiah Oliver did not hold up as well in his second season, his first as a 16-game starter.
Keanu Neal is great when healthy, but he’s played four games over the past two seasons and will be trying to come back from an Achilles tear. Ricardo Allen and Domontae Kazee teamed up to play a good enough deep safety — the Falcons ranked 15th in defensive DVOA against deep passes last year per Football Outsiders. An Atlanta need here depends on how the team feels about Neal’s recovery and whether an Allen-Kazee duo could work as a starting tandem with both more experienced as free safeties playing deep.