The Atlanta Falcons’ need at cornerback increased following the four-game suspension of Jalen Collins, yet it’s still not a given that the team will utilize a draft pick at the position.
The team’s depth is much thinner with Collins on the shelf for the first four games. He was being counted upon to fill in the nickel spot left vacated by free agent Phillip Adams, who remains unsigned in free agency. The fact that the Falcons will need a nickel option for the first month of the 2016 season increases the possibility that the Falcons re-up with Adams or sign another veteran free agent before training camp starts in July.
Without Collins, the Falcons’ only backups at the position behind starters Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant are DeMarcus Van Dyke and Akeem King.
Van Dyke hasn’t played any snaps on defense since his rookie year in 2011 with the Oakland Raiders. And King is extremely raw with really less than a year’s experience playing the cornerback position prior to joining the Falcons as a seventh-round pick last year.
When Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was with his former team in the Seattle Seahawks, they had a habit of utilizing at least one pick on the third day of the draft on an athletic cornerback. Through one draft under Quinn, the Falcons have done the same with King and it’s possible that they could extend that streak to two consecutive years given their current depth issues.
While any late-round corner probably isn’t a good bet to be expected to contribute as a capable nickel corner for Week One of this season, the reality is that any draft pick the Falcons use on the position this year might preclude them from using one next year.
With Alford set to hit the free-agent market next offseason, the Falcons can give themselves additional flexibility should they select a tall, athletic corner that has the ability to play both inside and outside. Alford served as the team’s primary slot cornerback through much of last year when the team went to nickel sets and probably will do so again when Collins returns to the lineup.
Adding someone that at least has the potential to play in the slot to groom as a potential insurance policy and/or replacement in 2017 would be a savvy move by the Falcons. If that pick comes, it’ll almost certainly happen on the third day of the draft, where the Falcons currently hold only two picks.
If the Falcons don’t have the requisite picks to be able to find the cornerback of their choice late in the draft, they’ll certainly invest significant resources in finding some quality undrafted players to help shore up their depth.
But the Falcons aren’t done with shoring up their cornerback depth this offseason and there’s a better-than-average chance that another addition comes in the 2016 NFL Draft.