2016 Draft Needs: Falcons Could Upgrade Both Safety Spots

Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKemal Ishmael

The Atlanta Falcons will make it a priority to upgrade their safety position in the 2016 NFL Draft, yet there are still lingering questions over whether the team will choose to add one or potentially two starters.

The Falcons have sniffed around several safety prospects for their pre-draft visits, indicating that the team is very serious about exploring their draft options.

Right now the bigger priority between the two safety spots is strong safety where Kemal Ishmael and Charles Godfrey sit atop the depth chart. Ishmael will be penciled in as the starter, but that is unlikely to be guaranteed through the draft. The Falcons will be looking to add someone that can at the very least compete directly with him for the starting spot later this summer.

Ishmael is a capable run defender that bulked up considerably last year, but there are legitimate concerns about whether his ability in coverage and his instincts are at the level desired for a starting safety in the Falcons’ scheme. But at the very least the Falcons have a relatively known commodity that can be a functional starter if the rookie isn’t ready to go by Week One.

The Falcons will probably try and draft someone that can be an enforcer against the run in addition to not being a liability in pass coverage, which wasn’t always the case with William Moore and Ishmael in recent years.

Free safety on the other hand is a position that remains up in the air if the Falcons are going to seriously address it. There, the team has incumbent starter Ricardo Allen, who is expected to be pushed by second-year player Robenson Therezie.

The Falcons should be confident that between the two’s competition this summer, a capable starter will emerge. But the team could also be looking for more from that at the free safety position, given how important Earl Thomas was in that same role with the Seattle Seahawks under Dan Quinn.

Adding a top-level ballhawk to man the center field at free safety won’t be a priority, yet it’s still something the Falcons are clearly interested in doing based off their multiple pre-draft visits. If the right player becomes available, then the Falcons won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

They’ll look for someone with the athleticism, intelligence and ball skills to be a top-level playmaker on the back end. Those players don’t grow on trees, so the Falcons aren’t compelled to force it if the right fit isn’t available.

There should be little doubt that the Falcons will walk away from the 2016 draft with a starting option at strong safety. That will be something that’ll be targeted in the first three or so rounds of the draft.

There remains somewhat a question if the team will add a second safety to push Allen and Therezie. If the team can engineer a trade back and acquire more mid-round picks, the chances of that occurring increase dramatically.

But either way, the Falcons will be looking to solidify the middle of their secondary by infusing the safety group with talent via the draft.

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Aaron Freeman
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