The second day of the 2014 NFL Draft is upon us where teams will be selecting their second and third-round picks. After the Atlanta Falcons used their top pick on Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, it now begs the question of what is next?
The Falcons top need is at pass-rusher where the team was at or near the bottom of the league in both sacks and third-down defense in 2013. The team has been at the bottom of the league in both those categories for several years, so frankly, their need at pass-rusher has been many years in the making.
The first-round of the draft saw a couple of edge-rushers go late with Auburn’s Dee Ford being selected by the Kansas City Chiefs at 23rd overall and the Philadelphia Eagles selecting Louisville’s Marcus Smith with the 26th overall pick. According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the Falcons attempted to move back into the first round in order to select Ford, presumably trying to swap picks with the Philadelphia Eagles, who originally held the 22nd overall selection. They traded that pick to the Cleveland Browns, who selected quarterback Johnny Manziel, Matthews former teammate at Texas A&M.
In terms of compensation, the Eagles were able to move down four spots and also picked up a third-round pick (83rd overall) in return. There were also reports that the Minnesota Vikings were looking to move into that spot, meaning that the Falcons needed to blow away the Eagles with an offer to get Ford. While the Falcons could have given the Eagles a higher third-round pick (68th overall), their second-round selection (37th overall) pales in comparison to the 26th pick that the Browns offered.
The Falcons interest in Ford coupled with their need at the position strongly suggests that their priority with the 37th overall pick to come later this evening, the team will target an edge-rusher.
There should be plenty to choose from. Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech), Scott Crichton (Oregon State), Kony Ealy (Missouri), Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State) and Kyle Van Noy (Brigham Young) were all potential second-round targets that worked out for the team this offseason. In fact, I discussed those exact players along with Ford in April as potential second-round targets. At the time, it was concluded that Ford and Attaochu would likely top the team’s list of potential candidates.
There are possibilities that the Falcons could pass on an edge-rusher, particularly if Ford was the sole apple of their eye. Perhaps they deem the rest to be better value in the third round. It’s unlikely, but certainly a possibility.
If that is the case, then what other potential positions could the team opt to address in the second round? Safety and tight end are two potential needs that stand out.