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2017 NFL Draft, Atlanta Falcons: Top needs, suggested picks, current outlook

2017 NFL Draft Reset: Falcons beef up pass rush

By
Frank Cooney, NFLDraftScout.com
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn (L) pounds quarterback Matt Ryan's chest after defeating the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta. File photo by David Tulis/UPI
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn (L) pounds quarterback Matt Ryan's chest after defeating the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta. File photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn must deal with the psyche of his team after the historic collapse in the Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots.

Hard to tell how long that will take.

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Meantime, the Falcons' to-do list was topped by re-signing their own players and adding some help for the defensive front. So, in free agency they picked up defensive tackle Dontari Poe and defensive end Jack Crawford. After letting fullback Patrick DiMarco leave in free agency, they filled that void by signing former Seattle fullback Derrick Coleman.

A look at the Falcons' pass-rush ratio explains why the team elected to move on from veteran defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Tyson Jackson.

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Hoping to get a better pass rush up the middle next to the emerging Grady Jarrett, they signed two-time Pro Bowler Poe. Also, the Falcons are heavily scouting the pass rushers in the upcoming draft, which is set for April 27-29 in Philadelphia.

The pass-rush ratio - sacks, hits and hurries - show there is still a need for improvement. The Falcons' 34 sacks were the most since the 2007 team had 37 sacks.

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The Falcons registered their 34 sacks over 655 pass attempts last season. They had a sack per 4.9 pass attempt, which ranked 27th in the league. The Falcons had 19 sacks over 561 pass attempts in 2015; one per 3.3 pass attempts, last (32nd) in the league.

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In 2016, counting hurries and quarterback hits, the Falcons affected the quarterback on 255.5 of 655 pass attempts (39 percent). Linebacker Vic Beasley led the team with 16.5 hits and 33.5 hurries. With his sacks, he affected the quarterback on 65.5 plays.

In 2015, the Falcons had 19 sacks, 70 hurries and 75 hits (164 plays) on 561 pass attempts for (29.2 percent).

Here is a closer look at where the Falcons are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft, at No. 31.

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THE BREAKDOWN

2016 finish: 1st NFC South (11-5)

STATISTICS

TOTAL OFFENSE: 415.8 (2nd)

RUSHING: 120.5 (5th)

PASSING: 295.3 (3rd)

TOTAL DEFENSE: 371.2 (25th)

RUSHING: 104.5 (17th)

PASSING: 266.7 (28th)

TEAM NEEDS

1. Right guard: With the retirement of Chris Chester, the Falcons are in need of interior offensive line help. Also, center Alex Mack is 31 and left guard Andy Levitre is 30. The Falcons could select Dan Feeney or Forest Lamp in the first round of the draft if they are available. They have put a premium on making sure that Matt Ryan is protected after they botched the previous rebuild of the offensive line.

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2. Defensive end: The Falcons signed Dwight Freeney last season to help with the pass rush. They are heavily scouting defensive ends with pass-rushing talent. The draft is considered to have good depth and they could land a solid prospect in the second or third rounds.

3. Free safety: The draft is deep in defensive back talent. Converted free safety Ricardo Allen has been steady, but not spectacular.

KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 5)

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

SS/LB Kemal Ishmael: UFA; $2M/1 yr, $500K SB/$1M guaranteed.

LB LaRoy Reynolds: UFA; $1.3M/1 yr, $250,000 SB.

QB Matt Schaub: UFA; $9M/2 yrs.

TE Levine Toilolo: UFA; $12M/3 yrs, $3M SB.

DT Courtney Upshaw: Potential UFA; terms unknown.

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson: Not tendered as RFA; $775K/1 yr.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

FB Derrick Coleman: FA; terms unknown.

DE Jack Crawford: UFA Cowboys; $8.8M/3 yrs, $2.5M SB/$3M guaranteed.

DT Dontari Poe: UFA Chiefs; $8M/1 yr, $7.5M guaranteed.

WR Andre Roberts: UFA Lions; $1.8M/1 yr, $750K guaranteed.

G Hugh Thornton: UFA Colts; $690K/1 yr.

PLAYERS LOST

T Carter Bykowski (retired).

G Chris Chester (retired).

T Tom Compton: UFA Bears; $1.85M/1 yr, $850K SB.

DL Tyson Jackson (released/post-June 1 designation).

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FB Patrick DiMarco: UFA Bills; $8.4M/4 yrs, $2M SB/$4.8M guaranteed, $1.5M injury only at time of signing.

WR Aldrick Robinson: UFA 49ers; $4M/2 yrs, $300K SB/$500K guaranteed.

WR Eric Weems: UFA Titans; $2.6M/2 yrs, $275K guaranteed.

LB Paul Worrilow: UFA Lions; $3M/1 yr, $750K SB/$2.75M guaranteed.

MOCK DRAFT

NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 31 overall)

Rob Rang:

Budda Baker, FS, Washington. After surrendering a Super Bowl record 466 passing yards to Tom Brady, no one should be surprised if the Falcons opt to reinforce the secondary. At just 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, Baker does not possess ideal size, but head coach Dan Quinn has previously been willing to overlook that at free safety with the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Ricardo Allen currently starting in Atlanta and previously working with Earl Thomas (5-foot-10, 202) in Seattle. Baker has more range and quickness than Allen, projecting as a traditional centerfielder who can drop down to help at nickel, as well.

Dane Brugler:

Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan. Charlton has only one true season of starting experience in college, but he is built for the pro game and still far from hitting his ceiling as an edge rusher.

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Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?

Based on the team's current status, there are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate check out NFLDraftScout.com's full mocks and ratings.

--Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. TSX team insiders contributed to this article.

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