The Falcons played the 2017 season with the dark cloud of Super Bowl LI over their heads. Nearly every game saw the commentators mention their collapse in one way or another. That, coupled with the loss of Kyle Shanahan, looked like it may scupper the Falcons season before it even started.
They went 3-0 out of the blocks but nearly lost to Chicago and Detroit, before falling to Buffalo, Miami, and New England in quick succession. At 4-4 their season hung by a thread but the Falcons were still a remarkably talented team, and a 6-2 second half of the year saw them into the playoffs as the #6 seed.
From their they beat the Rams on the road and were just a last-minute red zone possession away from knocking the Philadelphia Eagles out of the playoffs. It wasn’t to be, but it showed the Falcons are still very much a team to be taken seriously.
However, after their near-miss in 2016, just making it to the divisional round doesn’t really cut it, and improvements need to be made this offseason to try and climb back to the top of the mountain. With just $14 million in cap space and seven draft picks, where should the Falcons invest this offseason?
The Falcons have put a lot of resources into their defense in recent years, but they haven’t fully addressed their main run-stopping players at defensive tackle. They tried to solve the problem by bringing Dontari Poe in this time last year but it had little effect.
With so little cap space, the route to a strong run defense is not going to be easy, but there are cheap veterans in free agency like Sealver Siliga, Pat Sims, and Arthur Jones who could be useful additions to a rotation.
If the Falcons want to invest draft capital into the position then the likes of Harrison Phillips or Derrick Nnadi could be options in day two, but barring a surprising fall for Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne it is tough to see the Falcons taking a defensive tackle in the first round.
What the Falcons could do with their first round pick though is add to their defensive depth elsewhere. While starters like Desmond Trufant and Deion Jones are very good, the depth around them is shaky. The Falcons defense could use another starting quality cornerback and outside linebacker to ensure they don’t lose steam come the fourth quarter again.
The likes of Jaire Alexander, Leighton Vander Esch, and Tarvarus McFadden could all be day two draft picks that help lift the overall quality of the Falcons defense.
Defense isn’t the only place the Falcons could use investment though. In 2016 the Falcons good strong play across the offensive line, but in 2017 the guard spots started to cause some problems both in the run and pass offense.
Andy Levitre could well be a cap casualty, and right tackle Wes Schweitzer was ok in his first year in the NFL but the Falcons would be mad not to bring in competition for both spots next to Alex Mack.
Will Hernandez, Austin Corbett, and Isaiah Wynn could all be available in the middle of the second round if the Falcons are hungry for inside help.
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