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NFL Draft 32 for 32 - Atlanta Falcons

The 2018 Atlanta Falcons were a Jekyll and Hyde team. On offense, they were among the league's best in moving the ball (sixth in total yards) but on defense, they could not stop anyone (25th in 26.4 PPG allowed). Matt Ryan rebounded in a big way from a poor 2017 (4,923 yards with 38 total TDs) to finish as the QB2 in fantasy scoring (416.15 FP). The continued brilliance of Julio Jones (329.80 FP) and the emergence of rookie Calvin Ridley (208.80 FP) helped propel this offense into one of the most lethal in the NFL. The passing attack seems to be hitting on all cylinders and should have Ryan and company as some of the more popular options in fantasy drafts.

In the backfield, Devonta Freeman is returning from a lost season due to injury. He will be without his backfield mate, Tevin Coleman, who departed to play in San Francisco. Freeman has shown in the past an ability to carry the workload, but the wear and tear could be catching up to him. Outside of Freeman, Ito Smith flashed some potential in spurts, but he is best suited in a complementary role on this team as a short-yardage guy. If he plays the full 16 games, Freeman is a running back that can give you RB1 value and will come at a decent price in drafts.

As for the draft. this could be a year that lines up perfectly for a team like the Falcons. With the depth that this class has on the defensive side of the ball, look for the team to spend plenty of capital in that area. They could use some help at each level of the defense. I see them taking numerous stabs there with each selection, starting with the defensive line.

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Top Three Projected Selections

First Round- Brian Burns, DE Florida State (14th overall)
Second Round- Tre Lamar, LB Clemson (45th)
Third Round- Tae Hayes, CB Appalachian State (79th)

Remaining Picks
Fourth Round- 117th, 137th
Fifth Round- 152nd, 172nd
Sixth Round- 186th
Seventh Round- 230th

For a defense that struggled in stopping the run, the selection of Brian Burns could help to improve that aspect. Burns is a defensive end that has an elite get-off speed that allows him to outrun tackles to get into the backfield. His ability to track down ball carriers will be important as he gets implemented into the rotation in his rookie season. But his lack of play strength and slender frame can hinder him as a pass rusher. Until he builds more muscle and improves technique, he could get overpowered in passing situations.

Jumping into the linebacker position with their second pick, the Falcons add Tre Lamar. Lamar is a true "size guy" at linebacker. He has the rare size for the position and applies that with thumps on the ball carrier. He has great discipline playing from inside or low in the box. His below-average athleticism limits him to strictly being an early down specialist. Lamar undoubtedly will be a vital piece in improving the Falcons run defense but could be a liability to go into coverage against opposing running backs.

Hayes is a defensive back that is slowly climbing up boards with a strong offseason of workouts. He may not have the ideal size (5'10 185lbs.) to play on the outside against some of the upper echelon receivers in the league. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for in play speed. He has the ability to catch up to any play with his quickness and above average ball skills. He could easily file in as a slot corner to open his career while projecting out as a potential CB2 on this defense.

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