The story of the 2018 Falcons can't be told without starting with the injuries on the defensive side of the ball, and although players like Deion Jones and Keanu Neal are returning for a hopeful playoff run, it's critical the Falcons bring more talent onto their defense in this draft. At No. 14, they should be in a good spot to land a difference maker on the defensive line, but if they want someone I feel is the perfect fit, it might require a trade up into the top 10.
Below, you can check out which picks the Falcons currently have, along with our projection of their top positional needs. I'll then build a war-room big board based upon players I think have some kind of chance of making it to their first pick before sharing multiple draft classes that make sense for the team from myself, Ryan Wilson and Chris Trapasso.
As for the actual draft, you'll be able to stream our live coverage right here on CBS Sports HQ (or download the CBS Sports app for free on any mobile or connected TV device) breaking down all the picks and everything you need to know during draft weekend.
Current draft picks
The CBS Sports NFL writing staff to identify needs for each team heading into the draft. A helpful guide: any position group that had an average ranking worse than 16.0 (on a scale of 1 to 32) was considered a "need," while any that ranked worse than 23.0 (bottom-third of the league) was considered a "pressing need."
Needs: RB, EDGE, INT DL, LB, DB
After cutting ties with Robert Alford earlier this offseason and letting slot corner Brian Poole leave in free agency as well, our panel sees defensive back as the most obvious and pressing need for the Falcons. The team lost both its safeties for portions of last season and saw the defensive essentially fall apart, especially in conjunction with absences from multiple linebackers. Atlanta could at the very least use depth at both spots. And despite stacking athletes along the defensive front over the years, the Falcons still need some help there as well -- whether they get Grady Jarrett signed long-term or not. And while Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and the offensive line rank highly, the running backs do not score so well, with Tevin Coleman leaving, Devonta Freeman suffering injuries during each of the past two seasons, and Ito Smith coming off a wildly inefficient rookie year. Our mock drafts have them largely zeroing in on the defensive line, for what it's worth, with Ed Oliver a popular trade-up target.
War room big board
Will the Falcons make a move up for Ed Oliver? I think he's the perfect fit for their team, and the Lions could be open for business when it comes to trading down. I think it's highly unlikely Oliver gets by Buffalo (No. 9) and Cincinnati (No. 11), so if the Falcons want him, they have to go get him. Here's how I'd project the Falcons' draft board for their first pick, considering only players I feel have some chance of making it in range:
- DL Ed Oliver, Houston (trade up)
- OT Jawaan Taylor, Florida
- EDGE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
- EDGE Brian Burns, Florida State
- EDGE/DL Rashan Gary, Michigan
- OL Jonah Williams, Alabama
- DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Seven-round mock drafts
|1||8||DT Ed Oliver, Houston||from DET*|
|1||14||to Detroit|| |
|2||45||to Cleveland|| |
|2||49||DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech||from CLE*|
|3||79||to Detroit|| |
|4||116||OT Trey Pipkins, Sioux Falls||from MIA*|
|4||117||to Detroit|| |
|4||137||to Miami|| |
|5||144||ILB Cameron Smith, USC||from CLE*|
|5||152||to Miami|| |
|5||172||RB Dexter Williams, Notre Dame|| |
|6||186||CB Blessuan Austin, Rutgers|| |
|7||230||WR Cody Thompson, Toledo|| |
|7||233||QB Jordan Ta'amu, Ole Miss||from MIA*|
Lions GM Bob Quinn proclaimed Detroit open for business when it comes to making draft pick trades, and that's music to the Falcons' ears, as they package third- and fourth-round picks to get up to No. 8 and land the absurdly talented Ed Oliver to join Grady Jarrett on the defensive line as versatile pass-rush forces. Oliver might not be the biggest guy to ever play defensive tackle, but he's one of the quickest off the ball and proved his athletic ability at his jaw-dropping pro day.
After sacrificing multiple picks to move up in Round 1, the Falcons move back a few spots to pick up a fifth-rounder before taking Ferguson, who led the nation with 17.5 sacks as a senior but has some off-field questions after having his combine invite rescinded. Still, his talent will keep him firmly in the Day 2 mix.
On Day 3, the Falcons start with yet another trade, sending No. 137 and 152 to Miami for No. 116 and 233 in order to select a small-school standout at tackle in Pipkins, who has drawn plenty of interest as a player who can develop into a starter on the edge eventually. Smith brings better depth at linebacker (a clear issue last year) while also having the potential to become a starter should Deion Jones move on after the season. Williams is a potential bell-cow back to help fill out the depth chart, while Austin gives the team some necessary depth at cornerback, a position the Falcons could target much earlier than I have here. Thompson is another option in the slot, while Ta'amu has nice athleticism and can challenge Kurt Benkert as the team's developmental quarterback.
More seven-round mocks:
(*) indicates pick acquired via trade
Check out more first-round mocks from CBS Sports.