The Atlanta Falcons went into the 2020 National Football League draft with a total of 6 picks to make. And at the end of the draft that is how many players they ended up selecting. They had single picks in round 1,2,3, and 7, as well as 2 selections in round 4. I’d hoped that they would trade back and acquire additional picks at some point during the draft , but in the end they decided that the players available at the time of their selections were simply too good to pass up on. In addition, with the draft history of Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff employing a needs-based system-specific selection method, they would once again have a very small draft board from which to select.
Clemson Cover Corner: A.J. Terrell
In the first round, many Falcons fans, including me, experienced a growing sense of excitement at the possibility of South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw falling to their pick. And at one point it looked as if it was actually going to happen, but the San Francisco 49ers killed their buzz, and mine, and selected Kinlaw two picks before Atlanta’s selection. The Falcons instead selected Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell. This was another case of the team falling in love with a prospect, as multiple team officials, coaches, and personnel guys raved about Terrell and proclaimed him as having the best fit of any of the cornerbacks available at that point in the draft. They were so enamored with him that they did not see any benefit in dropping back and taking one of the other cornerbacks while obtaining an additional draft pick in the process. Terrell does come with high praise from his coaching staff at Clemson , and despite a slight build, he is reportedly a plug and play candidate for an NFL cornerback position . And that’s a good thing, because In Atlanta he will be needed to come in and start right away in Atlanta’s thin secondary.
The Big Fish: Marlon Davidson
The second round was a greater source of excitement for Atlanta Falcons fans and Atlanta Falcons officials. Large and excitable defensive tackle Marlon Davidson from Auburn University was the selection and this pic was universally lauded in Falcons land. Strangely Davidson was used more on the end during his last year at Auburn , but the plan would clearly be to move him inside through to the three technique position In Atlanta and start him alongside Pro Bowl defensive tackle. Davidson is full of vim and vigor and he is a very large young man , all of which make him very intriguing as part of The Falcons interior defensive line.
Sack Proof: Matt Hennessey
In the third round Atlanta selected center Matt Hennessey out of Temple University . It was no secret in draft circles that the Falcons really liked this young man and they reportedly considered taking him even in the second round of this draft , so they were ecstatic when he was still available at their selection in the third round . Hennessy is considered an athletic center and a perfect fit for what is expected to be a return to the outside zone running scheme in Atlanta . This would be a scheme in which his athleticism would allow him to block at the second level in the hopes of reviving the Falcons stagnant running game. In fact in a follow up interview after the draft Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl center Alex Mack confirmed that he has been told that a return to the outside zone scheme is in fact in the plans for Atlanta and he commented on his own excitement as well as his optimism that his new teammate Hennessy would fit in very well in that scheme. Resuscitate Ng the Atlanta Falcons running game maybe one of the biggest tasks uh of the 2020 football season , so this unofficial news of a return to the outside zone running scheme does bode well for a running renaissance.
Masters of None: Mykal Walker and Jaylinn Hawkins
The Atlanta Falcons had two picks in the fourth round and because they did not have a fifth or a sixth round draft pick, it appears that they chose two players with slightly lower ceilings , who may have indeed been available in the fifth or sixth round. But these were considered versatile players who could contribute on special teams and possibly through their work ethic ascend to starting positions over time. Their first pick in the fourth round was linebacker Mykal Walker out of Fresno State University. Kelly was also played apparently out of position, more at the line of scrimmage, his final season at Fresno State, but the prior season he played more in space and this is more indicative of where he is likely to play for the Falcons, as a likely competitor for the now vacant strongside linebacker position, opened up by the departure of free agent Devondre Campell.
Their second selection in the fourth round was strong safety Jaylinn Hawkins out of the University of California at Berkeley. Hawkins played a bit of a free safety role at Cal, but he clearly fits the mold of an in-the-box strong safety, likely to back up returning starter Keanu Neal, who is recovering from two straight years of serious injuries. As previously stated, both Walker and Hawkins are considered special teams candidates, which should ensure their role on the 53 man roster through their versatility in this manner. Time will tell if these two grow out of anything more than useful bench players.
The Hang Man: Sterling Hofrichter
Finally, the Falcons ended their draft in anti-climactic fashion taking a punter in the seventh round. Their selection was Sterling Hofrichter out of Syracuse University. In reality, Hofrichter is an intriguing prospect, known quite well for his hangtime and placement of punts inside the 20 yard line. If this assessment proves to be correct, then he could indeed become a very valuable weapon on special teams. And, on a rookie salary, this becomes very efficient use of the salary cap.
There were a couple of undrafted free agents of note that the Falcons signed. The first was tight end Jared Pinkney out of Vanderbilt, who had a down senior season but was otherwise expected to be a high selection at the beginning of the college year. Tennessee State wide receiver Chris Rowland is diminutive in size, but he is an electric return man, and he could be one of the leading contenders for the punt returner role with the Falcons.
Overall, this is a small but interesting group of youngsters. But they will have to achieve an accelerated learning curve and contribute quickly, if the Falcons are to rebound from two straight losing seasons.