The Atlanta Falcons are a team firmly in the middle of a rebuild, but they have quickly added several building blocks to the roster.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons believe that they have found their quarterback of the future in Desmond Ridder. They also have several elite talents including wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts. In addition, they have an offensive line that is only getting better, and a strong running back room with Tyler Huntley, Cordarelle Patterson, and Caleb Huntley leading the charge.
On defense, the team has put together a group full of both young playmakers and proven veterans. This blend of players includes a rising star at cornerback in A.J. Terrell, intriguing young talents in linebackers Mykal Walker and Arnold Ebikete, and veterans in Casey Hayward, Grady Jarrett, and new additions in Jessie Bates II and Calais Campbell.
While there is talent on both sides of the ball, there is still room for improvement. This is clear when looking at the Falcons 2022 campaign. The NFC South was a battle until the end of the season with the Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and Carolina Panthers all finishing with a 7-10 record. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished first in the division with an 8-9 record. If the Falcons can add to their roster, they could find themselves atop a division that currently appears to be up for grabs.
With the season that the Falcons put together in 2022, they now find themselves with the eighth overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. At pick number eight, the team could address several different areas on either side of the ball. They could also have their pick of some of the draft’s best talent. Many of these players will be able to come in and contribute from day one, which is what this team needs.
Here are three players the Falcons could target in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft.
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
The Falcons have added young talent across all areas of the defense, including the defensive front. But in a class with this much talent at the position, they may not be able to pass on addressing the position. Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson could help elevate this group in a big way.
Over his four collegiate seasons, Wilson, who spent one season at Texas A&M and three at Texas Tech, proved to be an elite talent off of the edge. During his lone season at Texas A&M, Wilson showed potential. Over five games, he recorded 12 total tackles, three tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
After Wilson made the move to Texas Tech in 2020, he took his game to new heights. Over three seasons, he recorded 109 total tackles, 29 tackles for loss, and 15.5 sacks.
With the addition of Wilson, the Falcons would add a playmaker that can make his way into the backfield on every play. Whether it be against the run or the pass, he could test opposing offenses. He would also give the Falcons a legitimate building block along the defensive front.
Christian Gonzalez, Cornerback, Oregon
The Falcons have built a secondary full of talent with A.J. Terrell and Jessie Bates set to lead the group. But adding a second young cornerback to the room could immediately make this one of the top secondaries in the NFL. The Falcons could have their several of the draft’s cornerbacks on their radar, including Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez.
Gonzalez spent the first two seasons of his collegiate career at Colorado. Over 18 games with the school, he looked to be on a path to becoming an elite talent at the position. In total, he recorded 78 total tackles, 65 solo tackles, five tackles for loss, and 10 defended passes.
Following the 2021 season, Gonzalez made the move to Oregon. After transferring, he took his game to a different level. In his lone season with the team, he recorded 50 total tackles, 35 solo tackles, one tackle for loss, seven defended passes and four interceptions.
Adding Gonzalez to play alongside Terrell would give this Falcons defense the top young cornerback duo in the NFL. In a league that is quickly beginning to lean on the pass, this could be necessary.
Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
Another potential option along the defensive front could be Clemson’s, Myles Murphy. While at Clemson, Murphy at times looked like one of the best edge rushers in the nation. Upon his arrival in the NFL, he will look to make the same impact.
Murphy, who arrived at Clemson in 2020, made an impact from day one. During his freshman season, he recorded 37 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks.
Over the following two seasons, Murphy only improved. In total, he took the field in 35 games while at Clemson. He finished his collegiate career recording 116 total tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles.
Murphy has the blend of size and speed that all of the NFL’s elite edge rushers have. He also has a game that should transition smoothly to the next level. If the Falcons are looking to add to the edge, he could very well be the selection.
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