Things are not going well for the Atlanta Falcons, and even that in itself might be an understatement. On Sunday, Atlanta dropped to 1-7 on the season following a 27-20 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks. It’s also not looking good for head coach Dan Quinn, who may be leading the Falcons to their worst season since they went 3-13 in 1996.
Atlanta is headed into a bye week, and after the Week 8 loss, Falcons owner Arthur Blank suggested there might not be a coaching change in the immediate future. Player support of the embattled coach might be enough to keep Quinn until at least the end of the season — as The Falcoholic points out, a coaching change wouldn’t do this team much good at this point.
For now, the Falcons’ main goal should be losing enough so that they can draft Chase Young.
Young would give them the dominant pass rusher off the edge the defense has been missing.
The Ohio State defensive end is arguably the most unstoppable player in college football this season. He has 13.5 sacks through eight games this season (6.5 away from the FBS season record), and he had a career day against Wisconsin this past weekend, getting four sacks and forcing two fumbles.
Chase Young is the best defensive player in college football.— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 27, 2019
Let's try that again, Chase Young is the best PLAYER in college football. pic.twitter.com/U9hTyhyBV8
Young’s play is so impressive that Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day claims he’s better than the No. 2 overall pick from the last draft, Nick Bosa, who’s currently a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“The best I’ve been around,” Day said about Young, via ESPN. “I had a chance to see Nick Bosa last year and I coached in the NFL and saw some really good players at different times. But he is as good as I’ve been around, again, because he’s so versatile.”
Young’s Week 9 performance vaulted into the Heisman conversation, although a defensive player hasn’t won that award since Charles Woodson in 1997.
The Heisman might be a long shot, but at the pace he’s currently playing, Young is a lock to be a top-five pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Falcons need to make defense a priority with this upcoming draft class.
Atlanta doesn’t need much help on offense. With the likes of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Austin Hooper, the team is set at key positions like quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end. The Falcons have done a good job building the offensive line over the last few seasons, too.
Where the Falcons haven’t prioritized much, in the draft or free agency, is improving the defensive line. In recent drafts, the Falcons selected Takkarist McKinley, Grady Jarrett, and Vic Beasley. Still, Atlanta has the worst adjusted sack rate in the league, and the last Falcon to have a double-digits sack season was Beasley in 2016. He totaled only 10 over his next two seasons, and 1.5 so far this year. McKinley has just 13.5 sacks in his whole career. Jarrett currently leads the Falcons with three sacks, though he’s a defensive tackle.
Atlanta could desperately use a consistent edge threat like Young on defense, especially to complement Jarrett. Here’s the Falcoholic’s take on selecting Young as a top-five pick in 2020:
The top priority for the Falcons heading into the 2020 draft must be securing an impact pass rusher. Their failure to acquire one has held the defense back for the better part of a decade. The pass defense will never be successful as long as the pass rush sucks, and a top-5 pick is the perfect place to address that need.
Ohio State’s Chase Young is considered by some to be the best pass-rushing prospect in some time.
The Falcons will have some competition in the race to the top of the draft, though.
Where exactly the Falcons will end up in the draft order will be key.
The Falcons have just one win so far, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Their most winnable games remaining are two against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Winless Miami and Cincinnati are currently in the top two spots of the draft order, but they play each other in December. So there’s a chance Atlanta ends up ahead of one of them.
However, even if the Dolphins and Bengals get the Nos. 1 and 2 picks, both of these teams will probably draft a quarterback. Possibilities include Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or perhaps Oregon’s Justin Herbert or LSU’s Joe Burrow. Atlanta doesn’t need a quarterback, which means it could still land Young at No. 3 or 4.
If the draft started tomorrow, the only other team that could snag Young before Atlanta is 1-7, but it has needs along the offensive line it’ll likely prioritize. Then again, if Washington opts to take the best player available — which is Young — that could put Atlanta at risk of missing out on him.
The Falcons themselves have already recognized that taking Young would make a ton of sense. After Atlanta’s Week 7 loss to the Rams, the official Falcons podcast discussed drafting Young would be wise to make an immediate impact.
Even if Atlanta isn’t running Quinn’s defense in 2020, Young can be the disruptive piece it’s been missing, and having him alongside Garrett, McKinley, and a healthy Keanu Neal would be quite the scary front seven.
Obviously, where exactly Young and Atlanta end up in the draft order remains to be seen, but if the Falcons keep losing, they could be in position to get him come April. And that might just be the best possible upside for their abysmal season.