We're nearly two and a half months clear of February 2nd, but for Atlanta Falcons fans, the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft must be feeling like some sort of hellish, football version of the movie Groundhog Day, because for the third consecutive year, the Falcons find themselves picking 8th in the 1st round of the NFL Draft.

Now certainly, there are some notable difference between this year and the last couple. First and foremost, the Falcons have a new head coach (Raheem Morris) and an expensive new starting quarterback (Kirk Cousins) who should at the very least provide a degree of competitiveness and competency that the Falcons have lacked for the better part of half a decade. But with the arrivals of Morris and Cousins, that means there's win-now pressure on the Atlanta Falcons for the first time since Matt Ryan and Julio Jones were forming one of the most dynamic quarterback/wide receiver duos in the NFL. As things stand right now, the Falcons are the current betting favorites to win the NFC South — something they haven't accomplished since 2016, when Ryan and Jones led the Falcons to the franchise's second Super Bowl appearance.

That means that there is arguably even more pressure on Atlanta to nail this pick than there has been in year's past, and given the potentially volatile state of the first seven picks in the Draft, there's no clear read on what the Falcons will do with the 8th overall pick. And general manager Terry Fontenot is leaning into the unpredictable nature of the NFL Draft, seemingly excited by the unlimited possibilities that will present itself in less than two weeks.

“It's a strong draft,” Fontenot said, per Daniel Flick of Sports Illustrated. “We're going to be staring at some really good players at eight, or whether we're up a little bit or whether we're back a little bit, and that's the excitement. We're wide open. And I love that about Raheem and the staff – we're completely wide open.”

This isn't a terrible place to be in, especially for someone like Terry Fontenot, who is admittedly influenced by the drafting philosophy of former Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.

“You look back at the history of his drafts and the things he (Newsome) did, not worrying about reaching for needs and just improving that football team goes a long way,” Fontenot shared.

So using what Terry Fontenot had to say at the NFL's annual owner's meetings, is it possible to piece together what exactly Fontenot, Raheem Morris and the Atlanta Falcons may do with the 8th overall pick?

What will Atlanta do? 

Most draft experts seem to think that the Falcons will be in the business of drafting an edge rusher on the opening night of the draft. But given what Terry Fontenot said, perhaps we shouldn't expect that the Falcons will reach for one with the 8th pick. It's possible that some of the marquee edge rushers — UCLA's Laiatu Latu, Alabama's Dallas Turner, Florida State's Jared Verse — could be available into the middle of the 1st round. In fact, in my most recent seven-round mock draft for the Chicago Bears, I suggested that Ryan Poles and the Bears should move off trade the 9th pick for a 1st round pick in the teens and a 2nd round pick as well, giving them an opportunity to take Latu without having to reach for him inside the top ten. From the sounds of it, Atlanta may be thinking similarly.

Another need for the Falcons is wide receiver. Even though Atlanta took Drake London with the 8th pick in the 2022 Draft — and tight end Kyle Pitts with the 4th pick in the 2021 Draft — there's still a need to bring in more pass-catching help for Kirk Cousins. The Falcons shelled out $90 million in guaranteed money to land Cousins, which isn't a move you make if you aren't going all the way in on trying to win a Super Bowl during his time there. London, Pitts and last year's 8th overall pick Bijan Robinson form the foundation of a potentially potent offense, but there's still a need to give Cousins more help, unless you feel like Darnell Mooney and Rondale Moore are proper #2 and #3 wide receivers.

Of course, what the Falcons do during the 1st Round of the NFL Draft will largely depend on the seven picks that come before them. But at least in among the decision makers in Atlanta, there's some comfort in the unpredictability.