The Atlanta Falcons have made it clear this offseason that they want to get back to the playoffs. Signing proven veterans like Jessie Bates and Calais Campbell clearly show a desire to compete sooner rather than later. This roster is still a work in progress, particularly under center, but that might be all it takes to win the horrendous NFC South.
And yet, arguably the biggest event of the Falcons' offseason has still yet to come. That would be the 2023 NFL Draft, in which the Falcons hold the eighth overall pick. With this pick, Atlanta should be able to get a true impact player at a position of need.
To ensure that happens, though, they must choose their draft targets very carefully. We've already done a piece on that, though, so now we're looking at the exact opposite. Today, we're looking at three players the Falcons must avoid in the 2023 NFL Draft.
There's an important disclaimer to get out of the way before we start, though. Just because a player appears on this list does not mean they are bad, as they are high up on draft boards for a reason. Instead, them appearing on this list just means that they would not be a great fit for the Falcons, for one reason or another.
With that out of the way, let's get into the list.
3. Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
To say that Jalen Carter has had a rough pre-draft process would be quite the understatement. First, Athens Police put out a warrant for his arrest during the Combine, stemming from his involvement in a car crash that killed a Georgia football teammate and staffer, and he left the event to turn himself in. A few weeks later, he showed up nine pounds overweight to his pro day and performed well below expectations in his workouts.
Despite his struggles, though, this is the same player that was once the favorite to go first overall in the draft. Thanks to Carter's immense raw talent, he will still very likely go in the top 10. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that picking him this high is a good idea, and this is especially true for the Falcons.
It is true that the Falcons' pass rush desperately needs a boost, as they had the second-fewest sacks in the league last year with 21. They've already invested heavily in the interior of the line this offseason, though, signing Campbell and David Onyemata. Instead of adding another interior defensive lineman, the Falcons would be better off addressing their need at edge rusher. Someone like Tyree Wilson or Myles Murphy would be a better selection than Carter due to Atlanta's needs.
2. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Including Bijan Robinson on another one of these lists is difficult after he was included for the Buccaneers. However, Robinson is an incredible running back prospect, probably the best we've seen since Saquon Barkley in 2018.
Nevertheless, the Falcons should not target the Texas superstar simply because they don't really need him. Atlanta's run game was probably its greatest strength in 2022, ranking third in the league with 159.9 yards per game. Fifth-round rookie Tyler Allgeier proved to be a steal, rushing for 1,035 yards and three touchdowns on 4.9 yards per carry. Cordarrelle Patterson also had a good year, rushing for 695 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing four games.
Clearly, the Falcons aren't lacking in the running back department. Robinson is fantastic, but there are far more pressing needs for Atlanta to address.
1. Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
In all likelihood, the Falcons won't be targeting Sanders, at least not in the first round. However, CBS Sports' Will Brinson released an… interesting… mock draft on Wednesday that featured Atlanta taking Sanders at eighth overall. Needless to say, this selection doesn't make much, if any, sense.
The problem isn't with Sanders' position, because, as mentioned previously, the Falcons desperately need an upgrade on the edge. However, there are far better options than Sanders, whom most give a second-round grade to. Wilson, Murphy, Lukas Van Ness and Nolan Smith are all much better prospects, and at least three of them should be available when Atlanta picks.
If Sanders is still available when the Falcons pick at 44th overall in the second round, then it would be a good pick. However, there's no reason to take him in the first round when several better edge rushers will still be available. It seems very unlikely that this actually happens, but if it does, it would be a massive mistake for the Falcons.