One of the greatest areas of need for the Falcons in the 2015 draft is pass-rusher. Atlanta finished next-to-last in sacks in 2014, and had little effect on opposing quarterbacks. Names like Dante Fowler Jr., Shane Ray, Randy Gregory and Vic Beasley have all been bantered about regularly as potential first-round selections at No. 8. But there are other areas of need, and many directions for new head coach Dan Quinn to rebuild this team. FOX Sports South found six scenarios where the Falcons could pass on a pass-rusher at No. 8. Photo: Kim Klement / Russell Isabella / Dale Zanine -- USA TODAY Sports
Draft RB Todd Gurley at No. 8
Had former Georgia running back Todd Gurley not torn his ACL in November against Auburn, he would easily be considered a potential top 10 pick in the 2015 draft. Just five months after the injury, Gurley is apparently climbing draft boards anyway. When healthy he was one of the most explosive runners the college game had seen for years, and he's progressing nicely in rehab and should be ready for Week 1 of the NFL season. The Falcons need a running back to pair with Devonta Freeman.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY SportsDale Zanine
Trade back to No. 10 (Rams) and grab Ereck Flowers
The Falcons' offensive line did a much better job in 2014 protecting quarterback Matt Ryan than it did the year prior. But this unit is far from a finished product. Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder are penciled in at left and right tackle, respectively, but the Falcons would welcome an upgrade. There are also question marks galore at left guard. If either Jameis Winston of Marcus Mariota are on the board when Atlanta picks, St. Louis could move up to grab him. The Falcons would love the extra pick(s) and could grab arguably the best offensive tackle in the draft.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsBob Donnan
Trade back to 12 (Browns) and grab Alvin "Bud" Dupree
It's absolutely true that the Falcons need pass-rush help. But if the front office could trade back a few spots and still get a very good pass-rusher, it might jump at the chance -- especially if extra picks we're involved for Atlanta from a Cleveland team that seems in the market for another quarterback. Former Kentucky star Bud Dupree is a fast-rising prospect than can get after a quarterback. There's no reason why he couldn't be every bit the pass-rusher guys expected to be drafted ahead of him might be.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY SportsMark Zerof
Trade back to 20 (Eagles) and grab Jalen Collins or Melvin Gordon
As stated earlier, the Falcons need another running back -- a guy to either share time with Devonta Freeman, or be the featured back with Freeman as a change-of-pace rusher. It's also likely the Falcons would welcome a third cover guy, and it's been made apparent that new coach Dan Quinn covets big cornerbacks. If Marcus Mariota falls to No. 8, Atlanta could offer up its pick to a number of teams. Philadelphia has long been rumored to have its eye on the Oregon passer. At 6-foot-1, Collins could slide onto sub packages instantly, and Melvin Gordon could end up being the best rusher in the 2015 draft.
USA TODAY SportsCrystal Logiudice-USA TODAY Spor
Trade up to 3 (Jaguars) and grab Leonard Williams
As we take a break from trading back in the draft, let's consider the notion that Atlanta might move up. Giving up more picks to do so might not make general manager Thomas Dimitroff a popular man, but if the Falcons nabbed the best athlete in the draft -- and possibly the best defensive player in Leonard Williams -- it might be worth the backlash. Williams can play all along the defensive line, as has the tools and upside to wreak havoc for years to come.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsRon Chenoy
Completely trade out of the first round
This might not make Falcons fans happy, but the best thing for a team that could use a lot of new talent might be for Atlanta to completely trade out of the first round. To do this the Falcons might have to make multiple moves to progressively step down and out of the first round. They could just hang an "Always Open" sign in the war room and field phone calls every time they're on the clock. Imagine all the extra picks (both 2015 and 2016) Atlanta could add, and remember, with Dan Quinn's input, multiple mid-round picks that he can mold into starters (he has a track record of this) would benefit this franchise for years to come.