Should be a fascinating offseason in the ATL, where the Falcons are positioned to make a splash in free agency and should challenge for the NFC South title in 2023. Yet, even though QB Desmond Ridder is coming off his rookie season, Atlanta — owner Arthur Blank had his team in the running for Deshaun Watson last year — will have a prime opportunity to reinvest at the position with a talent like Richardson. At 6-4, 232 pounds with a huge arm and the ability to bowl over or outrun defenders, the skill set is tantalizing. He could also clearly benefit from a season (or more) to marinate under HC Arthur Smith and work on his accuracy while the less physically gifted Ridder's evaluation continues. But Smith's penchant for extracting the most from his players and the prospect of Richardson eventually joining an offense with several promising young players could make him hard to bypass.
Murphy turned 21 in early January, and while we'd like to see him play with more consistency ... he just turned 21 in early January. He has all the physical tools you look for in an elite edge defenders and it's easy to see him in a few years being dominant. And that, in large part, is what makes him such an interesting prospect.
Over the past two years, the Falcons have addressed some key offensive positions, but have yet to address this offensive line. With this pick, I believe the Falcons turn their attention to the offensive line and draft Georgia OT Broderick Jones. Jones may have the best combination of size, power, and movement skills in this draft. And more importantly, he likes to run block—which I'm sure Arthur Smith will appreciate.
Improving their pass rush has been a perennial need for the Falcons, who rank last in the NFL with only 39 sacks over the past two seasons combined. Grady Jarrett led the team with six sacks in 2022. Murphy has an ideal combination of size, length, power and first-step quickness. The true junior is one of the younger prospects in this draft class and has plenty of long-term upside as he continues to put it all together.
The Falcons finished second-to-last in the NFL in sacks this season, with just 21. Improving the pass rush through the draft will be crucial, and Murphy is the right player to help. A Georgia native and product of nearby Clemson, he is fast, powerful and smart. He benched about 275 pounds as a 14-year-old high school freshman and ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash as a high school senior. Now 6 foot 5 and about 275 pounds, Murphy finished his Clemson career as a two-time all-conference honoree with 139 tackles (37 for loss), 17 1/2 sacks and six forced fumbles in 38 games with 27 starts.
Atlanta has Kaleb McGary and Chuma Edoga headed to free agency, meaning the offensive tackle depth chart is barren. And for a team that relies so heavily on the run, the line has to be a focus. Questions about Skoronski's length should get answers at the combine in a few weeks, but man, this guy's quickness, balance and awareness are outstanding. He takes great angles as a run-blocker, which should open things up for Tyler Allgeier and whoever else is taking handoffs next season.
Quarterback is worth a look, too, but with Desmond Ridder in the fold, I'm not sure the Falcons take the plunge on Florida's Anthony Richardson here with the top three signal-callers off the board. If Atlanta doesn't stick with Ridder, it probably wouldn't turn to another developmental QB like Richardson.
The Falcons simply can't pressure the quarterback. Wilson was one of nine players in the FBS to produce 60 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and six sacks before suffering a season-ending broken foot against Kansas. He's a physically gifted, ascending pass rusher who is explosive off the ball and powerful enough to make an immediate impact at the next level.
The Falcons could use another receiver to pair with 2022 first-rounder Drake London. Their lack of pass rush (finished 31st in sacks), however, means they grab Murphy, who is just the type of strong, long edge defender that new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen coached during his time with the Saints.