The need at defensive end is quite dire for the Falcons. Takkarist McKinley, a former first-rounder in his own right, has not come along at the speed the Falcons hoped for while they’ve looked to veteran stopgaps like Allen Bailey and Adrian Clayborn to try and fill the void. They need a game-changer off of the edge.
A.J. Epenesa is worth a first-round pick to Atlanta because he can be that guy. Playing with tremendous size and power, he’s a problem physically off of the edge with the burst and punch he can get coming off the edge. When you then factor in his length and how technically refined he already is, the Iowa product checks all the boxes to be a day 1 starter that can immediately increase the effectiveness of the Falcons’ front four.
There are some young, talented cornerbacks in Atlanta currently in Isaiah Oliver (2018 second-round pick) and Kendall Sheffield (2019 fourth-round pick). Moreover, Desmond Trufant has been quite good when healthy. Yet, the depth and consistency of this group leaves a lot to be desired and should be a target early for them in this 2020 NFL Draft.
That’s why A.J. Terrell out of Clemson is the pick here. Terrell checks the boxes to potentially be a top-tier man-coverage cornerback in the NFL with his speed, quickness, length and strong footwork. If there’s a shortcoming, he needs to get stronger to be better against physical receivers but he would be a major depth upgrade for the Atlanta secondary.
Poor Grady Jarrett. The man is one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL and he gets no love because he simply is left on an island so much on this Falcons defensive front. Adding Epenesa will help with that but Atlanta shouldn’t stop there in trying to get more talented and dangerous in the trenches defensively.
Justin Madubuike at his best can be a devastating force alongside Jarrett. Whenever he’s on, he can break up the interior of the offensive line and wreak havoc in the opposing backfield. The issue, however, is that he did so inconsistently at Texas A&M. If Quinn and the Falcons can get his motor running non-stop (physically and mentally), he can be another cornerstone piece.