Atlanta Falcons: 2021 NFL Draft should focus on the trenches

The Atlanta Falcons should not draft back-to-back skill players in the 2021 NFL Draft. There are much more pressing needs to focus on.

While drafting tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft would add another element to the Atlanta Falcons offense, it is not the biggest need for the team. Great teams are built from the inside-out, not the outside-in. The main point is that they should focus on the trenches first, then draft the required skill players.

NFL games are still won in the trenches — period. Pitts is not the No. 1 pressing need for the Falcons. Sure, he might be the second-best player available in the draft and he might be a multi-time All-Pro tight end. But the Falcons need an offensive lineman far more than another pass-catching weapon.

The offensive line has to get back on track, big time. The run game has been anemic at best over the past two seasons, thanks to shoddy play up front and not being able to open up holes.

Selecting Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell with the No. 4 pick would instantly improve the line. He can play either tackle position from day one. He could start his first two years at right tackle with Jake Matthews playing his last couple of years on the left side. Or Sewell could immediately man the left with Matthews moving back to where he played at college and over his first three NFL seasons on the right side.

Moreover, adding Sewell at No. 4 would provide more versatility on the offensive line, which is always a strong thing to have. Kaleb McGary could push inside to left guard with Chris Lindstrom staying to man the right guard spot.

No matter how things shuffled, though, drafting Sewell in the top five would instantly help rebuild and shore up an offensive line that needs attention. It would help to solve a key issue of the current rebuild in Atlanta.

If the Falcons, instead, decided to trade back in the first round, Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater could be an option if still available. The same type of benefits resulting from taking Sewell would come about with Slater as well.

Beyond the offensive line, the Falcons also need to find a long-term solution at running back. Mike Davis is a short-term answer, Brian Hill and Ito Smith are complementary backs and the jury is still out on Qadree Ollison. Atlanta hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2016, putting a ton of pressure on Matt Ryan in the passing game.

Thus, running back should be a consideration in the second round. Both Javonte Williams and Michael Carter out of North Carolina would be options in Round 2 to address the need.

Regardless, though, the draft should start in the trenches for the Atlanta Falcons. General manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith should start on the inside as they start to reshape this roster. Kyle Pitts is attractive but he doesn’t represent the best path to long-term success.