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Around the NFC South: Atlanta Falcons 2020 draft recap

The 2nd place Falcons seek to improve on back-to-back losing seasons.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

In case you forgot, the Atlanta Failc... Falcons, blew a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl 51 to now division rival Rob Gronkowski and the New England Patriots. Ever since, the Falcons have had hopes of returning to the Super Bowl, presumably to see if they can blow an even bigger lead. Unfortunately (fortunately?), back-to-back losing seasons have not helped their cause. Atlanta drafted two offensive lineman in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft and Matt Ryan was still sacked 48 times, which was tied for first in the NFL.

So lets see if the 2x Super Bowl-losing Falcons can improve their odds of losing another Super Bowl with their 2020 draft class. I will be rating each selection on a scale of 3-28.

College Football Playoff National Championship - Clemson v LSU Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

AJ Terrell - CB - Clemson

Round(Ovr): 1(16) ESPN Overall Pre-Draft Rank: 51

Terrell is a player who relies on good size and speed to be successful. He is 6’1” and ran a 4.42 at the Scouting Combine. His technique and downfield coverage are the real questions in his game, but there is no denying he was one of the most physically gifted corners in the draft. The Clemson cornerback was likely the Falcons #2 corner on their board after the Jaguars picked CJ Henderson from the University of Florida.

Terrell becomes the best corner on the Falcons by default after they released Pro Bowler Desmond Trufant to clear cap room. Terrell is a project that will need to grow into his role as a #1 corner and will be in need of good coaching to do so. The questions will be if the Falcons coaching staff to be able coach him up well enough to the point where he could even dream of successfully covering Michael Thomas.

Grade: 22

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Auburn at Florida Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Marlon Davidson - DE - Auburn

Round(Ovr): 2(47) Overall Pre-Draft Rank: 52

Auburn’s leading sack man from 2019 is likely to be a Week 1 starter on a very questionable Falcons defensive line. He has the size and ability to line up next to Pro Bowler Grady Jarrett on the interior, or opposite former Rams roughing the passer committer and grocery shot-put champion of northeast Florida, Dante Fowler Jr. who was signed in free agency earlier this offseason. Either way, he will most likely wind up being a productive player, but likely still not good enough to consistently beat Cesar Ruiz.

Grade: 25

Connecticut v Temple Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Matt Hennessy - C - Temple

Round(Ovr): 3(78) Overall Pre-Draft Rank: 93

Another offensive lineman drafted in hopes of preventing Sheldon Rankins and Cameron Jordan from killing aging franchise QB Matt Ryan. Coming from the American Athletic Conference which, despite producing a National Champion in UCF in 2017, is not thought of as a Power 5 conference.

Hennessy will need to get used to much better competition if he hopes to allow Matt Ryan to play into his 40s like the two future Hall of Famers in the NFC South. He has the versatility to possibly play guard before Alex Mack retires or is traded, but is still undersized and in need of experience and coaching before he becomes a quality starting center in the NFL. Falcons fans can only hope this pick doesn’t lead Matt Ryan to turn to drinking Hennessy to forget about the sacks he took because of Hennessy.

Grade: 19

Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl - Fresno State v Arizona State Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mykal Walker - ILB - Fresno State

Round(Ovr): 4(119) Overall Pre-Draft Rank: 230

Back-to-back mid-major picks is questionable for a team that went 7-9 last year and is now in playoffs-or-bust mode. The Falcons are weak at linebacker, just like most other positions, behind former LSU Tiger Deion Jones. Walker is versatile like Hennessy, but is still raw and needs work if he is to find a consistent spot in the starting lineup. The Falcons coaches will need to do a good job of developing Walker if this pick is to pay off.

Grade: 18

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Cal at UCLA Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jaylinn Hawkins - S - California

Round(Ovr): 4(134) Overall Pre-Draft Rank: NR

The Falcons selected the first of their two players not even ranked in the ESPN’s top 300 prospects in the 4th round. The first player was Cal safety Jaylinn Hawkins, who was playing wide receiver for the Golden Bears a few years ago. The Falcons have Keanu Neal at safety, but Neal has struggled with injuries and Hawkins provides depth at the position. Hawkins did have 10 interceptions at Cal, so he does have decent ball-hawking ability, but in a division with all-time passing yardage leader Drew Brees and former Entourage guest-star Tom Brady, interceptions will come at a premium.

Grade: 15

Clemson v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Sterling Hofrichter - P - Syracuse

Round(Ovr): 7(228) Overall Pre-Draft Rank: NR

The Falcons share the distinction with the New York Jets as being the only two teams to draft a punter in the 2020 NFL Draft. This was a legitimate need for the Falcons, however, as they had four different punters in 2019. Drafting a punter is still questionable as Hofrichter most likely would have been available as a UDFA. For what it’s worth, this is still a good value pick for the Falcons, though, as they likely assume they will probably be punting the ball a lot this season.

Grade: 28