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Falcons Switch Focus To Defense On Day Two

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Atlanta added DL Ra'Shede Hageman (No. 99) after he fell into its lap on the second day of the NFL Draft. Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images.
Atlanta added DL Ra'Shede Hageman (No. 99) after he fell into its lap on the second day of the NFL Draft. Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images.


The Atlanta Falcons continued to fill their needs on Day Two of the NFL Draft, though this time they focused on fixing holes on defense. The Falcons didn’t fall for adding a future starting running back early, even though top RB prospects like Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill and Tre Mason were still on the board at some point. The defense remained the most important unit to fix, and Atlanta made some key additions to a defense that was ranked near the bottom in most categories a season ago.

Atlanta's steal of Day Two was projected to be gone the first night of the draft, but instead, he fell right into the team's lap. University of Minnesota DL Ra'Shede Hageman will turn out to be a great fit in the multiple defense, probably a better fit than the pass rushers I wanted the Falcons to select. They already filled their defensive line needs during free agency, however, it didn’t hurt to add Hageman. In fact, Atlanta satisfied two needs at once. Hageman has enough speed and quickness to get deep into the backfield, and can even pressure quarterbacks, which is what the Falcons are looking for. He also has the strength to clog running lanes. Since the Falcons added more depth to the defensive line by selecting him, Hageman is more likely to line up in any spot on the line, no matter what scheme the team uses in the multiple defense. I believe he’ll contribute greatly in his rookie season, eventually moving into the starting rotation by his third year.

Atlanta also filled its need at safety in the fourth round, drafting Dezmen Southward out of Wisconsin. This move came as a shock because I thought the Falcons were looking for a free safety who is more of a ball hawk than a punisher. But like the front office has stated, it wants more tough guys on the team who can scare off the New Orleans Saints of the world. Atlanta found a tough guy in Southward - I dare to say that he’s even close to a William Moore clone. Southward has a reputation of attacking the line of scrimmage with recklessness and can use that same toughness to pound opposing receivers in the NFC South. My only question is where he will be placed on the field next year, aside from special teams. Southward can fight for the starting free safety position and team up with Moore early on. Or, he can switch spots with Moore and play his natural position of strong safety instead. Southward can also play some nickel back and back up Moore for a year or two. The fearsome former Badger has enough speed to cover fast wideouts anyway.