2018 NFL Draft: Atlanta Falcons on the clock at No. 26

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When the NFL Draft begins selections in Arlington, Tex., April 26, the Atlanta Falcons have the No. 26 pick in the first round.

Here is an in-depth look at the team’s needs, offseason changes, potential best fit and the selections by NFLDraftScout.com’s experts.

Who would you pick and why?

TOP 5 NEEDS

  1. Defensive tackle: The Falcons’ glaring need is at defensive tackle. They need a quick penetrating tackle to pair with Grady Jarrett. He must be stout enough to handle double teams and keep guards from climbing to the second level to wipe out middle linebacker Deion Jones. Dontari Poe played 868 defensive snaps, the second highest on the team behind Jarrett’s 870 last season. He also played eight snaps on offense. He signed a three-year, $28 million deal with a $10 million signing bonus on March 16 with Carolina. A total of $13.3 million of the deal is guaranteed.
  1. Fullback: The Falcons elected to re-sign Derrick Coleman, a year after losing Patrick DiMarco to the Bills in free agency. They need a pass-catching threat, who can lead block. The team has had to call finesse plays in short-yardage situations and will look to add a battering ram fullback through the draft.
  1. Wide receiver: Taylor Gabriel didn’t provide the same explosive plays he did in 2016 during the team’s march to the Super Bowl. He had trouble getting off the line of scrimmage and was not a factor in the red zone. The team is also looking for a returner, so a speed receiver with return ability will likely be selected in this draft.
  1. Linebacker: The Falcons elected not to re-sign Sean Weatherspoon and LaRoy Reynolds. They are looking for depth behind Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and Duke Riley. They are looking for speed and striking ability. They know in the NFC South their linebackers have to cover speedy running backs out of the backfield in the Saints’ Alvin Kamara and Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey.
  1. Left guard. Andy Levitre is trying to battle back from a biceps injury that shortened his 2017 season. Also, he’s set to enter into the last year of his contract. The guard sport has been problematic as the Falcons have had to trade or spend money in free agency to help fortify the interior of the offensive line. They have had poor results in trying to develop linemen dating back to Mike Johnson, Lamar Holmes, Peter Konz and up through Wes Schweitzer. They are still hopeful that Schweitzer can make it and want to see if Sean Harlow, a fourth-round pick last season, can develop into a player after not being active for a game in 2017.

THE PICKS

–BEST FIT: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. The All-America defensive tackle had an irregular heart beat detected at the Scouting Combine, so the Falcons will want to do some medical due diligence. He’s 6-foot-2 and 292 pounds and has what Falcons head coach Dan Quinn calls the “get off.” Which means he is quick off the ball and that makes up for him not being a traditionally massive three-technique tackle. He had 34 tackles, 11.5 for loss and 4.5 sacks last season.

–Rob Rang: Taven Bryan, DL, Florida. The Falcons boast one of the better young defensive tackles in the game in Grady Jarrett but have little besides him on the roster. Jarrett’s ability to disrupt from the interior would be that much more effective with a complementary threat like Bryan, whose raw talent likely would intrigue head coach Dan Quinn, a former defensive line coach at Florida.

–Dane Brugler: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. With Dontari Poe now in Carolina, the Falcons have holes on the interior defensive line. Payne has a unique mix of power and quickness to play a variety of roles up front.

FANS ON THE CLOCK, ON THE RECORD

OK, it’s your turn. Tell us in the comments section who you would pick and why. Check out top 1,000 players rated by NFLDraftScout.com, including combine and pro day workouts, biographies, scouting reports.

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