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Falcons Post-draft Lineup Projection: Ebiketie starts on defense

The Atlanta Falcons added eight players in the 2022 NFL draft over the weekend, addressing needs and potentially landing multiple Week 1 starters.

After giving our starting lineup projection for Atlanta’s offense on Monday, here’s our post-draft projection for the team’s starting defense in 2022.

DL: Grady Jarrett

(AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

Jarrett’s future in Atlanta was uncertain until the team gave him a three-year extension on Tuesday. Playing on a defensive line with mostly unproven talent around him, Jarrett’s work ethic, leadership and consistency make him a valuable piece of this retooled Falcons defense. With some new pieces around him, perhaps we will get to see what he’s truly capable of this season.

DI: Anthony Rush

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The Falcons didn’t draft any interior defensive linemen and Rush lined up at the nose tackle spot more than anyone currently on the roster. The team released Tyler Davison for cap space at the start of free agency, while re-signing Rush for another year.

DL: Ta’Quon Graham

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This one is a tough call as both Graham and third-year lineman Marlon Davidson played a similar amount of snaps last season. I think Graham has the slight edge going into the year, and it always helps when you’re drafted by the current coaching regime as opposed to the previous one.

OLB: Lorenzo Carter

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Atlanta signed former Georgia Bulldogs OLB Lorenzo Carter in free agency and he should easily move into the starting lineup. The athletic, rangy edge rusher had 23 hurries and five sacks last season for New York. Obviously, nobody is suggesting the former Giant is Lawrence Taylor, but Carter is just 26 years old and has plenty of upside in the right situation.

OLB: Arnold Ebiketie

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Falcons traded up with the Giants for their other starting outside linebacker, Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie, in the second round. Obviously, the team likes the rookie EDGE quite a bit to pass on some of the other players on the board. Second-year linebacker Ade Ogundeji, who was previously in my starting lineup, is moved to a rotational role in this scenario.

Check out what Pro Football Focus wrote about Ebiketie before the draft:

“Ebiketie is one of the more NFL-ready edges in the class. He can start in the league tomorrow with how technically proficient he is. He better be, though, considering his age. ”

ILB: Deion Jones

(AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

Atlanta may have lost Foye Oluokun in free agency but with Deion Jones and Mykal Walker returning, along with the team’s offseason additions of Rashaan Evans and Troy Andersen, there should be a good battle for these two interior linebacker spots. Jones struggled to adapt to the Falcons 3-4 scheme last season, but he is still the most accomplished linebacker of this group.

ILB: Rashaan Evans

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Evans, 25, hasn’t quite lived up to his first-round billing, but he’s a starting-caliber ILB who has experience with Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees. I’m still a big believer in Mykal Walker, but I think he’s more likely to compete with Jones for time than with Evans. Versatile rookie Troy Anderson is in the mix for playing time here as well.

CB: AJ Terrell

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

AJ Terrell made a major leap in his second season, grading out as one of the NFL’s best corners and making the Pro Football Focus All-Pro team. With another year under his belt, Terrell could thrive again in what should be an improved secondary.

CB: Casey Hayward

(AP Photo/Ellen Schmidt)

The Falcons signed Hayward and didn’t address the defensive back position in the draft at all. Even so, Hayward gives the team a formidable one-two punch at cornerback entering the season. Hayward’s 24 career interceptions will be a welcome addition to a secondary lacking playmakers.

Safety: Erik Harris

(AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

Harris was playing pretty well last year before he went down with a torn pectoral muscle. The veteran safety was re-signed by the Falcons and he should return to the starting lineup in 2022.

Safety: Jaylinn Hawkins

(AP Photo/Ian Walton)

Safety is another position the Falcons passed on in the 2022 NFL draft. With safety Kyle Hamilton on the board, Atlanta went for WR Drake London instead. Despite the team signing Dean MarloweI think 2022 is the year Hawkins finally gets his shot to start.

Falcons Post-draft lineup projections: OFFENSE

Click HERE to see our offensive lineup projection!

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