Georgia fans don’t just live in Georgia. There are strongholds of UGA fans in every major city in America as well as most countries across the world. However, a lot of them do call The Peach State home, and when they’re done cheering on the Bulldogs on Saturdays, some wake up the next day and root for the state’s NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons.
A lot of those UGA fans who are also Falcons fans would no doubt love seeing a former Bulldog selected by Atlanta, and this year would be a great year for that to happen. The Falcons, 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game in 2019, are in desperate need of a running back, and it just so happens that the best running back in this year’s draft happens to be from UGA.
So yes, the Falcons should draft D’Andre Swift.
This, of course, isn’t conventional wisdom. The common thinking has Atlanta taking a pass rusher with the No. 16 pick. The Falcons’ official site has collected all the major mock drafts — 13 in total — and every single one of them has the Falcons selecting an edge rusher, which is easy to understand given the nasty state of the Dirty Birds defensive line. Only seven teams had fewer sacks than the Falcons.
However, the names that emerge as a possibility for Atlanta in these mock drafts would be a cure for insomnia.
Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa is a popular selection, and he racked up 11.5 sacks last season for the Hawkeyes. But given the controversy surrounding the recent caucuses, I’m not sure I’m ready to trust any numbers coming from Iowa just yet.
Another frequent choice is LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson — a player who admittedly is as physically gifted as you’ll find. However, finding Chaisson occasionally proved difficult this past season. Chaisson failed to record a sack in eight of the Tigers’ 15 games.
The Falcons already have fans who only show up about half the time. They can’t afford to have their first-round pick do the same.
Which is why Atlanta should draft Swift.
Atlanta is believed to be looking to address the running back position. More than one mock draft has the Falcons reaching for a back with one of their two second-round picks.
But why settle for second best when Swift is available?
The Falcons have never drafted a UGA player in the first round, and haven’t drafted any former Bulldogs since selecting linebacker Akeem Dent in the third round in 2011. In that same span, the Kansas City Chiefs have selected six.
Guess what else the Chiefs just did? They won the Super Bowl.
Is that a coincidence? Probably.
However, the previous season’s world champions, the New England Patriots, have also had a penchant for drafting Bulldogs — including running back Sony Michel and offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn in the first round in 2018.
Some UGA fans will say the Falcons have intentionally avoided Bulldogs players. There’s no evidence to support that claim.
Yet the passionate folks who make up DawgNation can have long memories.
They recall 1990 when Atlanta passed on UGA running back Rodney Hampton to take Steve Broussard from the football hotbed of Washington State. Broussard only rushed for 1,472 yards combined in four seasons in Atlanta, while Hampton eclipsed 1,000 yards five years in a row, earned two trips to the Pro Bowl and won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants.
They also remember when the Falcons took wide receiver Jammi German with the 74th pick in the third round in 1998 — 18 slots ahead of the Steelers’ selection of Hines Ward.
Ward became a Super Bowl MVP in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, German was just the pits in Atlanta.
And of course, no list would be complete without mentioning the last time the Falcons took an edge rusher with the draft’s top running back available.
The Falcons passed on UGA’s Todd Gurley in 2015 with the eighth pick, selecting Vic Beasley instead.
Gurley went on to win Rookie of the Year, lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns in 2017-18, and make three All-Pro teams for the Rams.
By comparison, Beasley had one good season before becoming Atlanta’s version of Bernie Madoff — extracting money from the Falcons each year by befuddling them with the Ponzi Scheme of his potential.
In other words, maybe it’s time for the Falcons to try something different.
Or on the other hand, given the success so many former UGA players have enjoyed elsewhere, maybe Swift would be better off if he was picked by a different team.
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