Falcons sign Deone Bucannon, adding 17th former first-round pick into projected starting lineup
Over 75 percent of the Falcons' starting lineup consists of former first-round picks
The Atlanta Falcons continue to add former first-round picks to their roster, signing Deone Bucannon to a one-year contract. Bucannon is the latest former first-round pick to join the Falcons, giving them their sixth on the defensive side of the ball.
Earlier this offseason, the Falcons created a projected starting lineup of 11 former first-round picks on offense and it appears they are trying to replicate the feat on defense. Atlanta acquired edge rusher/linebacker Charles Harris (2017 first-round pick) and signed defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (2015 first-round pick) to a three-year deal.
Defensive end Takkarist McKinley was selected by the Falcons in the first round in 2017 and safety Keanu Neal was a 2016 first-round pick. Finally, cornerback A.J. Terrell was a first-round pick in 2020. With the six former first-round picks on defense, 17 of the projected 22 starters on the Falcons were once drafted in the first round — an astonishing 77.3% of the group.
The only projected starters on the Falcons defense that weren't former first-round picks are defensive end Allen Bailey (2011 third-round pick), defensive tackle Tyeler Davison (2015 fifth-round pick), defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (2015 fifth-round pick), linebacker Deion Jones (2016 second-round pick), and cornerback Isaiah Oliver (2018 second-round pick).
Bucannon has played linebacker and safety in the NFL since being selected by the Arizona Cardinals as a first-round pick in the 2014 draft, so it remains to be seen where Atlanta puts him in the defense. If he plays linebacker, that could take a spot from Harris — but Atlanta has constructed a roster where five defensive lineman could play, fixing up one of the league's worst pressure rates over the past two seasons.
Bucannon is likely to challenge Ricardo Allen for playing time at safety. If he beats out Allen for the job, or rotates at different positions — that gives the Falcons 17 former first-round picks playing on both sides of the ball.
Whether or not all these former top draft picks equate to wins on the field, the Falcons arguably have one of the more talented rosters in football. Perhaps Atlanta is where some of these picks finally unlock their potential.