Steve Wyche: Falcons tried to trade back into first round for EDGE Laiatu Latu

The team clearly wanted to land one of the draft’s top defenders, but missed their chance.

The Michael Penix selection yesterday came with significant risks, which I think are well understood at this point. One of those risks was that selecting Penix would make it more difficult for the Falcons to land high-end defensive talent, and that is talent they sorely need.

The Falcons clearly tried to have it both ways. Per NFL insider Steve Wyche, who still has ties to the organization from his Atlanta Journal-Constitution days, the Falcons tried to trade back into the first round with an eye on grabbing Laiatu Latu, one of the best EDGE defenders in this class. Instead, they struck out and the Indianapolis Colts snapped Latu up at pick 15, ending that particular dream. It’s unknown if the Falcons tried to negotiate their way up for anyone else, but Latu was clearly a coveted target.

The Falcons felt they had to have Penix for reasons we’ve talked about elsewhere—the short version is that they think he can be a franchise quarterback and wanted to ensure they had one of those now, before what they assume will be a couple of contending years that will have them picking in the 20s—and thus did not appear to have seriously considered taking Latu over Penix. That said, they still wanted to land the EDGE that has eluded them for a while now, as they’ve been linked to players like Montez Sweat without landing them, and last took one in the first round of the draft back in 2017 with Takk McKinley.

It’s unknown what the Falcons were trying to offer to jump back up, but landing Penix and Latu would have likely been a lot more palatable to fans than Penix alone. They couldn’t make it past the Colts, clearly. with whatever their best offer might have been.


That leaves the Falcons to zero in on an EDGE in the second round or later, with the options thinned out a bit by several selections on the first day. That’s not an ideal position to find yourself in if you’re as pass rush needy as the Falcons are, and it likely ensures that Penix and Latu’s careers will be mentioned together from now until the end of time. The hope is that the Falcons can land a useful young player now and add an affordable free agent or two and approximate what Latu might have given them in year one; that’s hardly a given.

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