This is a group of prospects I expect Atlanta to scout heavily. Luckily for Falcons fans, these are positional groups that look to be loaded with talent. The Falcons have had trouble getting to the quarterback and generating consistent pressure for a while, and a lot of these names will be in play for the 8th pick. I don’t think one guy will truly fix Atlanta’s defense, so hopefully, these players, if picked, are supported by free agent additions.
The EDGE group is insanely deep, while the defensive line prospects appear to be more top-heavy. Regardless, there should be multiple talented guys available in the later rounds that can help rebuild Atlanta’s trenches.
- 2022 NFL Draft Big Board: Quarterbacks
- 2022 NFL Draft Big Board: Running Backs
- 2022 NFL Draft Big Board: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
- 2022 NFL Draft Big Board: Offensive Line
6. Phidarian Mathis — Alabama
Mathis finally broke out at Alabama in 2021, and it felt like he had been a key part of Nick Saban’s squad forever. He’s a guy who can play inside-out on the defensive line, and that’s something a lot of teams are going to value.
Relative Athletic Score: N/A
5. Perrion Winfrey — Oklahoma
I actually really love Winfrey’s tape and build, and although this is a top-heavy group, he’s a potential impact player. He has a quick first step and violent hands and can really have his way with smaller interior offensive linemen. I expect him to go pretty early on day two.
Relative Athletic Score: N/A
4. DeMarvin Leal — Texas A&M
There are some concerns about Leal. Some scouts see him as a tweener, but I still like the upside of the former top prospect. Leal has nice bend for a guy his size, and I don’t see very many issues with his arm length in an odd front or hybrid defense. He may fall in the draft due to something like arm length, but whatever team scoops him up will be getting an impact player.
Relative Athletic Score: 7.47/10
3. Travis Jones — Connecticut
Jones had a fantastic week at the Senior Bowl, and he showed his ability to rush the passer alongside plugging holes up the middle at 6’4 and 330 pounds. He’s a stout run defender and a plus athlete — he’ll be a guy teams are very interested in on day two.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.39/10
2. Jordan Davis — Georgia
I’m really interested to see how Jordan Davis pans out in the NFL. Typically, larger nose tackles taken in round one haven’t done well outside of a few exceptions like Vita Vea. Davis is a fantastic athlete for his size and can command a double team at all times. He will immediately improve the run defense of any team that drafts him, and if he can collapse the pocket at a high level in the NFL, watch out.
Relative Athletic Score: 10/10
1. Devonte Wyatt — Georgia
Yes, I have Devonte Wyatt over Jordan Davis, but it’s actually a pretty close race between the two former Bulldogs. I love Jordan Davis, he’s one of my favorite players ever, but I like the versatility of Wyatt. Davis is better at what he does best, but Wyatt is better all-around, in my opinion. When I see his tape in college, I see a lot of Grady Jarrett when he was at Clemson.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.57/10
17. Kingsley Enagbare — South Carolina
If Enagbare goes in the second round, he’s going to provide great value for whatever team picks him up. He still needs to clean up his technique, but he’s a long pass rusher with good athleticism off the edge. If an NFL team can harness his raw potential, he’s going to make for an excellent pro.
Relative Athletic Score: 6.15/10
16. Jeffrey Gunter — Coastal Carolina
Part of a very successful Coastal Carolina squad, Gunter profiles as an immediate difference-maker in the run game with the athletic upside to develop into a high-quality pass rusher. The development of his hands and pass rush arsenal will be key.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.74/10
15. Myjai Sanders — Cincinnati
Sanders had a great Senior Bowl, and most of that is thanks to his lightning-quick first step. He needs to add to his bag when it comes to pass rush moves, but there’s loads of potential with Sanders — especially athletically.
Relative Athletic Score: 8.73/10
14. Logan Hall — Houston
Hall showed his stuff at the Senior Bowl, and his frame is perfect for a team that wants to use a pass rusher in multiple ways. He has a fantastic build and a good get-off to boot. If his technique and hands come along, watch out.
Relative Athletic Score: 7.41/10
13. Josh Paschal — Kentucky
Paschal is a prospect I’m really excited about — he is very diverse in his skillset, and he tested off the charts. He moved all around Kentucky’s defense like a chess piece, but he still shows a lot of explosiveness off the edge as a pure pass rusher. He’s a guy that could easily be a massive steal on day two.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.5/10
12. Drake Jackson — USC
You know this is a deep group when Jackson is 16th on this list. Jackson has taken a tumble down draft boards, but make no mistake, he’s still a quality prospect. He has good get-off and bend but needs to add some functional strength and work on his pass rush arsenal. Jackson wins off athleticism alone a lot, but this can be coached up. He will be a great pickup if he makes it past round two.
Relative Athletic Score: 8.59/10
11. Nick Bonitto — Oklahoma
Bonitto is a very bendy pass rusher that was used in a variety of ways in Oklahoma’s defense; with his versatility and testing numbers, he should have an impact immediately on an NFL defense. His agility is awe-inspiring, and he shows some chops in coverage. He could sneak into round one.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.34/10
10. Arnold Ebiketie — Penn State
Similar to his teammate Odafe Oweh in 2021, Ebiketie is a freak athlete that will absolutely get some first-round consideration. He’s a very twitchy and explosive edge rusher with a lot of production in 2021, and he profiles as a guy you just send at the quarterback every play early in his career.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.12 /10
9. Cameron Thomas — San Diego State
Thomas is massive for a guy that moves as well as he does, and he has a motor that burns red hot. He was a key player for a good San Diego State team, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he found himself getting picked in the first round.
Relative Athletic Score: N/A
8. Boye Mafe — Minnesota
I’m very interested in Mafe as a prospect. He’s more of a developmental player, but he has incredible athletic traits and rarely quits on plays. This is a deep class, but Mafe has a chance to be one of the better players in this group if he can be coached up properly.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.91/10
7. Sam Williams — Ole Miss
Williams had some off-the-field allegations that have been disputed, but those things seem to be behind him and settled. He has a great frame and moves well in space, but he needs to work on his leverage when engaging with bigger blockers. He’s a bully with great athleticism and hands, and he has all of the makeup of a franchise pass rusher. There’s a lot of potential here, and he tested really well.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.71/10
6. George Karlaftis — Purdue
It’s a testament to this group that Karlaftis is sixth on this list. Karlaftis is a great athlete, but he gets a ton of push up front and has powerful hands than can help him set the edge against the run. He has one of the higher floors in the entire group.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.19/10
5. David Ojabo — Michigan
While Ojabo is one of the more underdeveloped prospects on the list, he has one of the highest ceilings in this entire class. He has incredible bend and athleticism, especially for a guy that only started playing football a few seasons ago. The Achilles injury really sucks, but I still like his long-term upside.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.38/10
4. Aidan Hutchinson — Michigan
Hutchinson truly kicks off the cream of the crop of this group, and you can’t go wrong with any of these guys, in my opinion. Hutchinson truly has it all when looking for a pass rusher — size, speed, power, technique. I could easily see Hutchinson having a Joey Bosa impact as a rookie. My issues begin with Hutchinson’s arm length — he may have issues creating separation if he gets locked up by NFL offensive tackles. Time will tell, but he has a lot of fantastic tools.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.88/10
3. Kayvon Thibodeaux — Oregon
I really don’t buy into a lot of the “concerns” some of the media have about Kayvon Thibodeaux, but this is just where he lands in a very talented group. He still has one of the best blends of size and athleticism in this entire class, and I don’t see him falling in the draft as some have predicted. He has franchise pass rusher written all over him.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.6/10
2. Jermaine Johnson — Florida State
Johnson was one of my priority targets for the Falcons in round two earlier in the cycle, but after an incredible Senior Bowl, they would have to consider him with the 8th pick. Johnson has an ideal blend of size, speed, and length for an NFL pass rusher. The fact that he dominated at the Senior Bowl and crushed the combine is going to rocket his draft stock. He’s built like a brick house and has incredible get-off when rushing the passer. Throw in the fact that he’s a quality run defender, and the Falcons finally have a building block at pass rusher.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.21/10
1. Travon Walker — Georgia
This is going to be one of my more controversial rankings, but you’re really splitting hairs when you get to these top guys. Travon Walker’s versatility really sells him for me. Walker is an elite athlete with a fantastic first step, and he can even drop into coverage and disrupt against running backs if you need him to. He can set a strong edge in the run game and get after the quarterback at a high level. His motor runs very hot. Not only do I think he’s the safest player out of this group, but he also still has the upside to develop into an All-Pro.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.99/10
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