After selecting Drake London with the 8th pick, the Falcons have a lot of work to do on Day 2. Atlanta has four picks on Friday, and there are still a lot of talented players on the board. Here’s who I like for the Falcons going into Friday Night:
Desmond Ridder — Cincinnati
I find myself torn on Desmond Ridder at times. Before he came back to Cincinnati for his senior season, I wanted the Falcons to take a crack at him in the 2021 Draft. He shows good leadership, solid arm strength, and good mobility outside of the pocket. One thing that really impressed me was his play against elite competition. Even in South Bend against Notre Dame and Alabama in the College Football Playoff, Ridder didn’t look like the moment was too big for him. I like his makeup, and I think he will make an NFL Franchise very happy. I don’t know if I would start Ridder from day one, but I wouldn’t do that to any rookie quarterback.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.6/10
Matt Corral — Ole Miss
I called my shot at the beginning of the year with Matt Corral at QB1, but I will slide him one spot back. I like the toughness Corral displayed this season, and it was clear he was very popular among his teammates. Even though he got hurt in his last game, it’s evident that it meant something to him to play one more game with Ole Miss. While I don’t have very strong opinions on opt-outs, he wanted to lead his team one more time, and I respect that. Corral will have to adjust to an NFL offense, but he has an absolute hose for an arm and can move well outside of the pocket. He’s a smaller prospect at 6’1”, so sitting behind an established quarterback with at least a decent offensive line would be ideal. He wasn’t asked to do a lot at Ole Miss, so he will have to grow out of being a one-read QB.
Relative Athletic Score: Incomplete (Did Not Participate Due to Injury)
Malik Willis — Liberty
Originally, I had Malik Willis fourth and in the “Yeah, But” category. However, when evaluating these guys, his traits are the only ones I truly get excited about. I had very high hopes for Willis going into 2021; in fact, I thought he would be the first overall pick in the draft. The issues with Willis, for me, stem from his processing. He has an incredible arm and escapability outside of the pocket, but he makes some of the worst (and best) throws out of anyone in this class. Willis needs a lot of time to develop; he is not a guy who I would start from day one. I’m also concerned that he actually regressed this season, albeit against tougher competition. His footwork and eyes are very poor, but if a coach can put the pieces together, he will be one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL — much less in this draft class.
Relative Athletic Score: Incomplete
James Cook — Georgia
While I’m admittedly a little biased towards Cook, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better running back with the ball in his hands after the catch in this class. Not only can Cook make plays in the passing game, he really improved as a runner between the tackles at Georgia in 2021. I don’t think he will reach the level of Alvin Kamara, but they have a similar play style. Cook may be more of a complementary back, but there’s a lot of value in that in today’s NFL.
Relative Athletic Score: 8.72/10
Breece Hall — Iowa State
I really liked Hall in the last draft, but he came back to Iowa State and is now one of the most decorated backs in team history. There are a lot of miles on Hall’s legs, but he’s a shifty runner that can move through lanes well. Jonathan Taylor kind of put those “too many miles” arguments to rest in 2021. He’s a great athlete with tons of upside who can give an NFL team quality carries from day one. Hall tested off the charts athletically and really helped out his own draft stock.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.96/10
Kenneth Walker III — Michigan State
Some running backs just look different on tape — they hit holes harder, they have incredible burst, and they have exceptional vision. Kenneth Walker is that guy in this draft class. Walker is a very physical back, but he shows a lot of patience and can zip through lanes like a back half of his size. He has all of the makeup to be a featured back in an offense, and if he can develop as a pass catcher, watch out.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.25/10
George Pickens — Georgia
Give me all of your George Pickens stock. While we didn’t get too much of an extended look at Pickens, there are undeniable pops of talent on tape. He has a MASSIVE catch radius, and he’s a very physical receiver at the point of attack. He looked to be healthy during Georgia’s National Championship run, and I think an NFL team will steal him on day two. He tested very well at the combine, and his raw athletic gifts are going to make him a problem in the NFL. His knee looked just fine as he ran his 4.47 40-yard dash. I like the prime Dez Bryant comparison.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.34/10
Christian Watson — North Dakota State
I’ll take all of your Christian Watson stock right now. Watson moves like a receiver half his size at 6’5” and 210 pounds. He’ll have to get used to an NFL route tree, but with his raw gifts and insane catch radius, I’m calling my shot and saying he’ll be one of the best receivers in this entire class. I had Watson third on this list before the combine, but after he blew me away with his athleticism, I’m comfortable moving him to the top spot.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.96/10
Alec Pierce — Cincinnati
Pierce caught a lot of my attention while watching Desmond Ridder and Jerome Ford — he’s a big-bodied receiver with a great catch radius. He seems to grasp Cincinnati’s offense very well, and he fights for the football at the point of attack. Throw in the fact that he went nuclear at the combine, and you’ve got a really, really good looking prospect.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.81/10
Wan’Dale Robinson — Kentucky
Get the ball in Robinson’s hands and get out of the way. Robinson is an electric playmaker, and he can take a short or intermediate route the distance with just a little bit of space. I could see a team trying to use him in a Deebo Samuel role. I would have liked to have seen better numbers at the combine, but I trust his tape.
Relative Athletic Score: 6.1/10
Jelani Woods — Virginia
If not for Jordan Davis, Woods may have been the biggest story of the 2022 NFL Combine. Woods ran a blazing 4.61 40 at 6’7” and 253 pounds; he had a 37.5 inch vertical. 10’9″ broad jump and a 6.91 3-cone drill. Seriously, was this kid built in a lab? He has a great wingspan and is a willing run blocker, but he needs to be developed as a route runner. You can teach him that. You cannot teach his freakish build and athleticism. In a class that isn’t that deep, I’m willing to bet on a player that looks like he was created in Madden.
Relative Athletic Score: 10/10
Sean Rhyan — UCLA
Rhyan played left tackle for Chip Kelly, but his lateral quickness and ability to pull as a run blocker likely means he’ll be relegated to guard in the NFL, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. His arms aren’t incredibly long, but he has a solid first step and strike, which should help him as a pass blocker as he transitions inside. Rhyan may be a bit of a project at first, but he has loads of potential.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.3/10
Jamaree Salyer — Georgia
Even though Salyer had to serve at left tackle at Georgia due to injuries at times, he has positional flexibility all across the offensive line. He’s a versatile piece and is physical as a run blocker and athletic as a pass blocker. Salyer reminds me a lot of James Daniels — a guy with enough experience to start day one and as a likely day two pick. There’s a ton of value there.
Relative Athletic Score: 5.66/10
Bernhard Raimann — Central Michigan
The Austrian-born Raimann has all of the tools to become a franchise left tackle, but he’s still new to the game. Regardless, his testing numbers speak for themselves, and he flashes solid technique on film. He’s going to go higher than a lot of people think.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.87/10
Interior Defensive Line:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Channing Tindall — Georgia
Although Tindall didn’t play a huge role in Georgia’s defense before 2021, he showed some of the most incredible sideline-to-sideline range in college football. He’s a true “see ball, get ball” linebacker that could slide into that role nicely with his raw athleticism and good technique when making tackles.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.67/10
Christian Harris — Alabama
I thought Christian Harris would have a bigger year statistically at Alabama. Still, a lot of the time, he was simply overshadowed on tape by the incredible talents of Will Anderson and Dallas Turner. Make no mistake, he’s still an impact player. He’s a fantastic athlete that has shown the ability to stick in man coverage and enforce against the run. Harris is a really nice looking player for a team looking for an impact player on defense on day two.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.05/10
Leo Chenal — Wisconsin
A strong blitzer and an enforcer in the run game, Leo Chanel made plenty of bone crushing hits at Wisconsin. His tape is very clean, and it’s clear he was asked to do a lot for the Badgers — especially as a pass rusher. Throw in his ridiculous testing numbers, and you’re looking at a real attractive prospect.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.99/10
Nakobe Dean — Georgia
If you’re ranking players in this class and not considering the position, Nakobe Dean may be in my top three overall. Dean is one of the smartest players in college football, and his ability to diagnose offenses pre-snap was a huge part of what made Kirby Smart’s defense tick. There are very few holes in Dean’s game — he can cover in space, defend against the run, and work sideline-to-sideline against screens and jet sweeps. The Mechanical Engineering major should have no issues adjusting to an NFL playbook, and he should be a quality starter in the NFL for a long time.
Relative Athletic Score: N/A
Kyler Gordon — Washington
As is the case with many corners in this class, Gordon is an athletic freak who is a pesky defender in man coverage. Gordon has a nose for the football and always flies to the play on tape. He can get a little overaggressive at times, but if he can play within his bounds, he will be a stud corner on the inside or outside.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.69/10
Andrew Booth Jr. — Cincinnati
In a lot of other classes, Andrew Booth Jr. is the clear-cut CB1. Booth has immaculate ball skills, and I apologize if you’re tired of hearing this — he’s a physical outside corner that can press guys much bigger than he is. Throw in the fact that he has elite ball skills and instincts, and you’re talking about a true potential franchise cornerback for many years.
Relative Athletic Score: N/A
Roger McCreary — Auburn
He wasn’t a big name going into the season, but McCreary showed his chops and good athleticism at Auburn, and he was a menace on the boundary for the Tigers. He covers short routes very well and can press inside or out. He is always around the ball and looks to turn it over, which I love in a defensive back.
Relative Athletic Score: 5.48/10
Nick Cross — Maryland
Cross is a little more sizzle than steak right now, but he has excellent athletic traits and flies all around the football field. He can move down to linebacker and make plays in coverage or support against the run. Cross has sky-high potential, and in a weak safety class, someone will snag him pretty early.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.87/10
Jalen Pitre — Baylor
Pitre was a swiss army knife in Baylor’s defense, and his strong testing numbers have launched him up in a top-heavy safety class. He’s a very willing tackler, and it’s clear he was a leader on a good Baylor defense. If the right defensive coordinator gets ahold of him, he could be a valuable chess piece that makes plays all over the field.
Relative Athletic Score: 8.47/10
Jaquan Brisker — Penn State
This is really where the cream of the crop of this group begins. I think all four of these names have the potential to be quality starters in the NFL almost immediately. Brisker is an athletic freak who can play in the box or as a high safety, and his versatility will make him a valuable chess piece if he lands in the right situation.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.14/10
Photographer: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire
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