ESPN re-drafts the Falcons first two picks of the 2023 NFL Draft

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When the Falcons selected Bijan Robinson with the 8th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, it was met with criticism. Not because the Texas product wasn’t talented — by many accounts, he was the most NFL ready player in the draft — but because of his positional value as a running back, and the Falcons needs on the defensive side of the ball.

Off-the-field concerns led to Jalen Carter — once a projected top three pick in the draft — falling right into Atlanta’s lap, but they chose to ignore one of their most glaring holes in favor of Robinson. That also ruffled the feathers of a lot of Georgia fans, many of whom cheer for the Falcons as well. But if we could go back in time, would Terry Fontenot and company do anything different?

ESPN’s team of writers recently re-drafted the first two rounds of last year’s draft, and despite Carter showing a lot of promise as a rookie, Falcons beat reporter Michael Rothstein still has Atlanta sticking with Robinson over the Georgia product.

8. Atlanta Falcons

Original pick: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
New pick: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Yes, there was criticism about Robinson’s usage this season, but he was still an extremely effective playmaker with 272 touches, 1,463 yards and eight touchdowns. Plus, his route running — something he was learning as a rookie — will continue to improve. Robinson has the capabilities of becoming a star in an offense that has high-level players at receiver (Drake London) and tight end (Kyle Pitts) as well. Taking defensive tackle Jalen Carterhere was tempting, but like the Falcons did last year, I chose to pass him up. — Mike Rothstein

It’s fair to say Robinson’s rookie campaign was a bit underwhelming, but it was to no fault of his own. He came as advertised, more elusive than just about any running back in the NFL. The problem was the way Arthur Smith utilized him. Fans were sold on Robinson being this offensive weapon, used heavily in both the rushing and passing attacks. We saw that at times, but not nearly frequently enough. Hopefully, that changes under Zac Robinson. Because if it does, Robinson has legitimate Offensive Player of the Year potential.

Still, it’s difficult to ignore what Jalen Carter could add to the Falcons defensive front. He was a force as a rookie and looks to be on track to becoming one of the premier defensive tackles in the game. In my opinion, that’s too good to pass up given how much the Falcons have struggled across their defensive line over the last couple of decades.

With their second-round selection, the Falcons were forced to pivot because their original pick — Matthew Bergeron — was re-drafted 41st overall by the Tennessee Titans. In the real draft, the Falcons traded up to the 38th pick to snag Bergeron, and I imagine they would do the same in a re-draft. Bergeron started all 17 games for the Falcons, and while he went through some typical rookie struggles, he and Chris Lindstrom are poised to be a menacing guard duo for years to come.

In the re-draft, Michael Rothstein had the Falcons sticking with the offensive line, taking Cody Mauch out of North Dakota State.

44. Atlanta Falcons

Original pick: JuJu Brents, CB, Kansas State (IND pick from ATL trade)
New pick: Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State

Matthew Bergeron, whom the Falcons traded up to get in the real draft at No. 38, is gone here. They would still need a left guard in this scenario, and while Mauch played right guard for Tampa Bay, they could ask him to switch. He had the third-best run block win rate among rookie guards (72.5%) but had some struggles in pass protection. Considering Atlanta wanted to run the ball in 2023, Mauch makes sense with Bergeron, Steve Avila and Joe Tippmann off the board. — Mike Rothstein

Like Bergeron, Mauch was a much better run blocker than he was in pass protection. I’m very happy with the Falcons decision to trade up and take Bergeron. Continuity on the offensive line is essential to success, and they look to have three very promising young pieces in Lindstrom, Bergeron, and Drew Dalman, but Mauch wouldn’t have been a bad selection either. I expect both Mauch and Bergeron to have very good careers after encouraging rookie campaigns.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire


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