The Falcons still need some help at EDGE, and free agency did them very few favors. There weren’t many options to spend on, and while this draft class has a few good players, they shouldn’t feel boxed into the position going into the draft. I have some names on this list I’ve previously talked about in my offseason mock draft series linked below:
- Falcons: Offseason 2023 Mock Draft 1.0 (5 Rounds)
- Falcons: Offseason 2023 Mock Draft 2.0 — Post Senior Bowl (5 Rounds)
- Falcons: Offseason 2023 Mock Draft 3.0 — Post Combine (5 Rounds)
- Falcons: Offseason 2023 Mock Draft 4.0 — Post Tampering Period (5 Rounds)
- Falcons: Offseason 2023 Mock Draft 5.0 — Trade Down Scenario (5 Rounds)
- Falcons: Offseason 2023 Mock Draft 6.0 — Trade Up Scenario (5 Rounds)
Previous editions of this series are listed below:
- Falcons 2023 NFL Draft Big Board: Quarterbacks
- Falcons 2023 NFL Draft Big Board: Running Backs
- Falcons 2023 NFL Draft Big Board: Wide Receivers
- Falcons 2023 NFL Draft Big Board: Tight Ends
- Falcons 2023 NFL Draft Big Board: Interior Defensive Line
I’ll be evaluating players by multiple criteria. I like to mainly focus on traits and intangibles. Since we don’t get access to one-on-one team interviews and medicals, unfortunately, I just have to do my best in that aspect. Additionally, I’ll be doing prospects the Falcons may not be in range for. For example, even though Will Anderson Jr. likely won’t be available with the 8th overall pick, I’ll act as if the Falcons could trade up for any player.
I’ll also be referencing Relative Athletic Score, which is a number from 0 to 10 that combines athletic scores from the combine, with 10 being the best. If you want to check it out, click the link here. Let’s get started!
Current Rostered EDGE
This group needs some help, but is the answer another rookie? Possibly with the 8th overall pick, but there’s some value down the board. We’ll see if the Falcons prioritize the position.
20. Andre Carter II — Army
Once pegged as a potential top ten pick, Carter simply didn’t have the production in 2022 to warrant a higher ranking. His size and athleticism are undeniable — he’s a freak of nature. However, his bend and technique left a LOT to be desired. He’s a high character kid with a lot of the traits you want, but he really flopped in 2022. With proper coaching, he can still be a quality pro. His poor showing at the combine didn’t do him many favors.
19. Ali Gaye — LSU
Although inconsistent at times, Gaye has a lot of splash moments on tape. With his size and athletic gifts, he has the makeup of a quality NFL pass rusher. If a coach can put it together, he’ll be a tremendous value pick.
18. Nick Herbig — Wisconsin
Even though he’s ranked a bit low, make no mistake, Herbig is a big-time sleeper. What he lacks in size and versatility he makes up for with a hot motor and refined pass rush technique. He has a high floor, but he may be maxed out as a prospect. If he isn’t, don’t be surprised if we’re talking about him as a big-time steal in a few years.
17. Robert Beal — Georgia
The leader in sacks on arguably the greatest defense in modern college football history, Beal had to step in for Adam Anderson in 2021 and played well for Kirby Smart. Beal’s a strong man with a very hot motor, and if he can develop a plan as a pass rusher, he should be able to find some snaps in the NFL.
16. Will McDonald IV — Iowa State
A Senior Bowl standout, McDonald has great length for the position and plays with a ton of effort — two qualities NFL teams will covet. He really doesn’t have a plan as a pass rusher and used his frame to dominate in college, but with proper coaching, he could be a day two gem.
15. KJ Henry — Clemson
The former five star Henry was never the dominant player some thought he would be at Clemson, but he was still an important piece of a really solid defense. He has the frame and length for the position, but he never put a ton on tape. There’s still some upside for him to develop into a solid NFL EDGE.
14. Zach Harrison — Ohio State
Once a projected top pick, I still like the upside of Zach Harrison later in this draft. His frame is exactly what you want out of a pass rusher, and he has the athletic gifts to match. He was a bit of a streaky player in college, but if he can refine his technique and plan as a pass rusher, he could be an absolute steal.
13. Byron Young — Tennessee
Young isn’t the biggest pass rusher on this list, but he certainly has a ton of energy off the line of scrimmage and the bend NFL teams want. He has immediate upside as a designated pass rusher that can rotate in on obvious passing downs. He had a great combine — we’ll see if he can build off of that.
12. Colby Wooden — Auburn
Wooden has the build you want in an EDGE defender, and his best football is almost certainly ahead of him. He was a big piece of Auburn’s pass rush alongside Derick Hall, and Wooden provides a lot of value for teams on day two who need developmental pass rushers.
11. Isaiah Foskey — Notre Dame
A big winner from the 2023 Senior Bowl, Foskey was dominant in his one-on-ones, mostly due to his burst off of the edge. He was a team captain that his teammates raved about — the heart and soul of Marcus Freeman’s defense. He’s a great upside play on day two in the draft, and his floor should be pretty high with what he can do coming out of college.
10. Dylan Horton — TCU
One of my favorite sleepers, Horton has a motor that simply doesn’t quit. His technique needs some work, but he has the burst and athleticism to go along with his attitude on the field to develop into a high-quality NFL pass rusher.
9. BJ Ojulari — LSU
The brother of Azeez Ojulari, BJ also projects as a high second-round pick. He’s one of those guys who just looks so fluid on tape; he glides to the quarterback and has the athletic gifts to succeed in the NFL. He’ll need to add some functional strength and arm length is a concern, but I like his upside on day two.
8. Derick Hall — Auburn
If you’re looking for an impact run defender from day one — Derick Hall may just be your guy. He has the athletic gifts to develop into a really good pass rusher, but he can contribute on run downs right away. His technique is raw, but what he does show is really impressive.
7. Keion White — Georgia Tech
White was an exciting player to watch on a pretty bad Georgia Tech defense — he really stands out. He’s a freak athlete who played all over their defensive front and did everything pretty well. His technique is pretty raw, but you can tell he’s a great talent who can become a really good player with the right coaching.
6. Felix Anudike-Uzomah — Kansas State
Anudike-Uzomah is a very strong man teams will covet up front, and his motor runs red hot when he’s out on the field. As strong as he is, he has fantastic bend and looks effortless at times when getting to the quarterback. He hasn’t played as much as some of these other guys, but I’d bet on his upside any day of the week.
5. Lukas Van Ness — Iowa
Van Ness is a mountain of a man, and he plays as strong as he looks. His 4.58 at the combine was very impressive; he moves like a guy half his size. He isn’t very experienced, but he has great bend and tons of room to develop. I really like his upside; he’s a little more sizzle than steak right now, but there’s a hell of a lot of sizzle here.
4. Myles Murphy — Clemson
Murphy has the combination of athletic gifts and pass rush instincts you want to see in a player, and coaches and teammates rave about his leadership and character. He profiles as a 4-3 defensive end, but I think he’s the type of athlete that can move all over a defense. The sky is the limit for him, but most importantly, I think his floor is very high.
3. Nolan Smith — Georgia
One of the highest ranked recruits in Georgia football history, the Savannah native is sure to fly up draft boards after a fantastic combine. Smith is often praised for his character, so his interviews likely went just as well. A torn pec cut his second season short, but Kirby Smart described him as an extra coach on the sidelines for every game. Length is a concern, but Smith is a fantastic player and teammate, and his upside indicates his best football may be ahead of him. I expect Smith to have a long and productive NFL career.
2. Tyree Wilson — Texas Tech
One of the more intriguing prospects of this group, Wilson has been a trendy mock draft pick for the Falcons. He can play all over a defensive front, and his frame, especially his wingspan, makes him look like he was built in a lab. He may not end up being a true EDGE, but he has the makeup of a really dominant player up front.
1. Will Anderson Jr. — Alabama
Potentially the best player in this entire class, Anderson showed that he’s the cream of the crop from the moment he stepped on the field for Nick Saban. Anderson is a tenacious pass rusher and dominant as a run defender. With his build and athleticism, he’s one of the cleanest prospects in this entire draft. There really isn’t much else to say — the kid is special.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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