Falcons 2023 NFL Draft Big Board: Secondary

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I’m really excited about the cornerbacks in this group, and they are my top priority with the 8th pick. The safeties leave a lot to be desired, but both positions would fill a need for the Falcons. I have some names on this list I’ve previously talked about in my offseason mock draft series linked below:

Previous editions of this series are listed below:

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 Bryce Young likely won’t be available with the 8th overall pick, I’ll act as if the Falcons could trade up and select 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 Secondary

CB AJ Terrell

CB Casey Hayward

CB Darren Hall

CB Mike Hughes

CB Cornell Armstrong

S Jessie Bates III

S Richie Grant

S Jaylinn Hawkins

This is a group I’m keen on improving, especially at cornerback with the 8th pick. Safety could use some help, and this is a draft class with some decent depth at the position.


13. Tyrique Stevenson — Miami

Stevenson is going to get a lot of looks because of his otherworldly length and physicality on the perimeter. He’s a very willing tackler that should be able to contribute on special teams immediately. His technique could use some tuning, but with the right coaching staff, the sky is the limit with his unique build.

RAS: 8.89


12. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson — TCU

The nephew of TCU and NFL Hall of Famer LaDanian Tomlinson, Tre’Vius’ athleticism is apparent — just like his uncle. He’s very technically skilled in man coverage, and he should be able to work into a variety of schemes in the NFL. He didn’t test as well as I had hoped, but I like the upside and his tape.

RAS: 7.96


11. Kyu Blu Kelly — Stanford

I thought Blu Kelly would test a bit better at the combine, but his physical playstyle on the perimeter is still very appealing. He’s a sticky man corner with good ball skills, and there’s a ton of value there as a developmental outside corner who’s best football is probably ahead of him.

RAS: 8.72


11. Garrett Williams — Syracuse

I was high on Williams in the later rounds of the last draft, and he really improved his stock at Syracuse in 2022. He’s a lengthy corner who is extremely violent at the catch point, but unfortunately, he’s still recovering from a torn ACL. I still like the player a lot, and if a team is patient with him, there’s a lot of talent to develop.



10. Deonte Banks — Maryland

Perhaps the biggest winner from the combine, Banks truly did it all, and NFL teams are going to be salivating over him. A 42-inch vertical and 4.35 40-yard dash is going to draw some eyes. He’s a raw ball of clay, but he’s a physical defender with the athletic upside to turn into a star. I’m buying his stock.

RAS: 10.00


9. DJ Turner — Michigan

Part of a stingy Michigan defense, a great combine really helped Turner’s case heading into April. He’s a versatile player with great technique, and his athletic showing in Indianapolis should cement him as a day two pick. He’s a smaller corner and doesn’t have great ball production, but all of the traits are there.

RAS: 9.59


8. Clark Phillips III — Utah

One of the more interesting players in this group, Phillips had fantastic ball production in college with six interceptions and two touchdowns. He’s a willing tackler, but due to his size, he’s probably going to be limited to a nickel role in the NFL. It’s unfortunate because he showed great scheme versatility at Utah, and he’s a super competitive player despite his height. He didn’t test well at the combine, but I’m trusting the tape here.

RAS: 5.56


7. Julius Brents — Kansas State

Brents had a great Senior Bowl, and he possesses rare size and length for the position. He has some issues using that size in man coverage, but he’s an extremely physical tackler that can wear many hats on a defense. His ball production is nice too — four interceptions in 2022-2023. He put on a show in Indy. His 40 was a tad slow, but his leaping ability and agility were something to behold.

RAS: 9.98


6. Kelee Ringo — Georgia

You know this group is deep when Kelee Ringo is clocking in at 6th. The lead corner on one of the best defenses in college football history in 2021, Ringo has been beat a fair share of times, but he’s a fantastic zone corner with the frame to develop into a true CB1 in the NFL. Ringo gets caught jumping early at times, but he still has fantastic instincts and physicality for the position. Agility is a small concern, but I’m still betting on him becoming a great NFL player.

RAS: 8.23


5. Cam Smith — South Carolina

Another super physical corner, Cam Smith’s agility and ability to flip his hips indicates he’s going to be a high-quality NFL starter. He’s extremely violent at the point of attack, and his athletic upside is worthy of getting excited about. If he falls to the second round, plenty of NFL teams will be jumping on their desks for him.

RAS: 9.69


4. Emmanuel Forbes — Mississippi State

My favorite sleeper in this group, I wouldn’t be surprised if Forbes snuck into the end of the first round. Forbes is versatile with great instincts, and he’s a willing tackler to boot. He was tied for the lead in interceptions in college football with six, and recorded six pick sixes for his career. He has the intangibles and the ball production. He should be a priority target for almost every NFL team that needs cornerback help.

RAS: 9.23


3. Joey Porter Jr. — Penn State

The son of Steelers legend Joey Porter, JPJ has exceptional length — easily the best in this class. His instincts at the point of attack are fantastic too, and he’s going to give a lot of wide receivers headaches with his ability to press at the line of scrimmage. He’s a lock to go in the first round, and if he’s taken in the back half, he’s going to make a 2022 playoff team even better.

RAS: 9.72


2. Christian Gonzalez — Oregon

You can’t go wrong with either of the top two guys here. Gonzalez is one of my favorite prospects in this class He has the length and instincts that an NFL corner needs and could absolutely start from day one. There aren’t many red flags with him, and he tested out of his mind in Indy. He’s a lock to be a top ten pick, and he’s an absolute home run prospect.

RAS: 9.95


1. Devon Witherspoon — Illinois

It’s a tough call between Witherspoon and Gonzalez for the top spot here, but I have to give the nod to Witherspoon. He’s a very physical, sticky corner with great length and ball production. He hits like a mack truck, and a sticky man corner who can lock guys up on the boundary with tremendous length is going to be a problem in the NFL. He’s a demon at the point of attack, and he barely edges out Gonzalez for my CB1.





8. Jay Ward — LSU

Ward is a high-energy, versatile piece that can provide run support from multiple positions. He needs to work on his tackling and coverage technique, but in a bad safety class, he may be worth a roll of the dice.

RAS: 6.63


7. Jammie Robinson — Florida State

Robinson profiles as a high-effort box safety with great tackling ability. He shouldn’t be asked to do too much in coverage, but he should be able to contribute immediately on special teams and potentially develop as a complete safety.

RAS: 6.08


6. Brandon Joseph — Notre Dame

Once a potential first-round pick, Joseph saw a dip in production at Notre Dame after transferring from Northwestern. Still, he’s an incredibly smart player with good instincts, and he can still get his career back on track.

RAS: 6.48


5. Christopher Smith II — Georgia

One of the smartest players in this group, Smith was an impact player on two National Championship winning defenses. He can play multiple positions, and his downhill pursuit and coverage skills make him a pretty safe prospect in a weak safety class. Teams will be drawn to his Football IQ and his ability to contribute almost immediately. His testing numbers are a concern; his tape is not.

RAS: 2.90


4. Jordan Battle — Alabama

Battle’s versatility and intelligence will serve him well in the NFL, and like most Nick Saban defensive backs, he’ll be a willing run defender from day one. Like a lot of these guys, he didn’t test very well, but his tape speaks for itself.

RAS: 5.95


3. Antonio Johnson — Texas A&M

Johnson has great size and instincts to be a quality starting safety, but he could profile as a bit of a tweener and didn’t test as well as I had hoped at the combine. He should at least be able to contribute on special teams immediately.

RAS: 5.43


2. Sydney Brown — Illinois

One of the only guys in this group who actually tested out of their minds, Sydney Brown profiles as a versatile player who has the athleticism to wear multiple hats. If I had to bet on the traits of anybody in this class, Brown is going to be my pick.

RAS: 9.67


1. Brian Branch — Alabama

A versatile chess piece, Branch not only offers high-quality zone coverage ability, but he can thump in the box against the run. He didn’t test as well as I thought he would, but this is a thin group, and Branch appears to be the best of the bunch.

RAS: 5.25

Photographer: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire

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