Following their loss to the Bucs on Sunday, the Falcons are now 4-10 and would select 5th in the draft if it were today. That draft position could get even better before the end of the season with Atlanta’s final two games on the road versus Kansas City and Tampa Bay. With a top-five selection, the Falcons will essentially have their pick of the litter, especially if a new general manager and head coach want to make a splash and move up even further — perhaps for the heir to Matt Ryan.
The only player who is off the table is Trevor Lawrence. He’s a generational NFL prospect and head and shoulders over any of the other quarterbacks in this draft. He’s going #1 overall, and the Falcons aren’t going to pull the trigger on the type of deal it would take to move up that high. However, with the way things are shaping up, everyone else seems to be in play, especially if the Falcons lose their last two games. So here are the top five prospects I would like to see the new regime pick up in the first round of the draft.
5. Micah Parsons
Parsons was one of the first college players to announce they would opt-out of the 2020 season, and with the way the Big 10 handled the coronavirus, I can’t blame him. He is undoubtedly one of the most complete prospects in this draft, and if the Falcons didn’t have a deep linebacking core already, I would probably have him higher on this list.
At 6’2″, 245 pounds, Parsons has a tremendous build for the position to go along with elite sideline to sideline speed. The last time we saw him play, he was all over the field for the Nittany Lions, racking up 107 total tackles, 14 of which went for a loss, five sacks, four forced fumbles, and he also defended five passes. Parsons is an all-around superstar that stuffs the stat sheet. Linebacker may not be the Falcons most significant need, but we’ve seen what defenses can do with two elite middle linebackers, and Foye Oluokun is set to become a free agent after next season. Deion Jones and Micah Parsons could give the Falcons the best linebacking duo for years to come.
4. Patrick Surtain/Caleb Farley
I put these two together because I believe they are the two best corner prospects in this draft. Surtain has shown some warts throughout his college career, but he’s having his best season for the Crimson Tide and possesses the ideal size for a shutdown corner in the NFL at 6’2″, weighing over 200 pounds. Putting him across from A.J. Terrell would give the Falcons a lot more depth at the cornerback position something that’s been an Achilles heel for them this season. Farley is a similarly built corner with many of the same traits as Surtain. The Falcons could fall in love with one or both of these guys; however, it may be best for them to trade back and take them, given how other teams may covet a top-five selection with so many elite prospects available.
3. Gregory Rousseau
Like Parsons, we didn’t get to see Rousseau play in 2020, which is unfortunate, but you can’t blame any of the players who decided to opt-out. As far as pass-rushing prospects go in this draft class, Rousseau can stake his claim as the cream of the crop. In 2019, he tallied 15.5 sacks to go along with his 19.5 tackles for loss.
Rousseau has a ridiculous frame at 6’7″, 255 pounds and was dominant in pretty much every game he played last season with the Hurricanes. If you’ve watched the Falcons for a while, you know how desperate they have been for a pass rush. It’s been over a decade since they really have had a pass rusher worth his weight. Dante Fowler has proven to be a huge bust. Takk McKinley is gone. The Falcons need to add to their defensive front. Pairing Rousseau with Grady Jarrett would be a fantastic start.
2. Penei Sewell
Even though Trevor Lawrence will undoubtedly go first overall, Penei Sewell may be the most complete prospect in this draft. According to PFF, he was the highest-graded offensive lineman since they started scouting college football in 2014, receiving an outstanding grade of 95.5. Simply put — Sewell was nearly perfect in 2019. However, like most of the prospects on this list, he opted-out of the 2020 season, but that won’t affect his draft stock at all. Sewell is clearly one of the best offensive tackle prospects we’ve ever seen and will be the first lineman off the board.
At 6’6″, 330 pounds, he has ideal size for the position, and he pairs that with a unique blend of quickness and athleticism. His strong hands and balance make him fantastic in pass protection, but he also possesses some nastiness to him, which — along with his athleticism — allows him to thrive when run-blocking. Sewell loves to get out into the second and third levels, looking for that highlight-reel block.
The Falcons have spent a lot of money and draft capital patching up their offensive line. But while it has improved, there is still some work to be done, especially at right tackle. Kaleb McGary is far from a sure-thing after two seasons as the starter. If Sewell is there for the taking when the Falcons are on the clock, he may be too superior of a talent to pass up. Pairing him with Jake Matthews should give Matt Ryan some of the best protection he’s had in his entire career, which will be necessary as his age begins to show.
1. Justin Fields
With Trevor Lawrence a virtual lock to #1 overall, most think Justin Fields is the next best thing at the quarterback position in this draft. Some may disagree, and there are many other signal-callers to choose from. Still, I’m siding with the majority in the feeling that Fields has the potential to be a franchise-altering quarterback for whoever selects him.
In his first year as a starter with the Buckeyes, Fields showed incredible ability as a passer, tossing 41 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions. He also added nearly 500 yards on the ground with ten scores. Fields hasn’t protected the ball as well this year, throwing five interceptions in just six games, and some will look at the Big 10 championship as a reason why he might not be fit to go second overall. However, he’s played most of his games this season without a large part of the starting offense, thanks to the coronavirus, and he has still managed to complete over 72% of his passes, accounting for 20 total touchdowns. He’s got talent — both as a passer and an athlete — that you just cannot teach, and his game is tailor-made for today’s NFL.
Despite some struggles this season, the general consensus is that Fields will go #2 overall. That would mean the Falcons would likely have to trade up to snag him — a scenario our own Jake Gordon brought up yesterday. That would be difficult to do, given how high the price tag would be, but if somehow he fell a couple spots, I’m not sure how the Falcons could pass on him.
Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
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