Falcons bolster defense in Todd McShay’s latest two-round mock draft

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The consensus among most mock drafts in regards to the Falcons is defense, which was arguably the worst unit in the NFL last year. Their offense features a pretty good core of weapons, an above average offensive line, and a young quarterback in Desmond Ridder, who the team has given their vote of confidence. However, there’s still plenty of room to improve.

With the Falcons going into the draft in a best player available mindset, don’t count out offensive players with their first two picks. Terry Fontenot and company have already made it clear they don’t care about the feelings of the fans in their first two drafts, and they’ve done a pretty good job.

Bijan Robinson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Paris Johnson Jr. and Anthony Richardson are all enticing offensive prospects that could be available when the Falcons are on the clock, but ESPN’s Todd McShay has Atlanta going defense-defense with their first two picks in the NFL Draft, starting with cornerback Christian Gonzalez.

Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

I thought about Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness for Atlanta, given it ranked worst in sacks in 2021 and second worst in 2022. That said, the pass defense allowed a 67.8% completion percentage (28th) and lacks a long-term option opposite A.J. Terrell at corner. Casey Hayward is entering the final year of his deal and turns 34 in September. Gonzalez is 6-foot-1 and has 4.38 speed and plenty of on-ball production, bringing down four interceptions last season.

Gonzalez is my top corner in the class and one of my favorite overall prospects for the Falcons to consider with the 8th pick. The thought of pairing him with A.J. Terrell and Jessie Bates III is exciting. We’ve seen top rookie cornerbacks come into the league and have immediate impacts at an All-Pro level. If Gonzalez can bring that kind of juice across from Terrell, the Falcons would go from featuring one of the worst secondaries in the NFL to one of the best in one offseason.

With the Falcons second-round pick, McShay has them selecting defensive tackle Keeanu Benton out of Wisconsin.

Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin

This should be an edge rusher, but there just isn’t one with any sort of value on the board. Maybe Atlanta can move back a little bit. But if not, Benton has the quickness and strength to rush on the interior and stuff the run. He’d provide depth behind Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata before turning into a starter.

I would be lying if I said I know a ton about Benton, but any prospect that can contribute across the defensive line is one that should pique the Falcons’ interest. The interior of the defensive line looks much better with David Onyemata and Calais Campbell joining Grady Jarrett, but the depth behind them is still lacking and there isn’t much youth. Adding a younger player to the rotation could be in the cards, especially in the middle rounds.

Photo: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire


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