Falcons can pick up first round talent with their second pick

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The Falcons are in a fortunate position to select a franchise-altering player with the fourth pick, but Terry Fontenot is in an equally fortuitous position with the 35th overall pick because of the first-round talent that inevitably falls into the second round every year. This happens for a wide variety of reasons, but the 2021 draft — like 2018 — could see five quarterbacks go in the first round, which would push first-round caliber players into the second. As I explained in an article about Jaelen Phillips falling to the Falcons in the second, there are a multitude of ways first-round graded prospects free fall in the draft.

“…Laremy Tunsil fell in the 2016 draft after a video surfaced of the former Ole Miss tackle smoking a facemask bong. Dez Bryant fell in the 2010 draft due to off-the-field issues and was subject to the now-infamous question about his mother by the Dolphins general manager in a pre-draft interview — falling all the way to the 24th overall pick. La’el Collins was one of the most unfortunate draft slides in history, as the former LSU Tiger — projected as a top ten pick — was named in a murder investigation two days before the draft. Even though he was never named a suspect, the police didn’t clear him of any wrongdoing until after the draft, and he ended up going undrafted and signed with the Cowboys.”

“Sometimes prospects have major injury concerns that cause their draft stock to plummet. Myles Jack was one of the highest-rated players, but a suspect knee caused his fall to the Jaguars’ 36th overall pick. Jaylon Smith, because of a gruesome knee injury, fell to the Cowboys’ 34th overall pick. Rob Gronkowski was once a sure-fire first-rounder and potential top ten pick during his 2008 college season, but a major back surgery pushed his value down — falling all the way to the 42nd pick.”

For all of these reasons — five potential first-round quarterbacks, off-the-field concerns, and injury histories — the Falcons sit in a prime position to draft an immediate starter in the second round. Here I will briefly analyze some first-round caliber prospects that could fall to Atlanta’s 35th pick.

Jaelen Phillips

Per my article:

Phillips has the ideal combination of size, length, fluidity, and effort to make a difference from the first day of camp. For a man his size, he can dip his shoulder and lean toward the quarterback with ease. His relentlessness is apparent in broken downplays, but his closing speed is on display every time he gets his heavy hands past a tackle or guard. I mentioned his fit in Pees’ defense because of this. At Miami, Phillips rushed from a two-point and three-point stance outside the tackle in a traditional edge alignment and inside over the guard in sub-packages. At the very least, the still 21-year-old is capable of setting the edge as a run defender.

Caleb Farley

For similar reasons as Phillips, the former Virginia Tech cornerback could fall to the Falcons’ second-round pick. He is a top ten pick but underwent a microdiscectomy before his pro day. Farley has every quality of a starting NFL cornerback: excellent size, great length, loose and fluid in coverage, outstanding ball skills, quick feet, and eye-popping straight-line speed. The procedure he underwent has been described as “non-serious,” and Farley should be available by training camp. But he was already a player with some medical concerns as he tore his ACL back in 2017 and then dealt with recurring back spasms in 2019, which eventually cost him the last two games of that season.

Greg Newsome

Many think, our own Jake Gordon being one, that Newsome might be one of the best cornerbacks in this draft. This is from Jake’s piece on the former Northwestern Wildcat:

“While I think Surtain and Farley both have very good qualities, they both come with some concerns. Surtain doesn’t possess top-end speed, which may cause issues against burners in one-on-one coverage. Farley is supremely athletic, but he has injury concerns and is pretty new to the position. The more tape I watch of Greg Newsome II, the more I’m convinced he can be a lockdown corner in the NFL. The trendy comparison right now is to Jaire Alexander, but Newsome is even bigger and faster.”

Carlos Basham

Dean Pees needs a dense, powerful, and versatile edge to play in his defense. Basham has a skill set that should appeal to Terry Fontenot and Pees — stout at the point of attack in the run game. He can then win in pass-rushing situations with his power because his bend and hand usage aren’t quite where it needs to be. At the Senior Bowl, the former Deacon was a handful for every interior offensive lineman — able to win with quickness against the slower guards and centers. This kind of versatility should intrigue Pees, who loves to kick bigger ends inside on rushing downs in subpackage personnel.

Gregory Rousseau

Rousseau is another pass rusher who is incredibly gifted but doesn’t possess refined pass-rushing skills. If Fontenot selects him, it will be with the coaching staff’s intent to be patient to develop him into what they project him as. He opted out of the 2020 season but produced 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks in 2019. The length Rousseau possesses doesn’t take away from his ability to sink his hips and bend around the edge or redirect. His functional strength is already there to hold his gap in the run game, though his frame says he can pack on a few more pounds.

Joe Tyron

NFL Network reporter Chad Reuter described Tryon as perfectly as anyone could as he is appealing to multiple teams due to his position versatility. “His 2019 tape was good enough to show that he can emulate the career of Pro Bowl edge rusher Za’Darius Smith,” Reuter wrote in his scouting report. “He can play with his hand down or standing up on the edge which is a big plus for teams looking to mix up their fronts. … Quarterbacks find it difficult trying to elude Tryon because of his strength, closing speed and agility.” Green Bay uses Smith as a stand-up edge on early downs then kicks him inside to rush over guards and centers on obvious passing downs. This is exactly how Pees uses his edges; the fit is seamless.

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