The college football regular season has come to an end. The playoff picture is shaping up with Georgia fighting for their lives, and Utah and Oklahoma on the outside looking in. If you’re like me, and your team is not in playoff consideration (my Alabama Crimson Tide let me down this year), you are merely looking for entertaining games and players who stick out as prospects for the next level.
The Falcons will require an overhaul of their coaching staff, and they may even have a new general manager. But these big games against top competition are when you see what these prospects are made of. Regardless of whether it is Dimitroff or somebody else, they will undoubtedly be watching tape from this weekend. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some prospects that will be on display who can fill a need for the Falcons in 2020.
Oregon vs. Utah
The Utah EDGE rusher has flown up draft boards in his senior season. He has a full bag of pass-rushing tricks from hand usage to explosiveness to complement great size at 6’3″, 265 lbs. He tied the Utah single-season sack record with 12.5 last weekend, so he will be looking to notch at least one more against the Ducks.
Moss may get lost in a deep group of running backs this season, but he is very talented and brings more to the table than what is on the current roster, assuming Devonta Freeman is cut. Moss is a big bruiser who has 16 TDs on the year and has even developed as a pass-catcher. The cousin of former receiver Santana Moss, Zack, is being underlooked by pro scouts. He has carried the load for a team that is potentially playoff-bound and can be a three-down back at the next level.
The Ducks are strong up front, and they have a trio of lineman that possess the potential to play on Sundays. The Falcons have to patch themselves up in the trenches. Keep an eye on Jake Hanson, Calvin Throckmorton, and Shane Lemieux.
The top coverage man on one of the best defenses in college football, Johnson will find himself playing on NFL Sundays soon. He is a former top recruit who will likely need some fine-tuning from NFL Coaches, but his natural ability alone will allow him to declare after this being his junior season.
Baylor vs. Oklahoma
Humphrey was the lone returning starter on this Sooners O-Line, and he has been a force in 2019. He will be a starting interior lineman at the next level and could be a great selection by the Falcons to bolster themselves in the trenches.
Kenneth Murray has been one of the most productive linebackers in the country over the last two seasons for the Sooners. He has combined for 240 tackles, including 25.5 for a loss, and 7.5 sacks during this time. Murray is a playmaker who can play in zone, run sideline to sideline, and is a powerful blitzer. He looks like he can be a difference-maker at the next level.
Lynch has had a breakout 2019 for Baylor that has put him on the radar of a ton of NFL teams. The defensive tackle has 15.5 tackles for loss to go with 10.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on the season. The Falcons need pass rush help any way they can get it, and Lynch could be a disruptor on the defensive line.
Appalachian State vs. Louisiana
Davis-Gaither of Appalachian State is a small school outside linebacker with a chance to be a run stopper at the next level. He has 13.5 tackles for loss this season, but his size will be a concern in the pros. He may need to beef up, but he is a very instinctive talented player who is flying up draft boards.
UAB vs. FAU
The Falcons would love to retain Austin Hooper, but given their cap situation, you can’t keep everyone. Expectations should be minuscule for rookie tight ends regardless, but Harrison Bryant of FAU could be an excellent weapon for Matt Ryan down the road. He’s big at 6’5″, 240 lbs., and is close to posting a 1,000-yard season as a tight end. He will need to improve as a blocker but would be a quality mid-round selection to address the position in the long-term.
Cincinnati vs. Memphis
Michael Warren II
It would probably be in Michael Warren II’s best interest to return for his senior year and further boost his draft stock, but he has a chance to make the jump to the NFL as a late-round pick. This is a deep class for 2020, but Warren is certainly a guy who could have an NFL future. He is a shorter back but very compact and powerful.
Boise State vs. Hawaii
Curtis Weaver is an EDGE rusher from Boise State that Falcons fans must keep an eye on. He has 34 sacks in his 3-year career and is likely to enter the 2020 NFL Draft. He is not a physical specimen and will need more size for the NFL, but he could be a mid-to-late round option that ends up addressing their pass-rushing needs.
Molchon is a big boy at 6’5″, 320 lbs., who has shown a ton of versatility in college, playing all over the Boise State line. He could be a mid-round option to help solidify the Dirty Birds in the trenches.
Georgia vs. LSU
LSU Offensive Line (Damien Lewis, Saahdiq Charles, Lloyd Cushenberry)
LSU’s line has been terrific, making life a whole lot easier for the likes of Joe Burrow and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Damien Lewis looks like a mid-round pick as an interior lineman, though there are questions about his length. Saahdiq Charles is likely to return to school but has a chance to go to the draft if he gets a good grade from some teams. He serves as the left tackle and is a massive human being. Lloyd Cushenberry may be the best of the bunch. He is the center and likely a mid-round pick capable of playing any interior line position at the next level.
Joe Burrow has gotten most of the love during his Heisman season, and rightfully so. But Edwards-Helaire has arguably been just as crucial to the Tigers’ 2019 success. He is stocky and short, but extremely shifty and can be a three-down back at the next level. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry this year to go with 43 receptions and 17 touchdowns – a well rounded back who should be a starter in the NFL. He has been unstoppable in the season’s second half.
Chaisson’s biggest question was his pass-rushing ability coming into this season. He’s only racked up 3.5 sacks but has shown elite athleticism and versatility. His ACL tear last season clouds the waters as well. Chaisson has a legitimate chance to go as high as the first round, but the Falcons may want someone who has more production attacking the QB. With that being said, he possesses the athleticism and the build but needs to learn a signature pass-rush move, and he could be a star.
Swift will not be 100% for this contest but should play Saturday. He is next in the line of former Georgia running backs to become stars in the pros. Swift is coming off his second straight 1,000 yard season for the Bulldogs and is the most talented player on their offense. He is an elite athlete and a big play, home run threat. The biggest question will be his durability due to his size, so it will be interesting to see how healthy he is on Saturday.
Georgia’s O-Line has done a great job of keeping Jake Fromm on his feet. A big reason why is Solomon Kindley, one of the top interior linemen in this year’s class and likely a second-round pick, but the sky is the limit. Kindley has been a riser in the draft process, and due to his combination of size and athleticism, he is projected to be a plus in run and pass blocking and may be able to contribute to an NFL team out of the gate.
Kindley is impressive, but Andrew Thomas is projected to be a superstar at the next level. He looks like a left tackle produced in a laboratory, and there are no glaring holes in his game. He comes from a pro-style offense and seems ready to be a franchise left tackle, perhaps for Matt Ryan until he calls it a career. Thomas would change the entire dynamic of the Falcons’ offensive line.
Rashard Lawrence is a guy the Falcons may have sitting on their draft board around the 3rd round this year. He could have entered the draft last season but returned to Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, he has not been quite as good, and he missed some time early in the season. Nevertheless, his skill set and versatility will have some team take a chance on him, and he can probably contribute as a rotational player early on.
Phillips is likely to be a top 100 pick after his standout performance for the Tigers this year, totaling 95 tackles, 7 of which went for a loss. Phillips has replaced Devin White as the Tigers’ signal-caller and shown off his elite coverage skills. He also is enormous for a middle linebacker at 6’4″, 230 lbs. We don’t know what type of defense the new coaching staff will incorporate next year for the Falcons, but if they decide to run a 3-4, Phillips could shine next to the likes of Deion Jones.
Fulton is one of the best, if not the best, cornerbacks in this year’s draft class, and he is a lock to be a first-round pick despite a tampered drug test and tackling concerns. Fulton is elite in coverage, especially press-man, and should be a considerable problem for Georgia on Saturday considering they are missing Lawrence Cager for the game and George Pickens in the first half.
Clemson vs. Virginia
Etienne is a super talented running back who should be a starter on Sundays. This is the second consecutive season he has rushed for over 1,000 yards and averaged over 8 yards per carry. He could be a great selection with one of the Falcons second-round picks in an effort to revive their run game and get a playmaker with fresh legs. Sure, Clemson has not played the best competition, but his speed and burst are evident the second you see him handed the ball. He will be a good one.
Mack is one of the premier talents on this UVA linebacking core that has been among the best in the ACC. He should be a mid to late-round pick as a middle linebacker. What is impressive is how Mack has been able to get to the QB from this spot, with 7.5 sacks.
Terrell has been a fantastic corner for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers, and many, as of now, are projecting him to be a second-round pick. At 6’2,” he has great size and length for a corner. Scouts will also love his discipline.
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
The creme of the crop. Falcons fans would give anything for Chase Young, and for a good reason. He is a superstar in the making and one of the best pass rushers I have ever seen. He has a ridiculous 16.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, and that is with him missing a couple of games. Young could turn the Falcons into a playoff team overnight.
Jonathan Taylor is one of the premier backs in this year’s draft class, and a big reason why is his clear three-down back skillset. Wisconsin used him more as a receiver this season, en route to posting 25 total touchdowns. The Badgers go as far as Taylor does. He is a guy the Falcons could look at with their second-round pick if they want a playmaker at the running back position.
Okudah is an elite corner for Ohio State who has a good chance to go in the top 10 of this year’s draft. He is an elite athlete with excellent cover skills and recovery speed. He also has fantastic ball skills, with three picks and six pass deflections on the season.
Senior linebacker Malik Harrison has been a force for Ohio State this season, racking up 16.5 tackles for loss. As a result, he’s worked his draft stock up into the day two range. He has only missed two tackles all season, and despite living in the shadow of Chase Young, he has a bright future in his own right.
Biadasz is the number 1 center prospect heading into next year’s NFL Draft. He displays natural strength behind his massive build and has been a force on Wisconsin’s line for years now. He’s as good a blocker as they get, moving defensive lineman wherever he feels best suited with ease. It will be fun to watch him go up against the likes of Ohio State on Saturday, though I do not think the odds are in the Badgers’ favor.
Another back the Falcons could take a long look at in the second round. Dobbins has been exceptional for the Buckeyes this season, posting 1,857 scrimmage yards and 21 total touchdowns. He has a unique blend of speed, jukes, and power. He should be a starting running back in the NFL before long, and a good one at that.
Wade has been another stud member of Ohio State’s secondary. He is likely a day two selection. However, there is a strong chance he will not play Saturday.
Hamilton could be an exciting day two or day three pick if they are looking for more big bodies on the defensive line. He has been a force up front for Ohio State and has posted eight tackles for loss and five sacks from the defensive tackle position. Finally, in his senior season, Hamilton has paired production with his freak of nature size. He has played his way up on draft boards this year and will continue to work hard to keep up that ascent. Keep an eye on him.