The only thing worse than having to wait a month to come out with a fresh mock draft is waiting for the NFL Draft itself. We are around seven weeks away from draft day, and the NFL Combine is officially in the books. While the Combine is far from a foolproof system of evaluating a player, it is excellent for confirming or debunking certain qualities and getting to know them at a personal level. I am sure more fans had a chance to watch some workouts due to the NFL changing their broadcast to prime time, and I think that’s fantastic. Now that we have a little more of a taste of these players, we start to see their draft value rise or fall, for better or worse.
Round 1, Pick 16: DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
I am not quite sure I am buying the notion that Kinlaw will be available at this spot. In my opinion, he has no business going this late, but I have seen a handful of mocks starting to project him here, and it is looking more and more of a possibility. If this is the case, Thomas Dimitroff should be putting his track shoes on to run to the podium. Kinlaw would pair with Grady Jarrett to become one of the best units upfront in the entire league and would go a long way in fixing their pass-rushing issues. He has elite size and has already been a very productive player, but many scouts feel he is just scratching the surface of what he can accomplish. Kinlaw has the makings of a future star in this league, and the Falcons could use an extra body on their defensive line.
Round 2, Pick 47: EDGE Josh Uche, Michigan
It appears that my draft crush, Bradlee Anae, has boosted his draft stock into the late first/early second round, and is no longer of consideration at this spot. So I turned to his counterpart at the Senior Bowl, Josh Uche. Anae ended up with three sacks and a forced interception, but it was Uche who came away graded as Pro Football Focus’ top player in the game. He was able to produce 5 QB pressures over 11 pass-rushing snaps. In the practices, he could be stopped by no one. It’s no secret that the Falcons’ most significant need is an EDGE rusher. Kinlaw at 16 was too good a value to pass up, but selecting him should make things easier for Uche, who would go a long way in rebuilding the defensive line, especially if the Falcons pair him with a free agent pass rusher as well.
Uche uses his long arms and elite lower body movement to get to the QB but has shown promise as well playing off-ball, where he spent around 30% of his snaps. He has an ideal combination of speed and length, though he can afford to add some more weight. A versatile piece that Dan Quinn could have some fun with, Uche may fit best at WILL linebacker in the NFL. He is essentially a hybrid between an EDGE rusher and a linebacker, and this versatility is why Uche has become such an early riser in the NFL Draft process.
Round 2, Pick 55: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
The Falcons met with a laundry list of running backs at this year’s Combine, signifying a change of the guard at the position. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is in my big-three at running back alongside J.K. Dobbins, and Jonathan Taylor, who was featured in my last mock draft. Taylor’s ridiculous 40-yard dash time likely shot him up draft boards, but no need to freat: CEH has Mark Ingram with better pass-catching ability written all over him. He may not be the fastest back in the open field, but he has elite vision and decision-making ability to open up big runs and is the type of back who is harder to stop as the game goes on.
Don’t be misled by his power, though. Clyde is a very shifty back who rushed for 6.6 yards per carry last season. Creative and slippery may be the best way to describe his style of play. His ability to catch balls out of the backfield, as well as his toughness as a pass blocker, is criminally underrated. Bringing in a dynamic running back with fresh legs that can assume some of the short passing duties for Matt Ryan with the expected departure of Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman makes Edwards-Helaire a fantastic pick in the late second.
Round 3, Pick 78: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia
Personally, I think Bryce Hall is a first-round talent, but coming off a season-ending injury and not playing for a powerhouse program, things are shaping up for him to be a day two pick. Falcons quarterback Kurt Benkert was a teammate of Hall’s at Virginia, and was kind enough to offer some insight about Hall as a draft prospect on our podcast:
“I think he would be a huge asset. He should fit the defensive scheme too.”
“You see him as a top 10 pick this year if he does not get hurt.”
“He’s tall, he’s long, he always has good body position and he’s a huge student of the game. He loves the technical side of football probably more than anyone I have been around.”
“If you want a guy who can shut down the number one receiver, then he is the guy who will give you the best chance with his skillset.”
From all accounts, Hall is a standup guy and teammate. The NFL has become obsessed with big, long corners, which makes me feel as if it will just take one team to fall in love with Hall. With him not being able to participate in individual drills at the NFL Combine, however, his stock is up in the air.
Hall plays with a ton of physicality, and draft evaluators seem to be underrating his quickness. He is also a super underrated tackler who can set the edge and help stop the running back when called upon.
Round 4, Pick 116: TE Harrison Bryant, FAU
With Austin Hooper likely gone, it makes a ton of sense to draft a tight end here, especially one so talented. Bryant is coming off a 1,000-yard season for FAU, an uncommon stat line in college. Many have compared him to former Ravens TE Dennis Pitta, and his receiving ability is unquestioned. The one substantial question mark surrounding Bryant is his blocking, but he made some nasty blocks in the Senior Bowl, showing this is an area he can improve upon. Bryant is going to be an outstanding NFL player, and while it is hard to rely on rookie tight ends for production, he would be a step up from the Falcons’ internal options if Hooper walks. I am going bold here: Harrison Bryant is my top tight end in this class.
Round 5, Pick 158: WR K.J. Hill, Ohio State
I actually think that Russell Gage will have an excellent 2020 as the Falcons’ third receiver, but in the fifth round, Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill was too good a value to pass on and helps rebuild the team’s depth at the position following the trade of Mohamed Sanu. Hill did not blow away any draft scouts with his 40-time, but that was to be expected. He gets by on his impeccable route-running ability. I think most years, Hill would present a third-round value, but this receiver class is just stupid deep this year. He will never be a superstar but can become a starting-caliber NFL receiver, and offers some reliable hands at the position, which made him Ohio State’s all-time receptions leader.
Round 7, Pick 229: K Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia
The Falcons have made it known they want to bring in some kicker competition for Younghoe Koo. While I think he was promising for Atlanta last season, Blankenship has the talent to become a franchise kicker. Over his career at Georgia, he finished with a 82.5 field goal percentage, good for 4th All-Time in the SEC. Blankenship has also shown some range with a career-best 55-yard field goal against Oklahoma back in 2018. Last season he won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top kicker. With this just being a 7th round pick, why not roll the dice?