The series rolls on! If you missed any of my previous entries, you can find them here:
Terry Fontenot has made it clear that his strategy will be selecting the best player available, but I’ll be considering need a little more with my board. I’ve traded down twice in one of my mock drafts to get into this range, so I’m not afraid to select a prospect on this list.
8. EDGE Gregory Rousseau
Rousseau has all of the tools to develop into an All-Pro edge rusher, but he’s one of the few guys who probably lost some money by sitting out. Looking at his tape, he has all of the physical gifts and athleticism, but he’s strictly used those tools to get the 15.5 sacks he got at Miami in 2019. Rousseau does a lot of bullying on the interior to get to the quarterback. He also ran into a lot of sacks. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t see that being his role in Atlanta if they move to the 3-4 defense that’s being rumored. Rousseau has all of the potential in the world, but like with Kwity Paye, he’s too much of a project for me to take early in the first round.
7. OT/G Jalen Mayfield
Interior O-Line will be a big need for Atlanta in this draft, and Mayfield has the athletic profile to play any of the five positions on the line. Even though he only has 15 starts under his belt, he held his own against a gauntlet of pass rushers, including Chase Young. His athleticism and versatility should mean he has a pretty high floor as a guard, and he could also slide to right tackle if Arthur Smith pulls the plug on the Kaleb McGary experiment. However, I think Alijah Vera-Tucker is the best guard in the class, and he will debut in the next edition. Mayfield will mostly be getting looks as a tackle, which is why his ranking is a little higher.
6. CB Jaycee Horn
Even though he’s the son of a former New Orleans Saint, there’s a lot to like about Jaycee Horn. He improved every season at South Carolina and even handled some slot duties. Horn is a big and physical corner, and he used that to bully his way to the point of attack for most of his college career. His technique needs some work, but he’s loaded with potential. It seems like Isaiah Oliver will be sticking around for at least one more season, so Horn may not be thrown into the fire yet. He has the physical profile to handle big receivers like Mike Evans and Slant Boy.
5. ILB Nick Bolton
Nick Bolton would be a perfect thumper to add to this group of linebackers under Pees. Deion Jones could transition to his more natural WILL role, and Mykal Walker could focus on playing fantastic coverage. Bolton is mean as hell, and he played a big role by blitzing up the middle for Missouri. He is one of the more finished products available in this draft, but his coverage skills in space need some work. With Atlanta’s linebackers being as talented as they are, I think they can scheme around that early in his career and allow him to be a true MIKE.
4. EDGE Joseph Ossai
Joseph Ossai gets the edge over some other EDGE prospects (no pun intended) for his scheme fit and ability to create turnovers. With EDGE being the most glaring need on the Falcons, Ossai should be a big time target. Like pretty much any other EDGE that I will talk about from here on out, he will have to refine his gameplan instead of trusting his very powerful hands and speed that carried him at Texas. Like Bolton, he isn’t much of a coverage guy, but he rushes the passer very well. His ability to get strip sacks and blow up running quarterbacks standing up as a 3-4 linebacker makes him hard to resist if he’s available.
3. EDGE Azeez Ojulari
Ojulari is the top EDGE available at this point due to his overall versatility while still providing lots of pressure. His scheme fit isn’t as good as Ossai, but he should be able to hold his own as a three-down linebacker with his ability in space. He did it all for Kirby Smart‘s defense, and Atlanta can mold him to be a true jack-of-all-trades linebacker while still adding to the pass rush. He may not have the body of a typical stand up 3-4 EDGE, but he has the athleticism and experience to refine his game to fit that role if needed.
2. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Owusu-Koramoah is one of my favorite prospects in the entire draft, and he reminds me a lot of Darius Leonard. If Atlanta decides to pass on Micah Parsons, Owusu-Koramoah wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize. I don’t see him making it past the Cleveland Browns because he can truly do it all as a linebacker. He profiles best as a WILL, which as I’ve mentioned, Atlanta has plenty of. He works very well in space and uses his exceptional athletic gifts to close in on defenders quickly.
I think he could be an impact MIKE that serves as a perfect sub-linebacker in Nickel situations. With Walker, Jones, and Owusu-Koramoah playing in a 3-3-5 — you aren’t sacrificing much in the run game with three linebackers who can defend the pass very well. Even though MIKE may not be an ideal role for him, that extra step of speed that he has and the effective blitzing he showed off in South Bend is almost too much to resist. His versatility should make him a priority target if Atlanta trades back.
1. IDL Christian Barmore
Who else? In a 3-4 defensive front, Christian Barmore is a dream prospect. Even though he doesn’t play a premium position, allowing Grady Jarrett to kick out to defensive end in an Aaron Donald type role will provide immediate value at two positions of need. Like most Alabama prospects, Barmore is a mountain of a man at 6’5 and 310 pounds — but trust me, he’s rocked up. His pass rush up the middle commanded double teams from opponents all season, and he’s more than just a space-eater in the run game. He needs to get a bit better with his technique and avoid trying to win with his freak size and athleticism, but learning from Grady Jarrett would be a great start.
Not only does Barmore address the interior defensive line in a 3-4, but the edges also get some help with Marlon Davidson and Grady Jarrett pushing to his left and right. He’s an immediate plug-and-play starter that still has loads of potential. It’s VERY close between Owusu-Koramoah and Barmore. Still, Barmore terrorized Ohio State in the National Championship. While a defensive tackle isn’t the top need for Atlanta, he will be the best player available if they’re selecting in this range.
Photo: Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire