The series rolls on! If Atlanta trades back, there are still some gems left to uncover on day one of the 2021 NFL Draft. There’s also the possibility of the Falcons trading back up into the first-round and landing one of these guys. I’ll be firing up a massive board for the second round, so keep an eye out for that. If you missed any of my previous entries, you can find those here:
8. OT Liam Eichenberg
The Falcons need more of a guard presence, but like with Darrisaw and Sewell — if they feel comfortable kicking someone inside, Eichenberg would be a solid choice. He is a massive tackle but is pretty athletic for a guy his size. I don’t think a tackle at this point is a good use of a draft pick, but Eichenberg has all the tools to become a franchise cornerstone. He struggled at times against Alabama, but he has been rock solid protecting Ian Book‘s blindside.
7. CB Eric Stokes
It feels like forever since Atlanta drafted a corner with the ball skills that Eric Stokes possesses, and even though corner isn’t the biggest need, there’s a lot to like about the UGA product. Stokes isn’t an elite athlete, and he can get a little grabby, but he’s very sticky in man coverage and can press well at the line of scrimmage. He fits best in a zone heavy scheme, but I like his upside later in the first round if he can clean up some bad habits.
6. EDGE Jayson Oweh
I guess all of these will include an EDGE project I think the Falcons should stay away from, even if they fill a need. I actually really like Oweh as a prospect — he has all of the tools and build of a terrorizing NFL pass rusher. However, he is about as raw of a prospect as there is in this class. A team will fall in love with his tools and scoop him up, but I think Atlanta needs much more immediate help. If he’s available on day two, he is oozing with way too much potential to pass on.
5. RB Travis Etienne
I love Travis Etienne; I think he has a lot of Alvin Kamara in his game. However, running backs in the first round are almost always luxury picks. Last year, the Chiefs were the only team to select a running back in the first round, and they did so with the last pick. I still think Etienne could bring a lot to the Falcons offense, and he might be the only running back taken in the first round. I could see Tampa Bay being all over him. He’s a great athlete with smooth hands and fantastic vision, but it will be up to Arthur Smith to decide if he wants to get back to utilizing the running backs in the passing game. While he’s a luxury pick, you can’t be mad about selecting a game-changer like Etienne.
4. IDL Jay Tufele
In Dean Pees’ new defense, Jay Tufele could be the next coming of Vita Vea. A mountain of a man at 6’3 and 320 pounds, he isn’t quite as big as Vea, but he provides a considerable push up the middle with upside as a pass rusher. Tufele is crazy athletic for a guy his size, and he projects nicely as a three-down three-technique. He’s an immediate plug and play starter up the middle that will command a lot of attention away from Grady Jarrett.
3. QB Mac Jones
There’s honestly no telling where Mac Jones will go in this draft. The Deshaun Watson/Aaron Rodgers/Matthew Stafford sweepstakes are still alive and well, so who knows who will be eyeing a quarterback in the first round of the draft. I like some of the stuff Mac Jones does well quite a lot, but I think the position isn’t the biggest need with other players on the board.
To me, he has the best deep ball in the entire class. He is a high-level distributor to his playmakers when he is in a rhythm, and he rarely makes big mistakes with the football in his hand — there is serious value in that. I absolutely hate this argument when evaluating quarterbacks, but the elevated talent surrounding him will be called into question. However, I think Jones is a smart and big-bodied quarterback who can put the ball in the right place. His only knock is that his athleticism isn’t up to par with any of the four guys ahead of him on most draft boards. In the right system, Jones can be a high-quality NFL starter for a long time.
2. EDGE/LB Zaven Collins
Collins is Micah Parsons lite to me, and I would be ecstatic if Atlanta got him late in the first round. He is fantastic coming off the edge, and he operates in space fairly well too. It’s worrisome he may be a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none” type prospect, but he would provide an immediate impact to this Atlanta linebacker group.
1. IOL Alijah Vera-Tucker
I truly think Alijah Vera-Tucker is worth a first-round pick, even if he doesn’t play a premium position. He played left tackle for the USC Trojans, but he seems destined to be an elite guard in the NFL. Vera-Tucker is a rare high ceiling/high floor prospect, and he would also be a plug and play guy for the Falcons on their interior offensive line. His greatest asset is being insanely athletic for 300 pounds. He can handle bigger rushers on the edge, which will play to his strengths up the middle. He moves well in space and is rarely overpowered. The Chiefs have a significant need on the interior of their offensive line, so I don’t think he makes it to the second round.