Hopefully, Atlanta trades down in the 2021 NFL draft, and if you checked out my last mock, I’m perfectly fine with moving out of the Top 20 altogether. While six picks is a pretty big range, it provides a lot of options for Atlanta. I think the Broncos are one of the first logical partners to trade up, and the 49ers are also likely to be aggressive. Obviously, nobody knows where these guys will ultimately be drafted, so I’m just using TDN’s predictive board and PFF’s draft board. If you missed my chalk big board, you can check that out here. The series will continue with 16-24 after this, and it will lead up to round seven closer to draft day, so stay tuned!
8. EDGE Kwity Paye
Maybe, I just have a sour taste in my mouth with Michigan (or Takk McKinley), but I don’t like a lot of the stuff scouts rave about with Kwity Paye. Don’t get me wrong, he could be a great player — but right now, I think he’s more sizzle than steak. I don’t want the Falcons to draft another “high motor, high potential” EDGE that is a work in progress. I’ve heard that tale one too many times. I think Paye is a good kid and could turn into a monster in the right system, but he’s too much of a project for me at this time — especially with Atlanta not even having a defensive coordinator at the moment.
7. TE Kyle Pitts
Pitts is a monster, but he’s a luxury pick. I would love to see Arthur Smith utilize him and Hayden Hurst in two-tight end sets; however, Atlanta has way more significant needs. While adding a threat downfield is never a bad idea, tight end is a position with one of the most difficult learning curves. I still couldn’t be mad at this pick; he’s got game-changing talent.
6. T Christian Darrisaw
Darrisaw is a bully — plain and simple. He excelled as a run blocker and in pass protection, and his technique is very sound for a guy his age. He’s a straight-up people mover. The only reason I have him this low is the presence of Jake Matthews and the draft capital invested in Kaleb McGary. McGary had a good start to 2020 before finishing with a thud, but unless he or Matthews can kick inside — Darrisaw doesn’t make too much sense. He’s a franchise left tackle, and asking him to play guard after all of his development may be unwise
5. QB Trey Lance
This one may ruffle some feathers, but Lance is only this low because I believe in Arthur Smith’s ability to get the most out of Matt Ryan for a few more seasons. Lance should be praying he’s selected by a team like the Falcons. He is about as raw as they come, but in the same breath, he’s as physically gifted as any quarterback in this class. He effortlessly launches 70-yard bombs and can scramble at the level of a Lamar Jackson. Not only is he insanely talented, but he also has great size and is only 20 years old. Competition level and lack of reps are concerns, but the sky is the limit for Lance in the right situation. Two seasons behind Matt Ryan could turn him into a franchise quarterback — don’t let prospect fatigue fool you.
4. T/G Rashawn Slater
Slater was a tackle at Northwestern, but he’s destined for guard in the NFL. Scouts believe he can play any of the five positions on the offensive line, and that should appeal to the Falcons. While this isn’t the sexiest pick, Slater only allowed five pressures in 2019 before opting out. He’s also terrific against the run, and his technique and athleticism make him one of the safest choices in the entire draft. Atlanta will likely cut James Carpenter, and without an offseason, Matt Hennessy struggled as a rookie. Paring Slater with Lindstrom would give Atlanta a fantastic young guard tandem. If Atlanta wants to get back to running the ball effectively, Slater is an immediate plug and play starter with potential Quenton Nelson impact.
3. CB Caleb Farley
One of the best Athletes you will find at a position of need — Caleb Farley was a force for Virginia Tech in 2019. He’s a sticky man corner that can truly do it all. Farley’s only real concerns are a non-contact knee injury that kept him off of the field a bit and his tackling. Most cornerbacks have issues with tackling coming into the NFL, but Farley has all of the traits of a lockdown corner in the NFL.
2. CB Patrick Surtain II
If Atlanta does select Surtain II, ninth is possibly the last pick he would be available. A three-year starter for Nick Saban, Surtain II possesses all of the size, technical abilities, and athleticism that NFL scouts drool over. While he doesn’t possess that high-end speed, he makes up for it with his gameplan at the point of attack. He would likely be restricted to the boundary, which is why it’s really close between him and Farley.
1. LB Micah Parsons
While I quite like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (he will be featured in my next edition of this series), Micah Parsons is the cream of this linebacker crop. The linebackers are actually the strength of this Falcons defense, but Parsons brings too much versatility to pass up. He was a coveted pass rusher coming out of high school, but he has evolved his game into so much more.
Parsons is incredibly gifted athletically for a guy his size, and he was constantly in the backfield making plays as a blitzer and stuffing the run. Using him in a MIKE role in a 3-4 defense would allow Deion Jones to transition to a more natural WILL role, and Mykal Walker can continue to thrive as a coverage backer. While MIKE isn’t a premium position in the draft — an impact player who can move all over the defense and create havoc in the run/pass game is. Selecting Parsons to pair with Deion Jones, Mykal Walker, and Foyesade Oluokun would go a long way in shoring up this Falcons defense.