Falcons land LSU freak athlete in ESPN 2024 Mock Draft

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 04 TaxAct Texas Bowl Kansas State v LSU

The Falcons are gearing up for the 2023 season, which is highly anticipated. The fans, Arthur Blank, and even Arthur Smith are eager to see improvement in the form of a playoff berth.

After back-to-back 7-10 finishes, there are expectations for the club to improve in 2023. I would even go as far as to say anything less than 9-8 would be a disappointment. Everything is right in front of the Falcons, and the postseason is on everyone’s minds… except for a select few.

Some are already on to next April. The mock draft ghouls are out in full force, but I can’t lie, it’s always fun to see these things. This one comes from Matt Miller of ESPN, and it’s a particularly exciting scenario where the Falcons land one of my LSU Tigers with the 13th pick — Maason Smith

Go back to the 2021 season, and you’ll see Smith wrecking SEC offensive linemen en route to a four-sack, 12-pressure season — as a true freshman acclimating to elite college football play. Smith tore his left ACL halfway into the first game of the 2022 season, and he should take a big step forward as a junior. The 6-6, 310-pounder has the length, power and three-down skills of a 3-4 defensive end, along with the mobility to be an impact pass-rusher.

“He jumps off the tape, and you see it at practice, too,” one NFC scout said. “He has legitimate top-10 potential.” Smith would be a building block for the Falcons’ defense, which recorded a sack on 3.5% of opponent dropbacks last season (last in the NFL). Smith, however, won’t play in the Tigers’ opening game against Florida State, a source told ESPN’s Pete Thamel on Wednesday.

As a true freshman, Maason Smith immediately showed he was different, displaying athleticism that few can match at his size. His sophomore campaign was highly anticipated, even earning preseason All-American hype.

Unfortunately, Smith tore his ACL during the season opener against FSU in which he celebrated a play by jumping up and landing awkwardly. He missed all of the 2022 campaign but is back for 2023 and primed for a true breakout.

The Falcons haven’t had a player like Maason Smith along the interior. Grady Jarrett is one hell of a player, but Smith’s athleticism puts him in a different category. He’s got a ceiling like Chris Jones — a truly dominant interior defender. His combination of size and movement skills also make him a versatile piece along the defensive front, able to line up nearly anywhere across the line of scrimmage.

Not only would I be overjoyed if the Falcons drafted an LSU Tiger, but Maason Smith has the potential to be a difference-maker from the moment he steps on the field as a rookie. It would give Ryan Nielsen a menacing front of Grady Jarrett, David Onyemata, Ta’Quon Graham, and Smith. It’s a fun scenario to think about.

Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire
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