The NFL Draft is less than ten days away, and we — along with nearly every other publication that focuses on the NFL — have spent months speculating about what teams will do when they are finally on the clock come April 29th. We know quarterbacks will go first, second, and third, but after that; it’s nothing more than a guessing game.
This morning, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. had a little fun with it, going back and forth between picks and predicting what they believe will happen in the first three rounds based on what the teams would do — not themselves.
The Falcons have a bunch of needs on the defensive side of the ball. They have to find a way to juice up their pass rush; they desperately need cornerback help opposite AJ Terrell, and safety depth remains a concern. However, Terry Fontenot has said profusely that he believes in taking the best players available in the draft, regardless of position. We will know soon if that comes to fruition, but it looks as if McShay and Kiper are buying into what Fontenot has been preaching all offseason.
Round 1, Pick 4
With the 4th overall selection, Todd McShay has the Falcons going with the superstar tight end out of Florida. This comes after the 49ers pass on Mac Jones in favor of Justin Fields. Perhaps Atlanta goes in a different direction and selects their quarterback of the future if Fields is still available, but with Jones and Lance on the board, McShay predicts the Falcons will continue to add to their embarrassment of riches on the offensive side of the ball.
Pairing Pitts with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Hayden Hurst, and Russell Gage would create a nightmare for opposing defenses, especially with an offensive mind like Arthur Smith calling the shots. Defense has to be a focus in this draft, but as Alex has mentioned, there aren’t any defenders worth a top-five pick. McShay agrees, which is why he went with the best skill position player on the board.
Round 2, Pick 35
The Falcons added Mike Davis to their running back room this offseason, but they also released Ito Smith. Atlanta will draft at least one running back — if not multiple — and Mel Kiper Jr. has them doing it in the second round by selecting Javonte Williams out of North Carolina. Here is his reasoning:
New coach Arthur Smith — who had Derrick Henry in Tennessee — adds a physical running back to take the pressure off Matt Ryan. Williams had the highest rate of broken tackles of any FBS running back last season.
Look up “mean as hell” on Google — Javonte Williams will be the first result. Williams is a bowling ball at 5’10 and 220, but he is by no means a lumbering back. Tony Pauline of TDN expects his 40-time to clock in at 4.51. He’s not a true burner, but he is very agile and has above-average speed, especially for a running back of his size. His vision is also a plus; he works well between the tackles and has enough agility to make guys miss in the open field.
On top of all of that, he is a smooth route runner with soft hands. All of these traits were on display when he went wild against Miami, rushing for 236 yards and three scores while averaging 10.3 YPC. I’m not particularly eager to scout the box score, but 1,140 rushing yards, 19 rushing TDs, and 7.3 YPA, along with 12.2 yards per catch with no fumbles over 11 games, is downright dominant.
I’m not sure that taking a running back this high, given how many holes the Falcons have in other areas, is the best course of action. But with that being said, adding Williams and Pitts would undoubtedly give Atlanta the best skill position room this season and for years to come.
Round 3, Pick 68
Finally, the Falcons shore up their secondary in the third round by selecting Elijah Molden out of Washington. Molden isn’t going to be a starting caliber cornerback on the boundary, but he’s a versatile piece — able to play safety or nickel corner — that would fit well into Dean Pees defense. Molden also has the intangibles that Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot are looking to add to their locker room. By himself, he won’t be able to change Atlanta’s substantial issues in the secondary, but he’s a high-quality addition in the third round.