The Falcons have taken exactly one defensive player with the team’s last six first-round draft picks, despite boasting subpar defenses for the better part of the last decade.
The front office has done an admirable job bolstering that side of the ball in free agency, adding impact players on all three levels. The Falcons signed an All-Pro to the secondary in Jessie Bates III, while former Saints David Onyemata and Kaden Elliss will roam the defensive front.
Atlanta could still use difference-making talent across the defense, and that’s exactly what national pundits have the team doing in their respective mock drafts. There is one consensus theme wherever you look: defense, defense, defense.
In Daniel Jeremiah’s latest mock drafts, the Falcons land Christian Gonzalez, a cornerback from Oregon that would give Atlanta “one of the biggest and most athletic cornerback duos in the league,” according to DJ.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper has the Falcons adding a cornerback as well, but Devon Witherspoon is the selection, whose ability in coverage “might be tough to pass up for a defense that struggled last season.”
Dan Brugler of The Athletic has the Falcons directly addressing the pass rush by landing Tyree Wilson, who would give them a “promising defensive lineman who can create disruption from different alignments.”
Kiper’s dueling mock drafter at ESPN, Todd McShay, has Atlanta addressing the defensive front like Brugler but with a surprise pick in the homegrown Nolan Smith, who is McShay’s biggest riser of the combine after a ridiculous 4.39-second 40-yard dash, 41.5 inches in the vertical jump and 10-foot-8 in the broad.
I could get behind any one of those Falcons mock drafts because those prospects seem to all project to be difference-makers at the next level. Some fans might pound the table for Nolan Smith or Tyree Wilson because they directly pressure quarterbacks, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. There are several factors in producing a consistent pass rush; coverage is just as important as the actual pressure.
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