Of course, nobody knows how any of these players will look until the 2021 season kicks off in September, but I figured I’d go ahead and throw out some names that these Falcons draft picks remind me of when watching them on tape. When I compare a guy to a player, I’m comparing them to the player in their prime, not necessarily their current status. Also, I’ll be giving a ceiling and a floor until the fourth round, then just giving straight projections from the fifth round onward. Obviously, since I am a Falcons fan, I’m probably a bit higher on these guys than most, but I’ll try to put bias aside.
TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
Floor: Darren Waller
Ceiling: Antonio Gates
Projection: Kellen Winslow Sr.
It’s hard to compare a guy to an all-time great already, but it’s harder not to get excited about Kyle Pitts. When your floor is the third best tight end in the NFL, you should be pretty thrilled about a guy’s potential. At his peak, Kellen Winslow Sr. was an elite tight end in an era where they didn’t throw the ball nearly as much. I think Pitts will have many more years of success than Winslow had, given how talented he is at just 20-years-old. It may be unfair to put these expectations on a rookie, but when you’re the highest drafted tight end since 1979 — those come with the territory.
S Richie Grant, Central Florida
Floor: Duron Harmon
Ceiling: Charles Woodson
Projection: Jimmie Ward
Grant is another guy I’m paying high praise too, and while his ceiling isn’t as high as Kyle Pitts’, I think he has a very high floor. Duron Harmon is a fantastic combo safety that moved all over Bill Belichick’s defense. Charles Woodson is an all-time legend, and while Grant likely won’t get to THAT level, he can make that type of impact if he can play on the boundary like he did at the Senior Bowl. I think Jimmie Ward is a fair comparison; Ward is incredibly underrated and makes plays all over San Francisco’s defense. While he isn’t the sexiest name, he’s one of the most valuable safeties in the league because of his versatility — something I could easily see Grant achieving.
G/T Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
Floor: Ereck Flowers
Ceiling: Mike Iupati
Projection: Andrus Peat
I tried to focus on guys who transitioned from tackle, but Mike Iupati is the trendy comparison, and I think it fits for a ceiling. Iupati was an All-Pro and annual Pro Bowler in his heyday, which would be a fantastic projection if Mayfield can reach that. Ereck Flowers turned around his career after getting absolutely abused as a tackle, but he’s a replacement level guard in the NFL now. I think Mayfield’s floor could be even lower than that, but I’m optimistic. Saints left guard Andrus Peat is a solid projection; Peat developed into a Pro Bowler for three straight seasons after three years in the NFL. I trust Dwayne Ledford to coach Mayfield to that level. As Alex Lord said earlier — three starters at three positions of need for the Falcons.
CB/S Darren Hall, San Diego State
Floor: Justin Coleman
Ceiling: Bradley Roby
Projection: Damontae Kazee
I don’t really know how the Falcons plan to use Darren Hall just yet, but my guess is he’ll be another chess piece that gets moved around the defense. Bradley Roby would be an amazing ceiling for Hall, as he could serve as a feisty nickel corner — a big need for the Falcons. Justin Coleman is a replacement level nickel corner, a role I think Hall could play if he doesn’t develop as an undersized guy. He’s pretty comparable to another former Aztec and Falcon in Damontae Kazee, although I don’t think Hall will ever lead the league in interceptions.
IOL Drew Dalman, Stanford
Floor: Nick Martin
Ceiling: Brandon Linder
Projection: Mitch Morse
Drew Dalman was excellent in pass pro at Stanford, and I think that could translate to the NFL under Dwayne Ledford. At worst, he’s a low level starting or backup swing lineman like Nick Martin who can hold his own against the pass. Mitch Morse is a pretty solid starting center who makes his money by keeping Josh Allen‘s jersey clean. Linder is one of the best centers in the NFL, but again — very solid in pass protection. I think Dalman will be a starter for the Falcons one day, maybe even as soon as 2021.
IDL/EDGE Ta’Quon Graham, Texas
Projection: DeMarcus Walker
I’m not sure if Graham will see more action at 3-4 defensive end or on the interior, but he has the size to hold his own at both positions and move inside-out. Walker is a solid rotational pass-rusher, but I could see Graham getting a lot more opportunities than Walker did on a stacked Broncos defensive front. Walker is another guy that moved around in a lot of different sets in college, so I think Graham has a similar skill set and could post decent production rotating in and out.
EDGE Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Notre Dame
Projection: Shilique Calhoun
Ogundeji is raw and a bit stiff, but he’s a long athlete with decent pass rush production out of Notre Dame. I don’t think he’ll make a massive impact for the Falcons early on, but he could develop into a guy that rotates in and gets a few pressures per game. Calhoun was a lot more decorated of a player at Michigan State, but they both have good length as stand-up or hand-in-the-dirt pass rushers that are a bit of a work in progress.
CB Avery Williams, Boise State
Projection: Marcus Sherels
Williams could be a decent second or third nickel corner, but the return game is where he will shine. Marcus Sherels played for the Vikings for eight seasons, and while he wasn’t much of a cornerback, he was pretty excellent as a punt returner — housing five in his career and coming just short of 4,000 return yards. I would be happy if the Falcons got that out of a fifth round pick, any coverage and special teams skills he may develop are just icing on the cake.
WR Frank Darby, Arizona State
Projection: Donovan Peoples-Jones
I’m actually a pretty big Frank Darby fan; I didn’t know much about him going into this draft, but he has a good chance of developing into an impact player. Peoples-Jones is a tick faster than Darby, but Darby is very technical and could turn into an incredible deep threat. While he may not average the 20+ YPC that Peoples-Jones averaged last season, he could get there one day and make some big time plays for the Falcons in 2021.
QB Feleipe Franks
RB Javian Hawkins
Franks Projection: Blaine Gabbert
Hawkins Projection: Dion Lewis
I figured I’d show some love to the two highest profile undrafted free agents, and I think these are fair comparisons for both guys. I pointed out how Franks and Gabbert were similar on Twitter:
6’5-6’6, 4.5-4.6 40 time, both have great throwing motions, quick releases, & rocket arms. Both struggle with processing, short to intermediate accuracy, and pocket awareness.
They are the exact same draft prospect. Solid pickup as a UDFA, hopefully Franks has a higher ceiling.
— SportsTalkATL Jake (@cantguardjake) May 5, 2021
Hawkins and Dion Lewis are a lot alike, but Hawkins profiles closely to a few NFL running backs, maybe like a bigger Tarik Cohen. However, Lewis had a fine career, and Arthur Smith had experience with him in Tennessee. He could easily get involved in the run and pass game like Lewis did for ten seasons.