Falcons take top defender, bolster pass rush in latest mock draft

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After the quarterback position held the team back all season, the Falcons were expected to acquire a new one this offseason, with many hoping it would come in the draft.

However, if Bill Belichick is hired as the head coach, a rookie quarterback seems far-fetched. As Matt Ryan recently noted, Belichick is much more likely to go the veteran route instead of grooming a younger signal caller.

If that’s the case, the Falcons won’t be using the 8th overall pick on a quarterback, opening up the opportunity to add an impact player elsewhere.

Honestly, quarterback may be a terrible decision at the 8th pick, especially if the Bears, Commanders, and Patriots all take quarterbacks as many expect. That would leave the Falcons overdrafting one of J.J. McCarthy, Bo Nix or Michael Penix Jr — none of whom deserve to be a top 10 selection.

So, who might be available? Well, this is as loaded of a receiver class as we’ve seen, and the Falcons may have the option to pair Drake London with one of Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze to give the future quarterback as loaded of a skill group as any in the league.

Or the Falcons could finally draft a defender, which is what Mel Kiper of ESPN has the club doing in his latest mock draft. Atlanta takes the top defender on the board, bolstering the pass rush with Dallas Turner out of Alabama.

Here we go, another team in the top 10 that hasn’t yet hired its new coach. The good thing about this projection: I don’t have another quarterback with a top-10 grade, so I’m not going to force one to Atlanta. I wonder if it might be a trade suitor for Justin Fields or instead look to the free agent market for Kirk Cousins or cut candidate Russell Wilson. (If the Falcons hire Jim Harbaugh, I reserve my right to predict Michigan signal-caller J.J. McCarthy to join his former coach.)

Let’s move to the other side of the ball, where the Falcons ranked 32nd in pass rush win rate (30.9%) and 29th in takeaways (16). Veterans Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree led the team with 6.5 sacks apiece. This is a front seven that needs an injection of youth. With Turner, they’d get the best edge defender in this class, a 242-pound outside linebacker who had 22.5 sacks over three college seasons. He ranked eighth in the FBS with a 16.7% pressure rate in 2023.

The Falcons’ biggest issue on offense last year was the quarterback position. If they get that fixed, it should be one of the best units in the NFC. With so many weapons on the offensive side of the ball, along with a competent line, it might be smart to continue building the defense.

Photographer: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire
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