The Falcons seemed to stick to their status quo under this regime in terms of drafting in 2023. They went best player available in the first round, even if that player didn’t fill a need, and then went need hunting on day two. In my mock draft series, I managed to predict three of the six players they selected, which, granted, is a pretty wide net. However, those three players were on my radar for a reason. I loved some of the value they got, and yes, I’m a fan of them grabbing Bijan Robinson. Still, let’s take a look at the class as a whole and give some kneejerk reactions.
Round 1, Pick 8: RB Bijan Robinson — Texas
The elephant in the room is that Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter was on the board, and as expected, the Falcons simply didn’t pick him. My guy Devon Witherspoon was off the board. They instead went with Robinson, who is arguably the best player in this entire class. Running back isn’t an immediate need, but Cordarrelle Patterson is 32 and going into the last year of his deal. They got better with this pick, and outside of Carter, I don’t think they lost much in terms of opportunity cost. The next six picks after Carter were a pure right tackle, a guard, another running back, a project EDGE, a tackle, and another project EDGE. In a bad draft class, I’ll take Robinson, who cannot fail in the NFL if he stays healthy. It’s hard to get a guaranteed star in the draft, and I think the Falcons got one. Job well done.
Round 2, Pick 38 (From Las Vegas via Indianapolis): OT Matthew Bergeron — Syracuse
Bergeron wasn’t really on my radar, but according to scouts, he should be able to start at left guard almost immediately. He profiles as an insanely athletic guard who is a plus run blocker and an above average pass blocker. The Falcons probably got an immediate starter at the position, which is a need. He also could provide tackle depth, which is another need. Still, I would have preferred to bring back Elijah Wilkinson and roll with another best player available. However, they did need some fresh blood at the position, and by no means do I consider this a bad pick. Jonathan Mingo, one of my favorite sleepers in this class, went with the next pick to the division rival Panthers, so I hope that doesn’t come back to haunt Atlanta. I think this deserves a passing grade, and the Falcons parlayed an extra fourth rounder they had to move up. Bergeron is a great scheme fit and was heralded as one of the best run blockers in this entire class. Hopefully, he isn’t another tackle/guard transition failure like Jalen Mayfield.
Round 3, Pick 75: EDGE Zach Harrison — Ohio State
I had Harrison going in this exact spot, and I think the value here was pretty solid. The concerns with Harrison is that as a former five star recruit at a school that has a pedigree for developing pass rushers, he didn’t really make a big impact in college. Still, there’s plenty of upside here, and the Falcons needed to add some youth to the EDGE position at some point in this draft. I think this was a pretty good pick, and Harrison will have plenty of time to develop in what is finally a respectable stable of pass rushers in Atlanta. His arms are over 36″ and he stands 6’6; he certainly looks the part of a steal in the third round. He needs to work on thinking less and reacting more, so with proper coaching, he can be a really productive player for the Falcons.
Round 4, Pick 113: CB Clark Phillips III — Utah
This was probably my favorite pick of the entire draft for the Falcons. I was mocking Phillips to the Falcons in the second round, so I’m over the moon with getting him in the fourth. Strangely enough, the Panthers grabbed ANOTHER player I expected the Falcons to target in G Chandler Zavala out of NC State with the next pick. Still, with Bergeron in the fold, Phillips was a home run selection. If he was four inches taller, he would have been a top ten selection. Phillips plays like a guy twice his size, and he has a lot of spunk for an undersized corner. He’s probably going to be a pure nickel in the NFL due to his size, but he never backed down from a challenge. He has tremendous ball skills, and if you want to see what he’s all about, watch him go at it with Drake London and first-round pick Jordan Addison on tape. Kid is a warrior. Great value here, and the Falcons add some youth to the secondary.
Round 7, Pick 224 (From Las Vegas): S DeMarcco Hellams — Alabama
It’s hard to give harsh grades to seventh round picks, especially as my eyes started glazing over after waiting more than 130 selections for the Falcons to pick again. They got the third best safety from Alabama, but hey, it’s the seventh round. Hellams got eaten alive by Tennessee in their first win over Alabama in two decades, but he was being used in a way he’s not going to be used in the NFL. Hellams is a pure box safety and a fantastic tackler, which means he’s probably going to be a special teams warrior at first. I liked a couple of other names over Hellams here, but he can develop into a contributor with time. He’s coming from a Nick Saban-run program, so he shouldn’t have any issues adjusting to an NFL lifestyle. I think some speed at wide receiver with a guy like Jadon Haselwood or a high-upside guy recovering from injury like Andrew Voorhees would have made more sense than a special teamer.
Round 7, Pick 225: IOL Jovaughn Gwyn — South Carolina
I had the Falcons grabbing Trevor Reid and Jordan McFadden with these last two picks, and they did go in a similar direction — grabbing a super athletic interior offensive lineman that they can develop into a potential starter. Gwyn is undersized, but he is stout and moves really well in space. He’s a decent pass blocker, even without elite length. It’s not always super necessary at guard or center. I like the upside here for a guy that can develop into a future starter if he really catches on. With pick 225, I’d call it a success at a position that needs some bodies and youth.
Overall, the Falcons are going to get a similar grade to the one I’ve given them over the past two years. I think they took some interesting players, but I think they left some meat on the bone in certain spots. After re-evaluating my previous grades, they seemed to remain consistent after a year or two. I think it’s passing, but maybe this group can buck the trend and prove me wrong by really transforming this team.
Photographer: Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire
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