This is the mock draft finale of a three-part series on what an ‘ideal’ offseason could look like to get the Falcons back to the playoffs in 2021. Check out part one, part two, and part three if you haven’t already.
In the first part of the series, I presented a different way of interpreting Matt Ryan’s disappointing past couple of years. I used Aaron Rodgers’ “down years” as reference points instead of looking at Ryan’s statistics at face value. What it showed was Ryan’s past two years were eerily similar, statistically, to Rodgers’ “down years” — 2017 and 2018 under Mike McCarthy. Following ahead with the timeline in Green Bay, Rodgers has now returned to an MVP-caliber quarterback this season due mostly to a change in offensive philosophies.
In the second part of the series, I gave my choices and reasoning for the general manager and head coach. I chose the Saints’ vice president/assistant general manager of pro personnel to be my general manager — Terry Fontenot. I chose Titans’ offensive coordinator to be my head coach — Arthur Smith. I gave my rationalization in great detail as to why I believe Smith and Fontenot are the right choices.
In the third part of the series, I explored possible avenues to save some money against the cap in the form of contract extensions and restructures. I went through different cut scenarios and explained why certain players should be kept or not. Finally, I signed three different defensive free agents to round out the roster to 41. As you can guess, this is the bow on the present, the mock draft to my ideal offseason.
With the #4 pick in the draft, the Falcons have a lot of options to ponder about. Should they select one of Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, or Penei Sewell? Or perhaps trade down to acquire more draft capital for this top-heavy roster? If you read my third part, you would know the answer to this question. With only seven original picks in the draft, getting to the top 51 (the roster spots counted against the salary cap) requires ten selections, i.e., a trade down.
So which team is best suited to offload enough draft capital for the #4 overall pick? The New England Patriots. Bill Belichick needs to find a long-term answer at quarterback after Cam Newton proved he wasn’t it this season. He could certainly hold still at #15 in hopes of a Trey Lance or Mac Jones falling, but I think Bill will be aggressive this offseason motivated by Tom Brady’s success with Tampa Bay.
ATL gets: #15, #46, #110
NE gets: #4
Pick #15: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami (FL)
Trading out of the fourth spot effectively eliminates Atlanta from any of the quarterbacks worth drafting in this class, so I went with the best player available (BPA) at a position of need. At 6-7 and 265 pounds, he’s got the build, the speed, and the twitch to create one-on-one matchup advantages. Rousseau also possesses the flexibility for coaches to create pressure without blitzing, perhaps on third downs, aligning him inside next to Grady Jarrett with Dante Fowler and another pass-rush specialist.
Pick #35: Jevon Holland, Safety, Oregon
Jevon Holland decided to sit out the 2020 season but is a tremendous coverage safety with the ability to play some cornerback. That is his most desirable asset; his ability to cover man-to-man is the best of this safety class. His instincts and break on zone coverage are as good as Paris Ford’s. Holland’s only knock is his size, but that doesn’t discourage him from flying downhill to deliver crushing hits. He is a willing tackler, and that is all you can ask; the size will come eventually.
Pick #46: Rashad Weaver, EDGE, Pittsburgh
With the Patriots’ pick, double-dipping at the edge position is necessary with the lack of play from Dante Fowler. Weaver has the talent to be a late first-round pick, but an injury has hampered his stock after missing the entire 2019 season. He played well this season, showing speed and athleticism off the edge with good size and versatility, but the consensus on Weaver is scattered. This is an optimistic pick, but some have him falling to the third round.
Pick #68: Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
In the running back rant article, I explained why drafting one before the third round is asinine. Using the Falcons third-round pick on a running back with three-down potential and a high floor makes for a safe investment. Williams is a downhill runner with surprising quickness who excels in pass blocking and has displayed some receiving ability. The Falcons’ running back room is bare, and you can expect at least a couple of running backs taken come April.
Pick #98: Kary Vincent Jr., CB, LSU
Some of you were probably wondering when I would address the secondary again, particularly the corner position. Well, Kary Vincent might not be the big name Falcons fans are hoping for, but he is the best nickel corner in this draft and played almost exclusively as the nickel for two years in Baton Rouge. Vincent has experience playing a wide array of coverages from Dave Aranda’s defense but thrives in both off-man coverages. This pairs well with A.J. Terrell’s skillset too.
Pick #110: Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State
Back for more. As per the running back rant, draft two running backs in the late rounds of every draft and never give one a second contract. Hill is a far superior receiver to Williams and is pleasantly surprising in pass protection. He is a natural runner with a little more gitty-up than Williams but would pair nicely as the two have complementary skill sets.
Pick #139: Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin
Arthur Smith’s offense emphasizes a traditional tight end. He needs someone who can seal an edge but also beat safeties and linebackers in their routes. Jake Ferguson had a hot start to this season, hauling in three touchdowns in the first two games. He has been hamstrung by the Badgers’ offense that is extremely run-heavy, which he was a contributing blocker in. I think Ferguson is a mid-round talent that will fall due to that fact.
Pick #139: Zaire Mitchell, TE, Notre Dame (OH)
Zaire Mitchell didn’t play this season, but division II is attempting to still play a condensed season in the spring. I doubt it would happen in time for Mitchell to play and still have an adequate amount of time to prepare for the draft. This is a prospect that could very well have been available as an undrafted free agent, but the upside is so high I like the idea of pulling the trigger on a late-round long shot. Check out some of his highlights.
QB- Matt Ryan (restructured)
RB- Javante Williams (draft), Kylin Hill (draft), Ito Smith
WR- Julio Jones (restructured)
WR- Calvin Ridley
WR- Russell Gage
TE- Hayden Hurst, Jake Ferguson (draft)
LT- Jake Matthews
RT- Kaleb McGary
EDGE/DE- Dante Fowler
DT- Grady Jarrett (extended)
DT- Sheldon Rankins (FA), Marlon Davison
EDGE/DE- Gregory Rousseau, Rashad Weaver
LB- Deion Jones (extended)
LB- Foye Oluokun
CB- AJ Terrell
S- Ricardo Allen (draft)
S- Jaquiski Tartt (FA)
CB- Jason Verrett (FA)