Happy draft season! It’s draft season for me 365 days a year, but now that the Falcons are officially in the offseason and their draft order is set, it’s time to start really diving into the NFL Draft. This draft is the 1.0 edition, which is pre-free agency and pre-combine. I’ll be updating these around events like these, and of course, if there are any significant trades or signings, I’ll make some updates. Before we get started, I’d like to make a few things clear:
- I think the Falcons should address the trenches in free agency. Some may get upset if I don’t heavily target pass rushers, offensive linemen, or defensive linemen — I’ve already laid out some priority targets I like in free agency. The Falcons have thrown a lot of picks at those positions, and they have little to show for. Chasing needs has gotten them in a lot of trouble.
- My philosophy is best player available. While I will be considering need, the Falcons have a lot of needs, and they’ll likely be addressed naturally. With a thin roster, it’s hard to go wrong with any position.
- If you’ve been reading my Mock Draft Mondays, I have been doing my best to “mix up” my picks, and although I like the players, I did my best to change things up. These picks will be the ones I strongly advocate for.
- The Falcons may get some compensation picks if they lose a guy like Cordarrelle Patterson or Hayden Hurst. I will address that in future editions when those are announced, which is likely after free agency.
- I’ll be using RiseNDraft’s Mock Draft Simulator
Philadelphia Eagles Trade: Pick 15, Pick 51
Atlanta Falcons Trade: Pick 8
The Falcons move back a couple of spots, they can still grab an elite defensive playmaker, but they also pick up a second-round pick to help them address other needs.
Round 1, Pick 15 (From Philadelphia): CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner – Cincinnati
Sauce Gardner is still one of my favorite prospects in this class, and I think the Falcons can move back a few notches and still get him. Gardner not only has the length, athleticism, and ball skills you want out of a top corner, he also has the collegiate production to back it up. In 2021, Gardner only allowed 1.9 yards per target and a 26.7 completion percentage. He did not allow a touchdown in his entire college career. You’re talking about a pair of young shutdown corners with Terrell and Gardner; that’s a great starting point for rebuilding a defense.
Round 2, Pick 43: EDGE Jermaine Johnson – Florida State
Atlanta’s defense still needs some help, and I like some of the weapons down the board. Jermaine Johnson presents tremendous value at 43. Johnson has a nice bag of pass rush moves, and when you combine that with his 6’5, 265-pound frame and freakish athleticism, you have the recipe for a superstar pass rusher, something the Falcons haven’t had in quite some time.
Round 2, Pick 51 (From Philadelphia): WR David Bell – Purdue
While the defense needs a lot of help, the offense will need some overhaul with their playmakers. Personally, I want to see the Falcons go after offensive linemen in free agency; they have sunk so many draft picks into the position group that they should explore other routes. David Bell is the X receiver the Falcons have been missing all season. He has fantastic hands, athleticism, and ball skills. I’m not done adding to the offensive skill groups, but Bell is a tremendous start.
Round 2, Pick 63 (From Tennessee): EDGE Cameron Thomas – San Diego State
Thomas has shot up draft boards recently, and for a good reason. I was overjoyed when he was still available with this pick. Thomas may be more of a hand-in-the-dirt pass rusher for Dean Pees, but he plays with relentless effort and strength. He’s a pretty good athlete that can play inside-out as well. I could easily see him sneaking into the first round after the combine because there’s a lot to like about this kid.
Round 3, Pick 74: WR Wan’Dale Robinson – Kentucky
Maybe the most electric player in college football, the most straightforward comparison for Wan’Dale Robinson is Deebo Samuel. Robinson is an electric player with the football in his hands, and the Falcons don’t have a ton of guys who can make things happen after the catch. Even if the Falcons don’t bring back Russell Gage, they still have free agency and a potential return of Calvin Ridley with Robinson and Bell now in the fold. That’s a massive upgrade from 2021.
Round 4, Pick 111: OT Rasheed Walker – Penn State
While I want the Falcons to look to free agency to fortify the offensive line, they should probably start thinking about life after Kaleb McGary. Rasheed Walker is a great starting point. He’s more of a developmental player, which is okay with McGary under contract for one more season. His length, size, and athleticism have all of the makings of a dependable right tackle, and he’s a three-year starter with solid technique. Walker can provide an upgrade over Matt Gono in 2021 and McGary in 2022 if he pans out.
Round 5, Pick 149: RB James Cook – Georgia
Running back isn’t a huge need for the Falcons right now, but Mike Davis is a cut candidate, Cordarrelle Patterson is an impending free agent, and James Cook’s talent is way too much to pass up on here. Cook is electric with the ball in his hands, and he’s a threat in the receiving game. Cook has a lot of “Alvin Kamara lite” in his game, and if he can get anywhere close to what Alvin Kamara does on a week-to-week basis, this is a home run pick in the 5th round.
Round 6, Pick 190: P Matt Araiza – San Diego State
Okay, some of you will be confused that I drafted a punter, but if you know who Matt Araiza is, it will all make sense. Araiza set an FBS record with 51.19 yards per punt in 2021. He broke the NCAA record for punts of 50 yards or more with 39 and the record for punts of 60 yards or more by doing it 18 times. He also had two punts of 80 yards plus in 2021, including an 86-yarder. Why not take a special teams weapon like that in the sixth round? Someone is going to.