Latest ESPN mock draft has Falcons landing Swiss Army Knife defender

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The Falcons have five draft picks in the first 82 selections — a prime opportunity to completely reshape the roster. Falcons fans know all too well how a single draft can completely change a franchise; after all, the Saints did it with the 2017 class that included Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Alvin Kamara, and Trey Hendrickson. If Atlanta can come away with a similar haul, the current rebuild could end abruptly.

In Jordan Reid’s latest ESPN mock draft, the Falcons’ first five selections have the potential to be core players of the future. With Atlanta’s first-rounder, Reid has Terry Fontenot selecting the best player available and a Swiss Army Knife of a defender.

8. Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

The Falcons need talent at nearly every position across the board. General manager Terry Fontenot could focus instead on taking the best prospect available. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Hamilton brings a tremendous skill set to the defensive backfield. He can be a playmaker and tone-setter for Atlanta.

The former Irish safety ran an unimpressive 40-yard dash, but that doesn’t change anything for me. Hamilton is still one of the three or four best prospects in this class, regardless of position. He’s similar to Derwin James, given each player’s versatility. Hamilton has a high football IQ with ideal size for a safety and played all over the field for Notre Dame a year ago — lining up deep in coverage, in the slot, and in the box as a linebacker. He can cover tight ends while also supporting the run with the best of them.

43. Atlanta Falcons

DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

Leal’s skill set and inside-out versatility make him an ideal fit in Dean Pees’ 3-4 defensive front. The Falcons must get bigger bodies along the D-line.

Leal continues to slide down draft boards after inconsistent play in 2021 and his underwhelming combine performances. He looked tight and lacked explosion compared to other interior defenders. His potential as a 5-technique is undoubtedly there, and his 5.0-second 40-yard dash shouldn’t scare away too many, but he didn’t change his downward trend during workouts. I like Leal’s projection in Dean Pees’ defense that covets defensive linemen who can slide up and down the line of scrimmage.

Reid has Atlanta coming away with two versatile defenders on different levels with the Falcons’ first two picks. Now, to continue addressing the trenches.

58. Atlanta Falcons (via TEN)

Jamaree Salyer, OL, Georgia

Salyer is a solid option who has played all five positions up front. For a team simply trying to add talent, he could be a plug-and-play option at any interior spot.

Another versatile prospect for the Falcons; Salyer can play most positions along the offensive line. He even spent time at left tackle for the Dawgs but should be limited to the interior positions at the next level. Salyer is a physical run blocker, which Arthur Smith covets, and holds his own in pass sets. Given his experience in the SEC, he should be able to compete with Jalen Mayfield, which would be great value in the second round.

It isn’t just the play in the trenches that needs improving. Marcus Mariota will be throwing to a bunch of WR3s this year unless the Falcons do something about it, which Reid addresses with the next pick.

74. Atlanta Falcons

Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis

There’s a strong case to be made that wide receiver is the Falcons’ No. 1 hole. Austin is only 5-foot-8, but he brings a vertical dynamic and speed that few can match on the field. He ran a 4.32 40 at the combine.

Although Austin is your typical smaller slot receiver, he uses his elite quickness and athleticism to create separation. He’s more of a one-trick pony at receiver, but he does that one trick very well.

82. Atlanta Falcons (via IND)

Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M

With Cordarrelle Patterson re-signing with the team on a one-year deal, the Falcons could still be in search of a younger, cost-controlled option. Spiller would be a great value pick at this point in the draft.

The Falcons have shown heavy interest in Spiller, who has a tremendous skill set to offer potential NFL teams. He rushed for 1,011 yards on 179 carries (5.6 YPC) with six touchdowns in 2021 while also hauling in 25 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown. Spiller is the ideal big-bodied, one-cut runner that thrives in Arthur Smith’s system. He is arguably the best pure runner in this class as he displays excellent patience, vision, and balance. He might not have breakaway speed, but his burst through contract will make him a difference-maker at the next level. His willingness to pass protect makes him that much better.

The rest of the Falcons’ seven-round haul is below.

114. Atlanta Falcons: Christopher Allen, EDGE, Alabama

151. Atlanta Falcons: Micheal Clemons, EDGE, Texas A&M

190. Atlanta Falcons: Dontario Drummond, WR, Ole Miss

213. Atlanta Falcons*: Kalon Barnes, CB, Baylor

Photographer: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

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