Ranking Falcons top 10 first-round draft targets after free agency

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The Falcons may not be completely done in free agency, but after the signing of Calais Campbell, they don’t have much more cash to spend unless they free some up through cuts and restructures. There will likely be a few more smaller signings before the season, but I don’t expect anymore splashes. Terry Fontenot and company have done a wonderful job setting up this team for the draft. There are no longer any glaring holes, which will allow them to select the best player available in each round.

To preface, these rankings are my own. These are draft targets I prefer the Falcons to take, not who I think they will select. Positional value will be taken into account as well as need, but with the Falcons roster is in a good spot; those will come secondary. I will not be including prospects like Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or Will Anderson Jr., who all will almost certainly ne gone by the time the Falcons pick unless they make a trade up the board.

10. Devon Witherspoon

Witherspoon might be a slight reach inside the top ten, but I wouldn’t mind it. He’s undersized, but he’s a physical corner with great ball skills. Witherspoon was PFF’s highest rated corner in college last year and would pair nicely cross from A.J. Terrell.

9. Jaxon Smith-Njigba

I think JSN is one of the best overall prospects in the draft. He played sparingly in 2022 because of injury, but he was the best receiver on an Ohio State team that also featured Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Smith-Njigba is going to be a problem for NFL defenses the moment he steps on the field, and the Falcons have a need for a #2 receiver. I’m just not sure taking another pass catcher so high is in the cards for a team that doesn’t plan on passing the ball 30+ times a game.

8. Broderick Jones

You can copy and paste the same reasoning for the next three prospects. This is just how I rank them. The Falcons re-signing McGary to a team-friendly deal gives them more flexibility in the draft, but it doesn’t take offensive line off the board in the first round. This is one of the better units in the league, but the Falcons could still take a tackle, move him to guard for the first couple of years, and then kick him back out to tackle when they are ready to move on from either Jake Matthews or Kaleb McGary. Adding one of the top tackles in the draft would give the Falcons one of the best offensive lines for years to come, something that is pivotal in Arthur Smith’s offense.

7. Peter Skoronski

6. Paris Johnson Jr.

5. Anthony Richardson

I know the Falcons have stood firm behind Desmond Ridder as their starting quarterback, and it’s overwhelmingly apparent they believe he can be the guy. But if a talent like Anthony Richardson falls in their laps at eight, they have to consider it. The Florida quarterback has elite athleticism and arm strength. He’s going to need the right coach to succeed in this league, but there might not be a better landing spot for him than Atlanta under Arthur Smith. The Falcons need to find an answer at quarterback if they ever want to contend, and Ridder could still start next year while Anthony Richardson is waiting in the wings working on his development.

4. Bijan Robinson

I genuinely thought about putting Bijan Robinson higher on this list, but I did dock him slightly due to the positional value of running backs and because the Falcons currently have a very good running back room. However, if we are talking strictly best player available, he probably belongs first or second. He might be the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. I love Tyler Allgeier, but Cordarrelle Patterson isn’t going to be around for much longer, and Robinson would have the potential to be a legitimate MVP candidate in Arthur Smith’s offense. Don’t be shocked if the Falcons take him with the eighth pick in the draft.

3. Tyree Wilson

The Falcons added to their defensive line, but their edge group still leaves a lot to be desired. Wilson would ease those concerns immediately, and the fit is seamless. Ryan Nielsen likes to play an even front with big defenders that can set the edge on the outside of the defensive line. Wilson stands 6-foot-6, 275 pounds and plays with a ton of power. His speed on the outside isn’t going to result in many sacks at the pro-level, but he’s exactly what the Falcons new defensive coordinator covets and would pair nicely with the speed and finesse of second-year players Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone.

2. Christian Gonzalez

I believe Gonzalez is the best cornerback in the draft, and we’ve seen how elite corners can step in as rookies and have massive impacts. The Oregon product has exceptional length, speed, athleticism, and the kind of attitude the great corners in this league tend to exude. He’s an elite cover man and a willing tackler. The Falcons secondary is in a much better spot following the addition of Jessie Bates III, but they could use another corner across from A.J. Terrell. Bringing in Gonzalez would give Atlanta’s defense an identity for years to come.

1. Jalen Carter

Where Carter is drafted might be the biggest mystery coming into the draft. Many expected him to go inside the top three, but due to off the field concerns and his performance at his Pro Day, some are projecting he falls outside of the first round altogether. I have a hard time believing that. Carter is one of the best talents in this draft, and some team is going to give him a pass for his Pro Day because of everything he has been dealing with. Hopefully, it’s the Falcons if he slides to all the way to eight. Atlanta’s defensive line looks much better than it has in year’s past, but adding Carter would do wonders now and in the future. Drafting the Georgia Bulldog without having to move up is the best possible outcome for the Falcons.

Photo: Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire

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