Last week, I talked about the report that Washington may be “willing to trade all of their picks” to get their hands on Trey Lance. I’m not sure what “all of their picks” entails, but it certainly gets me excited. One thing is for sure; any trade package would include Washington’s 2021 first-round pick, which sits at 19th overall. This is actually one of my favorite ranges in this entire draft, as good as the quarterbacks are at the top — big-time positions of need are very abundant in the 19th overall range. There isn’t a defender worth taking with the fourth overall pick, and I’m not a big fan of selecting a guard in that range either. I think this Washington trade would be a dream scenario, and I’m going to lay out who I like in that range. For reference, I’ll be citing players’ unofficial Relative Athletic Scores (RAS) from their pro days, if applicable.
10. CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
This isn’t a knock on Caleb Farley as a player, I still like his potential, but I think it’s dangerous for the Falcons to use their first-round pick on a guy who may not be ready to start the 2021 season. Farley is still a freak athlete who is still learning the position’s nuances, and I really like his upside, but I can’t spend a first-round pick on him. If he was more of a finished product, I could take a gamble on a guy with concerns about his health. Farley is a freak athlete but way too raw.
9. EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
Look, I’ve been very hard on Kwity Paye in the past — but it’s more about the Falcons than it is about the player. From all scouting reports, Paye is a fantastic kid with excellent athletic traits. His RAS of 9.69 ranked 43rd out of 1338 defensive ends tested, and he’s incredibly gifted for a guy his size. However, although the Falcons will be using a multiple-front scheme on defense, Paye will initially serve best as a 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the dirt at all times. Besides, he’s a lot more sizzle than steak right now. I’m frankly tired of watching Atlanta swing and miss on developmental projects at EDGE, and while I like Paye as a player, he just doesn’t seem like a good fit with the Falcons.
8. LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
Collins is another guy like Paye that I really like as a player; I was very early to the Zaven Collins hype train. I like him more as a prospect than Micah Parsons, but Atlanta is pretty solid at linebacker. I think at worst; Collins is a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. As far as a scheme fit goes, I think Atlanta would be a great situation — Collins did EVERYTHING at Tulsa. He could rush the passer, play off the ball, and enforce against the run; he was great at all of those things. Not only was he an impact player on the field in many facets, but he also tested very well — running an unofficial 4.67 40-yard dash. The real question becomes if he’s going to be this monster that can do it all on the big stage or if he’s going to be a tweener that is just good enough at everything. My money is on Collins being an impact player, but I question if he’s what the Falcons need at 19. He strikes me as more of a “one final defensive piece” for a contender like the Browns or Chiefs, not a game-changing piece on defense. Still, I really love his game.
7. S Trevon Moehrig, TCU
I like Trevon Moehrig as a player, but a safety like him at 19 is a little too rich for my blood. A safety wasn’t selected in the first round in the 2020 draft, but Moehrig certainly has a chance to break the cycle. He’s the best pure high safety in the class, and he’s shown some chops in the box as well. His man coverage, ball skills, and instincts are incredible — plus, he’d be a plug-and-play starter at a position of need. However, with the value later down the board with guys like Richie Grant, Jevon Holland, and Jamar Johnson — I think you can afford to pass and address safety later in the draft while still picking up a day one starter.
6. EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
Jaelan Phillips is probably a little too low for many folks’ tastes, but I have my reasons. He’s a fantastic scheme fit in an attacking 3-4, and his athletic/physical profile should have Falcons fans excited if he’s the pick. However, you can’t ignore that he medically retired in 2018 due to concussions before coming back with Miami. I respect his decision as a player, but that’s a huge risk with a first-round pick. However, his ability to move all over the field, set the edge against the run, and get after the quarterback should very well make him a day one starter on this Falcons defense. Phillips ranked 14th out of 1345 defensive ends for RAS — his physique and athleticism are awe-inspiring. There’s a reason this kid was the top-ranked prospect coming out of high school.
5. IDL Christian Barmore, Alabama
Barmore is another guy who gets a bit of a knock for his positional value, but he’s easily the best interior defender in this class. I have a lot of the same feelings about Barmore that I do about Moehrig. He’s a fantastic scheme fit who can stuff the run, and he’s a fantastic pass rusher for an interior defender. Even though he was usually used in rotation for Alabama, I think he’s an impact starter for the Falcons from the moment he puts on the red and black. However, I prefer guys like Milton Williams, Daviyon Nixon, and Levi Onwuzurike later on down the board. He’s a fantastic player that immediately fills a position of need, but he isn’t my first choice.
4. LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky
Davis and the third-ranked player on this list are very close, in my opinion, but I think Davis has the potential to be this draft’s Darius Leonard if he doesn’t go in the first round. Along with his 4.49 40, Davis had a 42-inch vertical and 11-inch broad jump. I would have liked to have seen his shuttle and three-cone, but Davis’ RAS ranked 28th out of 2128 linebackers going back to 1987, and while the numbers are unofficial, the tape isn’t. While he has limited production, he has the chops to play WILL linebacker with even more potential as a field general. With Deion Jones and Mykal Walker in the fold, Davis isn’t as much of a need, but you can never have enough rangy linebackers in today’s NFL — especially with guys like Kyle Pitts coming into the league.
3. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
Alex did a fantastic breakdown on Owusu-Koramoah, and I really like what he could bring to the Falcons.
Yes, they have Deion Jones. But the division rival Bucs have Devin White and Lavonte David, and how’s that working out? Owusu-Koramoah is a wild-card prospect — he’s going to be playing at 220-230 pounds — but he fits the bill for the 2021 LB prototype. Atlanta needs a lot of defensive help.
Versatility is Owusu-Koramoah’s calling card, per his alignments the past two seasons at Notre Dame — 195 snaps at defensive line, 433 snaps in the box, and 680 snaps in the slot. Recording 142 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, seven passes defended, five forced fumbles (one returned for a touchdown), seven sacks, and one interception over the last two seasons in South Bend gives one a tangible sense of his effectiveness in so many different areas.
Not only would Owusu-Koramoah immediately improve the linebacker corps, but he would help fill the “enforcer” role that Keanu Neal filled. If he truly has safety flexibility like an Isaiah Simmons-type player, he could easily be one of the five best players in a very deep class.
2. IOL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
Vera-Tucker’s measurements are what projects him to the interior; while he was a left tackle for the Trojans, I think he has All-Pro potential at guard from day one. That should be music to the ears of Falcons fans. He tested pretty well with his RAS — his ten-yard split on his 40 was elite, along with his shuttle and three-cone. His arm length is slightly on the shorter side, but that’s not as big of a problem on the interior. Not only is he a perfect scheme fit, but he also fills a MASSIVE positional need at left guard. Ryan Tannehill was at his best in Tennessee with a clean pocket, and Arthur Smith’s offense thrived when he opened massive lanes for Derrick Henry to run through. Vera-Tucker has proven to be exceptional with both of those, using his elite athleticism to his advantage. On top of his immense potential, Vera-Tucker is the perfect player to start from day one at a position of need and create an elite young tandem along with Chris Lindstrom.
1. CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
Maybe one day I’ll stop fawning over Greg Newsome II, but today is not that day. Not only is Newsome a value pick at a big position of need, but he’s also my CB1 in this class. He has very fluid hips, exceptional ball skills and posted the 86th ranked RAS out of 1722 cornerbacks. His 4.38 40-yard dash shows on tape, and he only allowed a 10.5% completion percentage to his side of the field. He only allowed a 31.7 passer rating when targeted, best in the entire FBS. He allowed a 0.0 passer rating on third and fourth down. When targeted on passes of ten yards or more, Newsome only allowed one reception — the same amount of interceptions that he had. I may be cherry-picking stats, but this kid is exceptional. I see a lot of Jaire Alexander in his game, and not only is corner a need for the Falcons — he has the potential to create a lockdown tandem with AJ Terrell, something Atlanta has been missing for a while.