Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft: How Matt Ryan Trade Affects Plans

The Atlanta Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Colts for the No. 82 pick in the 2022 NFL draft. His era is now over in Atlanta, but he will always be remembered as one of the greatest Falcons of all time. To replace him, they will have to look to a combination of the NFL draft and the signing of Marcus Mariota. Mariota looks like a mentor for whoever they end up drafting.

To explore what the draft could look like, we employed the Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to develop a realistic Atlanta Falcons mock draft scenario. General Manager Terry Fontenot has stated that he employs a Best Player Available draft strategy, but in reality, he will likely focus on finding a quarterback since he doesn’t have that franchise guy right now.

Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft

Malik Willis, first pick in this Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft
Photo Credit: G. Fiume/Getty Images

Round 1, No. 8 overall: QB Malik Willis, Liberty

Sure, the Falcons signed Marcus Mariota to start for the 2022 season. And that will be fine for until the next quarterback is ready. But they should look into someone who can not just be the guy who fits what head coach Arthur Smith likes, but be the guy who can help Smith expand his playbook.

Some guys will fit that mold in this draft later on, but if you like a guy enough to take him in the first, take him at your first round pick. We’ve done just that for this Atlanta Falcons mock draft.

The guy who truly fits the Falcons as a team, a city, and an organization is Malik Willis. He’s an Atlanta native who played at a pair of high schools in Atlanta before moving to Auburn and later on Liberty in college. He has the off-field credentials that would fit in well in with the Falcons as a leader for the locker room for years. And on-field, he has the rocket arm, exceptional mobility, and football IQ to be a premier quarterback in today’s NFL.

Malik Willis could be the long-term future in Atlanta. Photo by G. Fiume, Getty Images
Pickens would instantly be the No. 1 receiver in Atlanta. Photo by Curtis Compton, UPI

Round 2, No. 43 overall: WR George Pickens, Georgia

The Falcons currently have just 32 catches, 420 yards and three touchdowns of wide receiver production returning to the team in 2022 from their 2021 corps. The only two wide receivers of note on the Falcons current roster are Olamide Zaccheaus and Frank Darby. The signing of KhaDarel Hodge isn’t a needle-mover, either. Because of that, the Falcons should be in search of a man who can be a No. 1 wide receiver not just in on-field ability, but attitude.

George Pickens from Georgia is that guy in true form. He’s a 6-foot-3 receiver with some of the best speed in the draft. He can burn a defense deep and has the ability to go over the middle that will be needed for coach Smith’s schemes. Pickens has had some injury issues, and without those issues, he would probably be going top 10 in this draft. The Falcons should take advantage of this slip and hope he can avoid injury moving forward.

Travis Jones could be a dominant force next to Grady Jarrett. Photo by Kirby Lee, USA Today

Round 2, No. 58 overall: DL Travis Jones, Connecticut

The Falcons do have five defensive linemen on the roster now, but they could use a primary nose tackle-type to fit into the rotation with Anthony Rush, Marlon Davidson, and Ta’quon Graham. The player next to Grady Jarrett needs to be quick, strong, and large. Travis Jones fits that to a tee. He also matches the scheme defensive coordinator Dean Pees runs at the position.

Primarily someone who will eat double teams in Atlanta, Jones should open up Grady Jarrett to more one-on-one matchups with offensive linemen. Those double teams he eats should keep the linebackers behind him cleaner and the pass rushers next to him with more one-on-one matchups, as well. While an edge rusher would be helpful here, the pass rush is a multi-year project. Jones will help it more long-term than a first-year edge rusher.

Darrian Beavers is the ideal Dean Peas MIKE. Photo by Benjamin Solomon, Getty Images

Round 3, No. 74 overall: LB Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati

With the loss of Foye Oluokun, the Falcons will need someone to take over the middle linebacker role left in the void. Darrian Beavers fits in well with the Falcons’ defensive coordinator Dean Pees role at Mike. The Falcons would get a leader for their defense. Beavers understands the adversity of playing on a roster that may not be the most talented. He’ll be able to get the most out of the players around him.

Nik Bonitto (11) could be a star in Pees scheme. Photo by Tom Pennington, Getty Images

Round 3, No. 82 overall: EDGE Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma

The Falcons added to their edge room with the signing of Lorenzo Carter and addition-by-subtraction of letting Dante Fowler go. Carter and Adetekunbo Ogundeji will likely be the starters, but adding a pass rusher like Nik Bonitto to the rotation would only help. It does seem like this is a minor addition to be the direct compensation for Matt Ryan, as this was the pick gained in that trade, but Bonitto has the potential to be a vital piece of a pass rush.

Alec Lindstrom re-unites with his brother in Atlanta. Photo by AP

Round 4, No. 114 overall: OL Alec Lindstrom, Boston College

The Atlanta Falcons need to enhance the talent along the offensive line. What better way to do that than to bring in the little brother of the best offensive lineman they have? Alec Lindstrom can fit in well in the zone blocking scheme as he’s a quicker, more technical lineman. He also can play either guard or center position and allow Atlanta some competition for Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman, Jalen Mayfield, and the rest of the interior line roster for a starting role in 2022.

Coby Bryant could be an intriguing projection. Photo by Jonathan Bachman, Getty Images

Round 5, No. 151 overall: CB/S Coby Bryant, Cincinnati

Based on the Falcons needs, bringing in someone like Coby Bryant to help the safeties room makes a lot of sense. Now that may sound a bit off because Bryant was a cornerback in college, but he was an extremely strong run defender and reliable tackler. More importantly, he was exceptional in zone coverages and a little weaker in man-to-man. The Falcons bringing in Bryant as a safety to be the free, deep defender makes sense as a projection this late.

Tyquan Thornton and George Pickens can burn defenses. Photo by Jerome Miron, USA Today

Round 6, No. 190 overall: WR Tyquan Thornton, Baylor

Because of the lack of wide receiver depth on the Falcons roster, adding another receiver in the sixth makes sense for that purpose. Tyquan Thornton was the most athletic receiver in the draft and at 6-foot-2, he has the height to help out the new quarterbacks make those throws needed in the red zone. Thornton is a bit rough around the edges as a route runner, but he fits in well with the schemes in Atlanta and can stretch the field.

Jalen Nailor could be a great fit in the slot long term. Photo by Chris Peterson, Getty Images

Round 6, No. 213 overall: WR Jalen Nailor, Michigan State

Our Atlanta Falcons mock draft ends the way it began: on offense. The slot receiver could also use an upgrade and bringing in someone like Jalen Nailor would help that depth there. Nailor has great big-play ability due to his run-after-catch ability to excel in the Falcons offense.

He will remind some of Russell Gage, but more polished as a route runner. The speed is there to torch a defense, and he’s great as a vertical receiver as well. Adding Nailor, Thornton, and Pickens would really give the Falcons larger, faster receivers to work with.

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