We’ve heard it from day one: The Atlanta Falcons are not going to reach for any prospects in the NFL draft process. They are going to go “BPA”, best player available, and continue to add the best talent at each pick. For the last two years, they have lived up to that mantra. How else do you rationalize picking a tight end fourth overall?
But, this off-season is a bit different. There are more expectations surrounding this season, thus making these draft picks more important. Especially the number-eight pick. Today, we discuss what could be deemed the best player available at each pick and some names to expect to hear surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and their NFL draft picks.
Disclaimer: I am only going to discuss the first two days worth of draft picks, Rounds 1, 2, and 3.
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Atlanta Falcons’ Best Players Available In The 2023 NFL Draft
First Round: Pick #8
Positions to watch: Edge, cb, rb?
The thing about the number eight pick is that it’s a clear sign of purgatory. You’re bad enough to where you secure a top-ten pick. However, not bad enough to be able to secure one of the premier talents in the draft.
That is, of course, unless Terry wants to get bold.
That’s what they did in 2021. Forget position, go and get the best talent available — now they have Kyle Pitts. They can use that same logic to go and pick up Bijan Robinson, running back out of Texas. One of the things this offense lacked last season was explosiveness; there was no home-run hitter. Robinson would come in and immediately become the home-run threat this offense desires.
But, if you are one of those who is more logical in your thinking, *yawn*, then you are looking at the defensive side of things for this pick. And with that, you could be looking at one of two positions.
There’s the EDGE position, where there are two options: Myles Murphy from Clemson, the 6’4″, 268 pound ball of pure physical traits. He doesn’t have the most refined pass-rush bag, but that can be taught in the league. You can’t teach his first step. Or you like Lukas Van Ness, who draws comparisons to another Nielsen disciple, Trey Hendrickson. His motor and explosion has shot him up draft boards, and it could shoot him all the way up into the eighth pick.
Then there is the cornerback position, where there are also two options: There is the lockdown-corner who was a menace to everyone in the PAC-12, Christian Gonzalez, out of Oregon. He has the prototypical size and moves the smoothest out of all of the cornerback prospects this season. Or, you like the human torpedo that is the Illinois cornerback, Devon Witherspoon. An instinctual big-hitter, he would immediately bring an attitude to the corner position opposite of A.J. Terrell that Ryan Nielsen and Jerry Gray would love.
Second Round: Pick #44
Positions to watch: edge, IDL, wr, cb
The second round pick will rely entirely on what direction the Falcons decide to take in the first round. So, we will discuss each of the options from the first section:
If The Falcons Go CB or RB:
Expect them to immediately find the best EDGE or interior defensive lineman they can. At around this pick, unless he tests himself out of this consideration, look for Adetomiwa Adeboware (try saying that five times fast). Arthur Smith and Ryan Nielsen discuss going into a more hybrid front, and Adeboware is one of the more versatile linemen in this draft. Combine that with his insane athleticism and you have a chess-piece all along the defensive line.
Another name to look out for is Keion White out of Georgia Tech. A 6’5″, 285 pound game-wrecker who is incredibly strong, and nimble for his size.
They could also choose to address the interior of the defensive line even more. You can never have too many big bodies up front. A name to watch is Keeanu Benton out of Wisconsin. This was a Senior Bowl riser who has shown out since the pre-draft process began. He has been working with Chuck Smith this off-season and it has paid immediate dividends.
If the Falcons go EDGE:
This is the more fun option to me, because that means they are more than likely to go for a skill position here at 44. And there are plenty to choose from.
Let’s start with the cornerback position. The first name that comes to mind is Julius Brents out of Kansas State. You want to talk about someone who made themselves some money at the combine! Brents tested like a madman in Indianapolis. Teams allowed Tariq Woolen to fall to the 5th round last season, I don’t think they will make the same mistake again.
Another avenue they could go is the wide receiver route. With a need for a WR2 option, finding one of the playmakers at the top of day two would be perfect. One name that makes a ton of sense is Jonathan Mingo from Ole Miss.
Yes, another Ole Miss receiver in Arthur Smith’s offense, but there’s a reason why they work so well. Mingo stretches the field, is physical at the catchpoint and during his route, and, of course, he is a willing blocker.
Another receiver that screams Arthur Smith is Xavier Hutchinson from Iowa State. He is a physical receiver who was a savvy separator underneath. No, he doesn’t have the elite speed, but there are plenty of other avenues to find that explosiveness. He’s also a Jacksonville native, like myself, so you know he’s a baller.
Round Three: Pick #75
Positions to watch: wr, idl, LB
Finally, we’re going to discuss the third round pick, the final pick in the first two days. This would be the perfect time to address the wide receiver position if they hadn’t yet.
If they are going to be looking for a receiver, you have to start with Ridder’s right-hand man at Cincinnati, Tyler Scott. His ability to separate easily, using his speed and explosiveness, is a perfect complement to the size we currently have in the wide receiver room. Not to mention his built-in chemistry with Desmond Ridder.
Another really good name is Jayden Reed from Michigan State. Another Senior Bowl riser who showed off his skills as a vertical threat. His 4.45 speed will stretch the field and open things open for the rest of the offense.
Another vertical threat is Rashee Rice out of SMU. His 10-yard split and 41″ vertical make him a threat both down the field and in “yards after catch” situations.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Falcons can look to bolster the interior defensive line group or the off-ball linebacker spot. Freak athletes Siaki Ika and Mazi Smith should be there around this pick.
Both of these interior linemen are freakishly strong, agile for their respective sizes (Ika: 6’3″, 335, Smith: 6’2″, 323), and are elite run-stuffers, something Nielsen covets from his defensive line. Both of them are very raw technique-wise, but Nielsen can groom them to where they need to be.
At off-ball linebacker, this is around the time names such as Daiyan Henley from Washington State will be coming off the board. Henley’s ability in coverage makes him such an intriguing prospect for Atlanta.
I expect Atlanta to play a lot more man-coverage, and with that the linebackers will be responsible for running backs out of the backfield, along with tight ends. Henley’s ability to cover both make him a great target for the defense.
There are so many different avenues the Atlanta Falcons can go to in the upcoming NFL draft. Let me know what direction you think they go in the first three rounds.
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