2021 CFP: Can Cincinnati Beat Alabama?

Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder will face Alabama for a chance at a National Championship
Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a storybook year for Cincinnati – an undefeated season that now has the G5 team facing perennial powerhouse Alabama. Can the Bearcats continue this run and pull off a major upset against Alabama? They are currently a 13.5-point favorite over the AAC champion, which is understandable.

No matter what you think about the media and the SEC, Alabama has faced a tougher schedule than the Bearcats. The AAC is not a murderer’s row and, to be fair, UC did struggle at times. That said, there is a way that UC can stay in this game and possibly win. Let’s take a look at they keys to a win for Cincinnati against Alabama.

No John Metchie

First, the defense needs to take advantage of the absence of Alabama wide receiver John Metchie. Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant need to shut down Alabama quarterback (and Heisman winner) Bryce Young’s remaining weapons and force the Tide into running the ball. Alabama turned in poor rushing performances late in the season (six yards against LSU) and taking Young and Jameson Williams (his top receiver) out of the picture will be beneficial for the ‘Cats.

Win time of possession battle

Second, the offense needs to control the ball. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder will present a major problem for the Alabama defense. A true dual threat, he can beat this defense through the air and on the ground. That said, Ridder and crew will need to control the ball on the ground, then take shots when available. This where Jerome Ford comes in.

Ford rushed for 100 yards five times this season and nearly 200 against Houston in the AAC Championship game. If he can put up this sort of production in the Cotton Bowl, keeping the ball out of Alabama’s hands, Cincinnati could pull off the upset. Positive yardage on first and second downs to keep manageable third-down situations will also help Ridder be effective throwing the ball.

DISCIPLINE

Finally, luck and eliminating mistakes. Face it, UC is the underdog and what does the underdog need to pull off the major upset? Luck. At some point, the ball is going to have to bounce Cincinnati’s way. Perhaps a deflected pass that ends up as an interception, a dropped hand-off that bounces right to a defensive lineman, a gadget play at just the right time to catch Alabama off guard — something weird will happen and it has to go the Bearcats’ way.

Also, Ridder and crew have to protect the ball. Cincinnati can not give this Alabama offense additional opportunities to score – it will be tough enough to stop them without turning the ball over.

Can Cincinnati Beat Alabama?

Is a Cotton Bowl victory and shot at a National Championship in UC’s future? Not many people think so, but if the Bearcats can take advantage of Alabama’s injuries on offense, control the ball, and get a bit of luck … it is possible.

Be sure to check out Around The Block for more coverage of the CFB playoffs.

Is Kayshon Boutte set to hit the Transfer Portal?

LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte seems set to hit the transfer portal

Huge news out of Baton Rouge, and not of the good variety for LSU fans. Star wide receiver, Kayshon Boutte, is considering entering the transfer portal — but that might not be the worst of it for LSU. Could a transfer to Alabama be on the way?

Why is Kayshon Boutte transferring?

With Ed O gone and a mass exodus of players leaving LSU, Boutte figured it’s his turn. Brian Kelly and his staff seem to be losing any and all veteran talent. The prime example being Eli Ricks going to Alabama. Boutte is a former Freshman All-American, and has huge upside who could easily be a WR1 on many teams in college football.

Kayshon Boutte is a guy who can catch anything that’s thrown his way. However, with sub par quarterback play, he is being been held back. A leg injury ended Boutte’s 20211 season with the Tigers, and a change of scenery now seems necessary. Where will he end up? Well, if you look at his twitter, it feels pretty obvious.

Where will Kayshon Boutte transfer to:

Now, with teammate Eli Ricks headed to Alabama, and the Tide being his number two out of high school, it seems fairly clear that Nick Saban and Alabama are early front runners for Kayshon Boutte. Pete Golding, Bama’s defensive coordinator, tweeted this on December 13th:

Which Boutte then liked. Out of high school, Golding recruited Boutte to Alabama along with Holmon Wiggins who is also still at Alabama. The Tide feel like the top contender for the top wide receiver.

If not Bama then where else:

Honestly, this is a little tricky. I don’t think there is another option, Boutte could always surprise us and choose someone out of left field, but there isn’t really another spot that makes sense. Justin Stepp, who recruited him to Arkansas is now at South Carolina, and the other two teams in his top five have different staffs all together.

I believe Kayshon Boutte is Alabama bound, but be wary of the surprise team that could always pop in and take him.

Falcons Dueling Mocks

Falcons Dueling Mock
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Welcome back to another Falcons Dueling Mocks article brought to you by the Falcons ATB team. Stephen won last week after Adam’s dominant run as the title holder. Will Adam regain his crown? Will Hunter finally taste success? Read the mocks and vote on the Falcons ATB Twitter page.

Hunter’s Falcons Mock (@hthompsonNFL)

Decided to go with this route of “my guys” for most of my picks this week, I had to have confidence in my players and myself to pick these guys because I’m getting desperate for a dub. So if you’ve seen them before, it’s because these are guys I’d be pounding the table for.

Round 1 Pick 12: Jordan Davis, NT, Georgia

  • Dear God watching Carolina run all over us was brutal. So here we have Jordan Davis being the first pick of my mock for the first time this season. He is a mountain in the middle of the field who can do it all for the Falcons. He has absoluetly dominated at the point of attack all season for UGA and would help free up Grady Jarrett and other pass rushers, and Davis would help create holes for our undersized LB group to go make plays.

Round 2 Pick 47: Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia

  • So full transparency, Derion Kendrick is the only guy on this mock that isn’t one of “my guys” but he is still a great talent. Kendrick has dominated in college ball for years now. He is a high ceiling CB who is still learning the position after switching over from WR while at Clemson. Kendrick works well in both man and zone and really gives Arthur Smith and Dean Pees the ability to trust him against opposing WR’s like they do with AJ Terrell.

Round 2 Pick 63: Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA

  • Tweeted out the other day that Zach Charbonnet has a very real chance to become my highest rated RB this draft cycle. He has carried UCLA this season and has shot up draft boards each week. He displays good vision, hits the hole hard, and has great size at 6’1″ 220lbs to be a bell-cow in the Arthur Smith offense. If Atlanta lands Charbonnet, the running game will immediately improve and help the team get back on track.

Round 3 Pick 78: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama

  • I absolutely have loved Jalen Tolbert ever since Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson on Twitter) put him on my radar. You’ve seen me draft him before, but the 6’3″ vertical threat has sticky hands and is a great contested catch player. Tolbert is explosive with the ball in hand and could thrive as a YAC Daddy in the Arthur Smith offense. He needs some work in the route running department, but would still be a welcome addition to our weak WR Room.

Round 4 Pick 115: Cade Otton, TE, Washington

  • In this mock, I pick Cade Otton the 6’5″ 250lb TE from Washington. Otton lets us move on from Hayden Hurst without a massive dropoff. Otton is just a very solid player who does everything. He’s a solid pass catcher, solid size, and a solid athlete. He’s just solid. He does need to work on his blocking a bit, but other than that, feels like grabbing a guy who will let Arthur Smith keep running the two and three TE sets here is good value.

Adam’s Falcons Mock (@Damski32)

Round 1 Pick 12: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M:

  • DeMarvin Leal makes his way back here. Other than Jordan Davis I’m still convinced Leal is one of the more logical fits for this defensive fronts. A&M uses a ton of over/under fronts and Leal lines up everyone and gives you juice. Coming off the EDGE is ideal in my opinion, but I don’t hate trying to work him inside along with Grady on twists and stunts. Brings some much needed size/nastiness to this front that’s been needed for a long, long time.

Round 2 Pick 47: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

  • Jermaine Johnson makes his first of what I’m sure is many visits to a mock draft for me. Johnson is a perfect fit for Pees scheme as an OLB or can stick his hand in the dirt and rush out of a 3-point stance. Johnson shows great length in his rushes but also shows incredible power while destroying gaps in the run game, he really could find himself in the first round come next years draft.

Round 2 Pick 63: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State

  • Brandon Smith is a BIG physical LB that shows fantastic range and can be a really good asset for ATL in terms of having a guy that can play man-up on TEs. Pees has shown that he wants to play a bunch of man, but doesn’t yet have that TE eraser. Combine that with the fact that ATL might lose one of their star ILBs this coming off-season due to the salary cap, Smith makes a ton of sense as a tone setter and just giving some really good talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Round 3 Pick 78: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

  • Jameson Williams is a walking home run threat for Alabama, it’s something ATLs offense sorely needs as the group here is really missing some real big time talent. Williams gives ATL something they don’t have in a big play WR that can also be a machine in getting YAC. Jameson is still a smaller WR, but he shows ability to go over the middle and play the ball well while maintaining explosive speed.

Round 4 Pick 115: Amare Barno, EDGE, Virginia Tech

  • Amare Barno is another EDGE (yes, that’s four total trench picks) and I’m well aware of what I’m doing. Arthur Smith came out after the Carolina game and you could tell he was upset at the trench play, so I really made a focus to attack the front in a big pay and Barno is that next guy. He shows surprising strength for his size, but also is able to bend the corner. A bit of a liability in the run game, but I want him to be a dominate pass defender/rusher.

Stephen’s Falcons Mock Draft (@stevieraylee)

*Cues the Ric Flair intro music* You’re mock draft heavyweight champion is back with another banger! I ruffled enough feathers with my shameless (but successful) fan service mock draft last week, so this week I’m going back to something a little less tongue in cheek. The battering Atlanta took against the Panthers showed precisely how ineffective this team is in the trenches. 2022 is the year we try to turn that around.

Round 1 Pick 12: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

Y’all will get sick of seeing Davis’ name in these mocks by the time we get to the draft. I’ve said that already, and I’ll keep saying it. It’s not the most entertaining start to a mock draft, but watching Ameer Abdullah and Chuba Hubbard post a 70%+ rushing success rate isn’t fun either. Atlanta’s defensive front is broken beyond the point of scheming around weaknesses. This Atlanta defense will never be effective if they can’t win at the line, and Davis is a one-man wrecking crew at nose tackle. Plug him in and watch everyone around him get better. My only concern is he’ll be gone before we get a chance to pick him.

Round 2 Pick 47: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

  • It’s a challenge to present new names in these mock drafts, of course. That said, I was happy to see that no one’s brought up the massive offensive tackle from UNI. Penning has an outstanding combination of size and athleticism, landing him on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list for 2021. At 6’7 with 35″ arms, he has elite length and reportedly runs a 5.0 forty at 340lbs. Penning’s tantalizingly rare mix of size, strength, and athleticism will shoot him up draft boards this spring. Technically he’s more advanced than you’d expect from a small school prospect, but there is still work to be done there. Still, I’d much rather take a player that can do things you can’t coach and teach him the rest. Atlanta needs another option at tackle, a fact that is torturously apparent after watching Brian Burns and Haason Reddick assault Matt Ryan for 60 minutes on Sunday.

Round 2 Pick 63: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, FSU

  • I’m going to enjoy taking Johnson here for as long as I can, but I suspect he’ll move into the first round in most projections before too long. It would be easy to phone it in playing for a Florida St. team that is dreadful, but Johnson is playing like his hair is on fire. He’s piled up 7.5 sacks and routinely finds himself in opposing backfields. He has the size and frame to play with his hand in the dirt and the athleticism to handle the coverage responsibility Dean Pees doles out to his outside linebackers. The defensive front is far and away Atlanta’s biggest weakness, and Johnson, especially paired with Jordan Davis, is a huge step towards solving this perineal problem.

Round 3 Pick 78: Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Edge, Washington

  • Making his second appearance in my mock, ZTF completes my phase one rebuild of the defensive front. Atlanta has been bullied at the point of attack because they lack size and power. Tupuola-Fetui is a multiple tool pass rusher with the size and power to set the edge in the run game. After largely ignoring the defensive front, adding a mammoth NT and two 260+lbs edge rushers in the first three rounds is the type of heavy investment that should pay immediate dividends for the Falcons.

Round 4 Pick 115: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan St.

  • Walker is another example of a player that won’t be available in the middle rounds for much longer. He’s here now, though, and I’ll happily sprint to the podium to get him with the 115th pick. Walker is the new favorite to win the Heisman after posting a five-touchdown performance this week. Walker’s contact balance and burst are exceptional. Pair that with his NFL-ready size, and he’s got the makings of a standout lead back.

Come vote on who’s mock was best over @falcons_atb on Twitter.

College Football Playoff Predictions: The 2021 Premiere

College Football Playoff predictions
Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The first batch of the 2021 College Football Playoff rankings are set to be released tonight on ESPN. It’s been a thrilling ride to the halfway point with numerous big jobs vacant, close games, and not-so-close games. Who will likely debut in the top ten of the playoff committee’s first set of rankings?

1. Georgia (8-0)

Georgia has been far and away the best team in the country, blowing out every team on their schedule to date. Their defense has carried the day, setting a historically dominant pace rivaled by few select teams in the history of college football. It’s no question who the top team is at this point, and they have a soft landing at home against woeful Missouri after a somewhat rigorous WLOCP effort against hated rival Florida last week.

The offense has done more than its fair share of work, scoring 30+ multiple times despite not needing to most days. It can be argued that they haven’t pressed the hammer down yet and don’t have to until Atlanta. If they can win it all, expect some comparative talk to the 2001 Miami Hurricanes or 2013 Florida State Seminoles. 

Next Game: 11/6 HOME vs. Missouri 

2. Alabama (7-1)

The reigning national champions have been efficiently effective against their opponents, save that one loss on the road in primetime at College Station. Like Georgia, they haven’t been tested too strenuously throughout the season to this point. The defense has been worrisome under nominal DC Pete Golding’s watch, however.

Bryce Young has been on the fringes of Heisman contention, replacing first round selection Mac Jones as the point man. The offense is capable of exploding at any time due to its still litany of perimeter weapons such as John Metchie and prohibitive Biletnikoff favorite Jameson Williams. Next up is a post bye week home date against a reeling LSU team that just fired their head coach and has injuries out the wazoo.

Next Game: 11/6 HOME vs. LSU

3. Ohio State (7-1)

After a brief interlude that saw them struggle a bit coming out of the gates, it appears that head coach Ryan Day has the Buckeyes rolling again. CJ Stroud struggled mightily early on but has turned it on and has himself in Heisman contention (surprise, it turns out that freshmen struggle early).

The defense was a mess until revitalizing itself against a relatively soft schedule. It has too much talent to not to improve. It can be favorably argued that they have the “best loss” in the country coming against Oregon. Next for them is an away contest to horrendous Nebraska playing out the string for likely unemployed Scott Frost. 

Next Game: 11/6 AWAY @ Nebraska

4. Oklahoma (9-0)

9-0 is 9-0 no matter how you got there, but with the Sooners defense being its usual traditionally leaky self, it has been a journey. Freshman quarterback Caleb Williams has been a breath of fresh air compared to the now benched Spencer Rattler, who was struggling to put it mildly.

Williams led the improbable comeback against Texas and stole the game from Kansas. Yes, the very same Kansas that has struggled in football as much as the basketball program wins. The schedule is relatively light going forward but with the Sooners apt to get into trouble, it will likely lose a game it has no business losing. Up next, a road trip to Baylor who is ascending up the conference ranks quickly. 

Next Game: 11/13 AWAY @ Baylor

5. Cincinnati (8-0)

Ah, those lovable Bearcats from the state of Ohio. They get to the fifth spot based on merit but it is a tenuous hold as they haven’t looked good in a few weeks. Struggle wins against that schedule will look rather indefensible in the meeting room.

Notre Dame was the lone highlight on the schedule, and depending on the Irish is a fool’s errand historically. The Bearcats have a chance to go undefeated with their schedule but will it be enough to impress the voters to vault them over the big boys? Will Luke Fickell even coach them in a bowl game? 

Next Game: 11/6 HOME vs. Tulsa

6. Oregon (7-1)

The reigning Pac12 champions simultaneously own the biggest win of the season (Ohio State on the road) and probably the worst loss of the season (Stanford) to date. The Ducks have been a mixed bag of collective meh so far on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback Anthony Brown has been wildly inconsistent while 2022 EDGE1 Kayvon Thibodeaux has been a force to be reckoned with — when healthy. They have had way too many injuries as well. A spiraling Washington team awaits as a road game this week. The Ducks need some help getting in and they aren’t getting it from their bad conference mates. 

Next Game: 11/6 AWAY @ Washington

7. Michigan State (9-0)

Sparty is 9-0 and coming off a close victory against bitter rival Michigan last week. Mel Tucker has reignited a dormant team in East Lansing with an unexpectedly explosive offense. That offense is paced by running back Kenneth Walker III, who should be firmly in the Heisman conversation and a high draft pick.

Defensively, they will be stout as per usual. They are currently leading the Big Ten East pack as of this writing. A date at The Shoe awaits after two relatively winnable games. That game will likely determine the East representative in Indianapolis.  

Next Game: 11/6 AWAY @ Purdue

8. Wake Forest (8-0)

The Demon Deacons are exciting in every way this season with an equally sublime offense and a defense that needs work. One of the surprise teams this season, that’s for sure. They are the favorites to win the ACC Atlantic, but have a daunting schedule with three straight division foes capable of pulling off the upset.

An away date with the inconsistently consistent Tar Heels is coming this weekend. Can the Deacs muster enough defense to close things out to get to Charlotte unblemished?  

Next Game: 11/6 AWAY @ UNC

9. Michigan (7-1)

Jim Harbaugh’s charges are coming off a deflating loss but still are in the thick of things in the Big Ten East. They will need to win out and hope for the Spartans to lose twice in the coming weeks to secure the division crown.

Harbaugh has had a rough go of things against his rivals, including a glaring winless streak against Ohio State. He will need to correct that in order to likely extend his employment status in Ann Arbor. Still, the Wolverines have a good team anchored by dominant EDGE Aidan Hutchinson. Three consecutive winnable games before The Game. Can they rebound this week against Indiana? 

Next Game: 11/6 HOME vs. Indiana

10. Notre Dame (7-1)

Those Fighting Irish always seem to be in the conversation, yet so far away. Their only loss is to the second-ranked Bearcats. A home game against the United States Naval Academy is coming and you know what they say about games against triple option teams with very little prep time.

However, the schedule is set up for an undefeated November. They probably won’t be in the playoff this season as there are way too many programs to jump and the schedule has failed them spectacularly. 

Next Game: 11/6 HOME vs. Navy

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Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft Duel: Week 6 Edition

Falcons mock draft

The Atlanta Falcons currently hold the eighth overall selection in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. Because we’re all looking towards the future, it bears the question: who’s next? Atlanta’s in a tough spot currently, and it starts under center. Matt Ryan isn’t getting any younger, and the succession plan is TBD. Defensively, that question is just as tough for the Atlanta Falcons future. Who can be paired with the menace that is Grady Jarrett on the interior? Or who’s the next incredible pass rusher? Heck, what about the lackluster secondary?

In the last edition of Around the Block’s Atlanta Falcons mock draft duel, Hunter and Adam received a challenge from Stevie. Which mock draft is better this time around? Find out below, then go to @falcons_atb on Twitter to vote for your favorite!

Hunter’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft (@hthompsonNFL)

Round 1 Pick 12: Carson Strong, QB, Nevada

  • This was not the ideal pick to start our Falcons mock draft, but most other targets I wanted were off the board. But alas, I’ll attempt to put a positive spin on this. Carson Strong is a name you might not have heard of if you don’t keep up with draft Twitter, but the 6’4″ 215 lb Nevada product is my QB1 in the class. Strong has a cannon that allows him place dimes across the field as he posted 16 TD’s to 3 INT’s at this point in the season. He’s also an incredible pre-snap QB who works through his progressions while leading the Nevada Air Raid offense. Strong would be able to come sit behind Ryan for a year while we build the rest of the roster.

Round 2 Pick 45: Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama

  • A high character corner from Alabama, Jobe has the ability to be a great corner to grow next to AJ Terrell. Jobe is a long corner who plays well in press coverage. He is a smart IQ player who does well with his technique to go toe to toe with any WR’s. He is a bit older as a 24 year old rookie, but Jobe fits what the Falcons are going to try run defensively under Pees.

Round 2 Pick 54: Isaiah Thomas, EDGE, Oklahoma

  • Isaiah Thomas has really been a freak of nature at Oklahoma this season. He is a 6’5″ 265lb EDGE who has been used in a variety of ways in Norman this year. He is explosive with his first step and an aggressive monster at the LOS. His hands are strong and his arsenal of pass rush moves is pretty solid. Grabbing a freak like Thomas here is a steal for the Falcons in the draft.

Round 3 Pick 75: Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

  • Faalele is a mountain of a man at 6-feet-9, 380 pounds. He’s been sliding a bit down boards, but adding the mauler here is a nice addition for the Atlanta Falcons’ o-line. Faalele is a massive bear of a RT who will be able to come in and push Kaleb McGary for a starting spot along this offensive line.

Round 4 Pick 115: Smoke Monday, SAF, Auburn

  • The Falcons adding Smoke Monday here would be a smart move. Smoke would be able to come in and compete right off the bat with Jaylinn Hawkins and Richie Grant for starting safety reps in the Dean Pees defense. Smoke Monday is a leader on the Auburn defense who is a physical safety who is strong in the run game.

Adam’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft (@Damski32)

Round 1 Pick 12: Jordan Davis, iDL, Georgia

  • This gives us a unique opportunity to see what a draft outside the top 10 looks like. I started this thing off with an ass kicker and world destroyer right smack in the middle of the defense. Jordan is proving to be a complete nightmare for IOL both vs the pass and vs the run. He’s in great shape and that motor runs hot constantly. His raw strength is absolutely ridiculous and the fact that teams double and triple team him and he still gets home says a lot. Falcons look to rebuild this DL from the inside out and what a heck of a starting piece like Jordan Davis.

Round 2 Pick 45: John Metchie, WR, Alabama

  • John Metchie has been hot and cold this year and he’s really taken a backseat to Jameson Williams in that Alabama O. Which is fine for ATL. They benefit from getting this YAC WR; a big bodied X WR who can create decent separation on his own — which is what ATL really needs from its X WR. Ideally, I wanted OL, but I wasn’t going to rush the need and the Falcons DO need skill positions, too, so I was fine with taking a scheme fit WR here.

Round 2 Pick 54: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M

  • Isaiah Spiller is going to be a pick of mine in every mock, I think. Spiller has such great vision and patience when coming through the hole and shows tons of burst and contact balance on film. Arthur Smith will definitely be looking for his bell-cow in this draft, and I think Spiller, the ever talented RB out of A&M, could be that guy. To note, Arthur loves his backs who can block on third down too; Spiller might be the best of the bunch in that area.

Round 3 Pick 76: Zion Johnson, iOL, Boston College

  • Zion Johnson from Boston College was someone who was HIGH on my radar last off-season when I knew we’d be in the market for an IOL. Luckily for ATL, he went back to school and they have a shot at him this year. Zion possesses real functional strength and is a bully in the run game, really good at getting to the second level to seal blocks, and has some nasty in the pass game. Having Mayfield be average this whole year wouldn’t stop me from adding bodies to the position. The Falcons did draft Drew Dalman after having Matt Hennessy on the roster already last year.

Round 4 Pick 115: Amare Barno, EDGE, Virginia Tech

  • Amare Barno is such an intriuging prospect and I think four months from now he may rise up the boards and could be a Day 2 pick. He has some really good power and offers some really good hand play. He’s an intriguing Day 3 option at EDGE for us that could potentially log some early snaps as a designated pass rusher. I really didn’t like how this turned out in terms of EDGE cause this was such a strong class, but I was happy to nab a guy that was high on my board!

Stephen’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft (@stevieraylee)

Round 1 Pick 12: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

AJ Terrell is living up to the immense preseason hype, but he can’t do it by himself out there. Booth would be an immediate starter whose ability in man coverage would allow Pees to open up his playbook more than we’ve seen so far this season. Excellent footwork and balance keep Booth comfortable with any assignment. He can play out of control at times, but, with a little polish, Booth could make the secondary a strength for the Falcons defense.

Round 2 Pick 45: David Bell, WR, Purdue

If Bell can continue to build on his 11 catch, 240 yard game against Iowa, we probably won’t get many more opportunities to draft him this late. Bell fits the mold of a bigger, contested-catch receiver that Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have been looking for since Julio Jones departed for Tennessee. Atlanta has Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley in the building for 2022, but that’s pretty much it. Even though there are other pressing issues, if the Falcons want to be competitive, they have to keep the offense running at a high level.

Round 2 Pick 54: Zion Nelson, OL, Miami

Nelson is an incredibly athletic offensive tackle that excels in pass pro against speed rushers. He moves well in space, and if he can put on (and keep on) weight, he has the potential to be an excellent run blocker in an outside zone scheme. The big question is whether he can maintain the requisite size to stick in the pros. Miami lists Nelson at 315lbs, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts his playing weight is closer to 300 lbs. That’s not big enough to make it in the NFL, but he has steadily added weight since arriving in Miami. He’d be a bit of a project, but he has the tools to be a standout tackle if he pans out.

Round 3 Pick 76: Jermaine Johnson, Edge, Florida St.

Feel free to accuse me of copying Adam’s mock from last week, but a good idea is a good idea. Johnson is lighting it up this season in Tallahassee, piling up 6.5 sacks through six games. He is built perfectly to slot in at OLB in this scheme, and has the physical tools to play whatever role Dean Pees cooks up for him. The fact that he had to transfer out of UGA only shows how talented the Bulldogs roster is. Expect Johnson to continue to rise up draft boards as we move along, but for now, he’s an immense value in the third round.

Round 4 Pick 115: Amare Barno, Edge, Virginia Tech

This draft class is far too deep at the edge to resist a double-dip. Barno isn’t a name that’s being kicked around a ton, but he led the D1 schools in TFL’s in 2020. He isn’t off to the same white-hot start that Jermaine Johnson is in 2021, but he has managed 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble so far. At 6’6, Barno has an ideal frame, though he could stand to add functional strength. Barno transitioned from off-ball LB to defensive end in 2020, making him an intriguing candidate for a scheme-diverse system like Atlanta’s. It’s a pick based on projection, but after investing in a polished rusher like Johnson, the Falcons can afford to roll the dice on a developments project.