Patriots Stay Hot Against Falcons

Patriots vs Falcons
Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

It wasn’t sleek. Or shiny. Or really that sexy. But if you’re complaining about the Patriots’ 25-0 drubbing of the Falcons on Thursday Night Football, you were probably the kid that complained they didn’t get enough presents on Christmas. Don’t be that kid.

While it may not get many points in the style category it certainly beats a “pretty loss.” The Patriots handled their business on a short week against the Falcons an unfamiliar opponent. And if you think New England should have beat them by more, just look at the results from Sunday and appreciate the W.

The Bills got dominated by the underdog Colts. The best team in the conference, the Titans, lost to the worst team in the conference, the Texans. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: a win is a win is a win. Doesn’t need style points.

Patriots vs Falcons Recap

Here are 14 observations from the Thursday Night Shutout.

1.) Kyle Van Noy was the lead story. He’s been coming along slowly throughout the season before erupting against the Falcons. He had 8 total tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, and one interception return for a touchdown. On a defense full of playmakers, one of the original boogeymen is rounding into form. Bad news for 31 other offenses.

2.) The Pats had 12 QB hits on Matt Ryan, a season high. That pressure goes a long way in explaining the team’s recent success on third downs. The Falcons were 2-11 on third down. The Browns were 1-11 a week before. Games are won on third down and the Patriots defense has been dominating opponents on the money down in recent weeks.

Over the last four games, the defense has pressured opposing QB’s on 48.5% of their drop-backs. Ryan was pressured on 59.4% of his drop-backs against the Pats.

3.) It’s a poorly kept secret that here at Around the Block Sports we’ve had a bit of a crush on Christian Barmore. He continued to be disruptive despite a quiet stat line (1 tackle for a loss). If you want teaching tape on what interior pressure does to an opponents’ passing game, watch Barmore against the Falcons.

4.) Staying with the big fellas up front, Carl Davis had himself a great game. He re-established the line of scrimmage in the Falcons backfield multiple times, including the critical fourth-down stop sequence in the third quarter.

5.) The Pats’ use of “big nickel” is a big reason for their defensive success and ability to match up with opposing offenses. In a typical nickel defense, a third corner enters the game, for the Pats they’ve been putting a third safety on the field. Devin McCourty has played 92.3% of defensive snaps this season, Adrian Phillips 81.5%, and Kyle Dugger 80.9%.

A big reason this defensive personnel package has found success is the hybrid ability of all three players. Phillips played primarily linebacker for the Pats last year. Add in Dugger’s train wreck level collisions and you aren’t losing a lot of physicality with the extra DB on the field. Not only does Dugger hit hard, but he shut down Kyle Pitts one on one in multiple instances Thursday night.

6.) The Browns scored 4:55 into the first quarter of their game against the Pats. Since then, opposing offenses have had 19 possessions with zero points. In that same time, the Pats have scored 70 unanswered points.

7.) The red zone defense is another reason this team has found success. They are allowing touchdowns on 48.3% of opponents’ trips into the red area. Last year they surrendered touchdowns on 65.3% of opponents’ trips, good for 28th in the league in red-zone defense. The Pats have 9 red zone stops this year, good for tops in the league.

8.) Going into the game, the theory was the Pats may revert to their roots in man coverage as the Falcons had struggled against it more than they had against zone. The Pats didn’t care. They played zone on all but 6 defensive snaps against the Falcons. It might have caught the Falcons by surprise as all three quarterbacks on their roster threw an interception.

It was the first time three quarterbacks on the same team each had thrown an interception in a single game since 2000. Current Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh was one of the offending parties for that Chargers team.

9.) Receiving stats since October 24: JC Jackson- 4 INTs, 91 yards, 1 touchdown. Odell Beckham Jr.- 3 catches, 24 yards.

10.) Belichick’s love for special teams had a palpable effect on the game. The Falcons’ average starting field position was their own 21-yard line. The Pats’ average starting field position was their own 33-yard line. A significant advantage in hidden yardage for the Patriots.

11.) Mac Jones is completing 83.7% of his passes over the last two games. Jones now has seven games on the season where he has a completion percentage north of 70%. No other QB has more than four.

And before we start screaming to the masses that Mac is a dink and dunk QB, his yards per attempt is greater than Patrick Mahomes’ or Justin Herbert’s.

12.) Despite his accuracy and usual good decision-making, he did struggle to identify multiple Falcons’ defensive looks on Thursday night. The Falcons were able to fool him with multiple defensive back blitzes. His interception may have been a case of misreading a post-snap coverage roll as well.

13.) The good news for the Pats having sustained success as the weather turns colder is their pair of absolute bruisers at running back. Damien Harris played 25 snaps while rookie Rhamondre Stevenson got 22. Stevenson had more touches than Harris, 13 to 11. Not a lot of defenses will enjoy seeing this team in the frigid northeast later this season.

Especially behind massive Trent Brown and human wrecking ball Shaq Mason. 104 of the Patriots’ 134 rushing yards against the Falcons came behind that destructive duo.

14.) The Patriots played the Bucs on a Thursday Night in 2017. The Buccaneers kicker missed three field-goal attempts that night and wouldn’t play in the NFL for two full years after being released the next day. That same kicker is now 25 of 27 on-field goals this year including going 4 for 4 Thursday night against the Falcons. Incredible comeback for Nick Folk.

Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft: Dueling Edition

Ladies and gentlemen we are back with another Atlanta Falcons mock draft dueling edition. After that abysmal beatdown in Dallas we need something to look forward too. Lets have at it, vote on the winner only @falcons_atb on Twitter! As always thank you to RiseNDraft and nflmockdraftdatabase for the simulator!

Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft
Credit: Sports Illustrated

Hunter’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft

Round 1 Pick 12: Kenyon Green, iOL, Texas A&M

  • The Falcons OL needs help. With the Falcons likely committing to Matt Ryan for the long term, they need to keep him upright. Kenyon Green is a great start to that. The Aggie is an incredibly versatile piece who can play along the interior Offensive Line. Adding Green would be an immediate upgrade over Mayfield or McGary and help the Falcons Offensive Line set the tone for the future.

Round 2 Pick 45: Trevor Penning, OT, NIU

  • Here we have the Falcons double dipping on the OL with Trevor Penning. Penning is one of the biggest risers and has been shooting up Draft Boards. I don’t expect for Penning to be here at this point, but since he is we take him. Penning is a 6’7″ 320lb bear who just bullies opposing defenders. Penning could immediately step in for Kaleb McGary and then eventually take the reigns for the blindside when Matthews hangs it up.

Round 2 Pick 63: Travon Walker, DL, Georgia

  • Walker is a strong side EDGE in the Georgia defense who weighs in at a strong 6’5″ 275lb. Walker has the versatility to thrive in the Dean Pees multifront defense while serving as a formidable running mate to pair with Grady Jarrett. He isn’t a true nose tackle, but he should be able to replace the lackluster performances we have gotten from Marlon Davidson so far.

Round 3 Pick 76: Zion Tupuloa-Fetui, EDGE, Washington

  • Here we have the Falcons taking ZTF who is one of my favorites. I know I always talk about ZTF but he would be a nice addition to a defense who is missing a spark. ZTF has rebounded from an Achilles injury and has been starting to get back to his 2020 level of play. ZTF brings a motor that runs hot, a good toolbox, and high levels of athleticism. Adding ZTF would give the Falcons a solid prospect to help grow the defense while getting younger.

Round 4 Pick 115: Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina

  • Kevin Harris is another one of my guys in this draft cycle. Harris is a powerful runner who can help the Falcons RB room improve. Mike Davis has been struggling and we have seen the Falcons use Cordarrelle Patterson in a variety of ways, which means we could use some RB help going forward. Adding Harris in R4 just feels like good value here for the Falcons who need to upgrade the running game.

Adam’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft

Round 1 Pick 12: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

  • Falcons need CB help bad. Elam gives them a running mate for AJ Terrell. Elam is a long CB who dominates in press coverage and can clamp up any opposing WR. Adding a player like Elam, gives Dean Pees the freedom to be more creative with some of his defensive schemes.

Round 2 Pick 45: Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State

  • Athletic OT from the Buckeyes has versatility at RT and LT. Immediately competes with McGary for the RT position and gives you that more prototypical type of RT that people want with long arms and a really good kick-step. Can maul you in the run game as well, won’t be surprised if a team takes him at the backend of the first, has day 1 starting traits for Arthur Smith and company.

Round 2 Pick 63: Brandon Joseph, SAF, Northwestern

  • Joseph is a young safety who would give us versatility on the backend of the defense, He dominates in zone and Pees can roll him and move him around as a defensive chess pieces. Joseph has the single high ability and could slot down into the box. He’s incredibly smooth in coverage as we have seen him play well against Ohio State WR’s in the past. Joseph is just a playmaker for a defense sorely missing them.

Round 3 Pick 76: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M

  • Spiller’s been in a few of my mocks, but rightfully so. He’s a physical RB who is probably the best pass blocker in the class as well — something that Arthur Smith is high on. Spiller shows good contact balance and patience while running, and looks to finish runs physically. I think Arthur needs a bell cow to get back to being that balanced offense and I think Spiller fits the bill.

Round 4 Pick 114: Sam Williams, EDGE, Ole Miss

  • Sam Williams is another one of these long, physically imposing OLB’s, I think, at least from what ATL has done last off-season you’ll see the trend of these kind of pass rushers come to ATL. I think Williams is a great late round guy that presents big time upside with the power that he has. Against Alabama you see him numerous times just fold OT’s, and even at times he lines up inside standing up and uses his strength to push the pocket.

Stephen’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft

After picking Jordan Davis in (basically) every Atlanta Falcons mock draft so far, I decided to switch it up a bit this week. The theme for this week is physicality. The Falcons just suffered the worst loss they’ve had since 2004, and the inability to be the bigger bully has plagued them all season. For this mock, I went (mostly) with the meanest player available.

Round 1 Pick 12: George Karlaftis – Edge – Purdue

  • There’s been a lot of chatter lately about Karlaftis’ less-than-ideal arm length, but his tape shows it’s not a consistent issue for him. Fontenot showed a strong preference for long-armed rushers in the 2020 draft, so I won’t be surprised if the Falcons pass on him. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, though. Atlanta needs help everywhere, but an utterly invisible pass rush has been the most troubling storyline this season. Karlaftis has room to grow as a run defender but will enter the NFL as a polished and powerful pass rusher.

Round 2 Pick 45: Mykael Wright – Cornerback – Oregon

  • Wright isn’t the biggest cornerback in this draft, but you wouldn’t know it from his playstyle. He’s only 5’11, 182lbs, but has the attitude of a linebacker and doesn’t shy away from contact. Despite his size, Wright excels in press coverage and has the athletic ability to disrupt plays at the catch point. He’ll probably run in the low 4.4s, so long speed isn’t a concern. AJ Terrell has been excellent this season, but the rest of the secondary has been up-and-down at best. Wright gives Atlanta a pair of aggressive young corners to serve as cornerstones for this defense.

Round 2 Pick 63: Darian Kinnard – Offensive Tackle – Kentucky

  • If the pass rush is the most apparent need for Atlanta, an upgraded run game is a close second. Kinnard, at 6’5, 345lbs, is one of the most dominant run blockers in the nation. He isn’t asked to be much of a pass protector at Kentucky, and there are some valid concerns that he may struggle at tackle in the NFL, but his ability to single-handedly cave in a defensive line makes him an asset. Kinnard absolutely buries defenders, and the Falcons sorely need that sort of physicality on the roster.

Round 3 Pick 76: John Metchie III – Wide Receiver – Alabama

  • I’m not in love with the idea of drafting a receiver early(ish), but Atlanta doesn’t have any choice but to add to this group. Calvin Ridley’s future is in question, leaving Frank Darby as the only receiver left on the roster in 2022. Metchie has a similar skill set to Ridley, which would be a bit redundant if/when he returns, but at this point in the draft, Metchie was the best player available. He may not have blazing speed, but his ability to win routes early makes him a big-play threat. Paired with a deep threat to open things up, Metchie and Pitts can be lethal in the intermediate part of the field.

Round 4 Pick 115: Travis Jones – Nose Tackle – Connecticut

  • You didn’t think I’d get out of this exercise without adding a massive nose tackle, did you? Anthony Rush has brought some strength to the Falcons interior, but I can’t help but add another 350lb+ hog to this defensive roster. No one will mistake Jones as a premier pass rusher, but he has all the makings of a dominant run-stuffing nose tackle and can help collapse a pocket when he isn’t double-teamed. If Jordan Davis isn’t the pick in the first, Travis Jones is a solid silver medal option.

Falcons vs Cowboys Preview: Can Atlanta Win A Shoot-Out in Big D?

falcons vs cowboys
Credit: Blogging with the Boys

Atlanta sports fans are riding high this week. The Braves are World Series champs, the Bulldogs are number one in the nation, and the Falcons stole a win from the swamp people in New Orleans. It’s enough to have people in the Peach State buying the idea that Jorge Soler broke the Atlanta sports curse when he sent one over the railroad tracks in Houston. This week’s game against Dallas will put that notion to the test. Here is the Falcons vs Cowboys preview for this week.

Atlanta hasn’t faced a team as dangerous as the Cowboys since their week two matchup with Tampa Bay. The Falcons have improved quite a bit since that 48-25 drubbing, but have they grown enough to stand toe-to-toe with one of the top teams in the NFC? Are they ready to face off against a Dan Quinn-led defense?

Vegas thinks the Falcons are dead in the water, as Atlanta opened as nine-point underdogs. I don’t think it’s that cut-and-dry. No one will ever mistake me for a bright-eyed optimist, but I think the Falcons have a puncher’s chance this week. The path to an upset victory is narrow, but it exists. Here’s how the Falcons can find themselves with a winning record for the first time since 2017 vs the Cowboys.

Continue to Stand Strong Against the Run

I’ve harped for weeks that the Falcons run defense was a weakness that opponents had not fully capitalized on yet. Before the Panthers and Saints games, I called it the number one concern for the team. Carolina exploited that weakness and gained just enough of an edge to squeak out the win two weeks ago.

Sean Payton, a coach that’s never been shy about copying off someone else’s homework, looked to bully the Falcons defensive front last Sunday. It was a rousing success for the first two drives. The Saints averaged seven yards per carry, and though penalties killed the drives before getting into scoring position, it seemed Atlanta’s inability to control the line of scrimmage would doom them for a second consecutive week.

Then something strange happened.

Atlanta plugged in the recently elevated Anthony Rush alongside Mike Pennel at defensive tackle, giving the Falcons a pair of 330+lb run stuffers in the middle of the line. Shockingly this added girth facilitated a complete 180 for the Falcons’ run defense, and the team allowed a meager 2.6 yards per carry for the remainder of the game.

The defense still collapsed in the fourth quarter, but forcing the Saints to be one-dimensional allowed the Falcons enough time to build just enough of a lead to stay competitive.

Let’s Keep that Energy on Sunday

The Cowboys have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. So it seems the Falcons will have their hands full vs the Cowboys. Amari Cooper, Ceedee Lamb, and Dalton Shultz are a dangerous trio on their own. Wide receiver Michael Gallup appears set to make his return this week.

Despite the up-and-down performances of late, Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard are as talented of a running back duo as you’ll find. Dallas can beat you any number of ways, so the key is to make them one-dimensional. 

Mike McCarthy wants to lean into the run game, but he will abandon it if successes don’t come early. Atlanta must limit Dallas’ run game, particularly early. Dak Prescott and the bevy of receiving options at his disposal are a daunting challenge on their own. If Dallas can mix up the play calling and control the game’s tempo, the opportunities for Atlanta will dwindle to nothing.

I Have a Plan, but You Won’t Like It

It’s nearly impossible to find a matchup between the Dallas offense and Atlanta’s defense that favors Atlanta. The Falcons should feel confident in AJ Terrell’s ability to handle his side of the field, but apart from him, you’d struggle to identify any competitive advantage to leverage.

Fans rail against soft zone coverages, but if they succeed in limiting the run, Atlanta’s best hope is to sit in zone coverage and ward off explosive plays. Forcing Dak Prescott to take what the defense gives him opens to door for misfires, and the Falcons have to capitalize on them if they happen. It won’t be pretty football, but Atlanta doesn’t have the horses to do anything other than try to win on the margins.

Which Matt Ryan Do We Get on Sunday?

Blunting the offense from Dallas is the best we can hope for, and that means Matt Ryan and this offense will have to score early and often to pull out the upset. We’ve seen breathtaking performances from Ryan over the last few weeks, but we’ve seen a few duds as well.

Despite the complete absence of a run game, Ryan navigated dirty pockets and led the team to victory against the Saints. However, a week prior, he could not overcome the rocky performance from his offensive line, and the offense failed to find its footing against the Panthers. The question is, which Matt Ryan shows up this week?

It’s probably unfair to place the entire burden of the offense at Ryan’s feet. He’s missing his best receiver, the run game has been mediocre at its best, and the offensive line’s struggles are apparent to anyone watching.

Despite the emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts, this is an offense without a clear identity. This lack of a clear identity, of something this team can count on from week to week, means the offense’s success depends entirely on Ryan’s ability to make things happen in imperfect situations.

D is Key for Dallas

Dallas poses many of the same challenges that the Saints defense presented. Despite the news that Randy Gregory will miss Sunday’s game, Dallas can still rush the passer. Micah Parsons has shown immense promise off the edge, and Osa Odighizuwa has flashed potential on the interior. The Cowboys secondary is an opportunistic group that is forcing turnovers at an impressive clip, largely thanks to the sensational start from Trevon Diggs.

Though Dallas’s run defense isn’t as suffocating as the Saints, they still rank in the top ten in yards allowed and fifteenth in DVOA. Dan Quinn has this group playing confident, complimentary football, but there are weaknesses to be exploited.

Fast & Physical Means Small and Risky

We all know the score when it comes to a Dan Quinn defense. Though he’s pivoted away from his Legion of Boom-style cover three scheme a bit, his basic philosophies are unchanged. Quinn wants aggressive, athletic players who are focused on creating turnovers. It’s a winning strategy, but it leads to high variance football. It’s a boom-or-bust proposition every week. 

In their win last week, Denver followed the same gameplan that regularly thwarted Quinn in Atlanta. The Broncos came out and punched the undersized Cowboy’s defense in the mouth and won the game at the line of scrimmage. Denver racked up 190 rushing yards and converted 53% of their third downs.

Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t particularly dynamic, but he didn’t make costly mistakes. It will be hard for Atlanta to follow that same script to the letter, but we should hope to see elements of it crop up on Sunday.

Run It Even If It’s Not Pretty

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Atlanta has to find a way to run the ball efficiently. That’s not to say I expect them to post 150+ rushing yards, but a success rate of 40%+ will make life much easier for Ryan and the passing offense to operate.

The Falcons run game was abysmal against the Saints, but Dallas doesn’t have the same sort of imposing linemen, especially with Randy Gregory sidelined with an injury. It’s probably too much to expect the Falcons line to generate a ton of push, but if they can keep the chains moving, this Dallas line will wear down. An average run game is enough when you have Ryan under center.

Who Covers Kyle Pitts (Part IV)

Kyle Pitts is the wildcard this week. He’s had a sleepy paid of performances against the Panthers and Saints. With Ridley away from the team, opposing defenses have been comfortable matching their best corner against Pitts. Stephon Gilmore and Marshon Lattimore effectively shut Pitts down, and it seems inevitable that task will fall on Trevon Diggs this week. 

Diggs has been an interception factory this season, but his aggressive playstyle has also led to quite a few blown coverages. True to form with a Dan Quinn defense, Diggs is a big play waiting to happen. The problem is you’re never quite sure which team will make the big play. This may not be the week to lob up contested passes to Kyle Pitts, but opportunities will present themselves if Ryan can be patient. 

Role Players Make the Difference

The other receivers need to continue to step up this week. No single player has to dominate, but each receiver needs to make an impact in some way. Last week Olamide Zaccheaus snagged a pair of touchdowns. Russell Gage pulled in a few clutch first down receptions, and we all remember what Cordarelle Patterson did to seal the game.

Spreading the ball around and keeping the offense on schedule is the path forward for this team. Creating explosive plays is crucial, but Atlanta can’t force the issue. Dallas’ secondary is dangerously opportunistic, but they will eventually break down if Atlanta can keep the chains moving. Patiently waiting on opportunities and striking when they present themselves is the easiest way for Atlanta to get (and hold) a lead this week. 

Don’t Give Them Anything For Free

Mental mistakes, in all three phases, have cost the Falcons a few victories this season. Penalties, coverage breakdowns, and questionable play-calling gave Washington and Carolina enough opportunity to escape with wins they probably didn’t deserve. Dallas is too talented to gift them with easy yards.

While Atlanta overcame penalties from Fabian Moreau and Richie Grant last week, the margins will be a lot tighter against a better team this week. The Falcons need to channel Max Fried and pitch a near-perfect game to get the win this week. Mental mistakes will make the Falcons have a greater chance of winning vs the Cowboys.

Final Prediction

The question in Atlanta all week has been whether the win against New Orleans was a turning point. Which is what makes this Falcons vs Cowboys preview sp hard. Turning points are something you can only identify in retrospect, but a win this week will make a strong case for that notion.

Atlanta’s recent successes have come against teams that are incomplete at best and terrible at worst. Dallas, on the other hand, is a true contender. A victory this week would put the league on notice that the Falcons aren’t a team you can write off.

The thing that scares me the most about this week is how poorly Dallas played last week. The Cowboys expect to be a top seed in the NFC, and they laid an absolute egg against Denver. There are few things as dangerous as a good team coming off of a bad loss.

If Atlanta isn’t ready from the opening whistle, they may find themselves in too deep of a hole to dig out. Absent another dud from Dallas, starting fast, and keeping pace is the only way Atlanta has a chance this week.

As hopeful as I want to be, it’s tough to predict a victory. Each gutsy performance is slowly eroding my pessimism about this team, but I can’t muster enough optimism to expect a win this week. I believe Atlanta will give Dallas all they can handle and even manage a sneaky backdoor cover, but ultimately this Cowboys offense will prove to be overwhelming. I’m hoping for a shoot-out, but expect Atlanta to end up on the wrong side once the dust clears.

Falcons vs Cowboys Score Prediction

Dallas 35 – Atlanta 31

Falcons Mock Draft Duel: Beating the Saints Edition

Falcons mock draft
Photo credit: Atlantafalcons.com

Ladies and gentlemen, we are back! Another edition of Falcons mock draft duel. No Stephen this week, as Hunter tries to defend his title against the one and only Adam Holloway. Who will win? Let us know at @Falcons_ATB on Twitter

Hunter’s Falcons Mock Draft

Pick 19: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

The Falcons need offensive help. Kyle Pitts is being treated like Julio Jones was by defenses and Calvin Ridley is going through his personal stuff. Here we have Atlanta taking one of the best wide receivers in the class to help in the life after Julio Jones. The 6’3″ YAC Daddy brings a blend of size, athleticism, and physicality to an offense who is sorely missing it.

Pick 51: Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia

You’ll see Kendrick’s name around here a lot, as he is dominating at Georgia this season. He is turning into a true shutdown CB who would be able to line up opposite of AJ Terrell. Being a converted WR, there are still some mechanical lapses from time to time, but as a whole he is a good CB prospect in a loaded class.

Pick 63: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

Johnson is a guy I have really just gotten my eyes on recently, but the 6’4″ 265lb EDGE has really exploded onto the scene this season. He dominates with his size and length to the point he already has 7.5 sacks on the season. Johnson would be a nice addition to our EDGE group who is lacking a real difference maker.

Pick 83: Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA

Another name you might get tired of seeing from me, but Charbonnet is one of my draft crushes this cycle. The running back has dominated at UCLA this season and he is really helping put them back onto the map. The Falcons rushing attack has been underwhelming this season, but Charbonnet could fix that. The 6 foot 220lb bell cow could be the main piece of our backfield for years to come.

Pick 121: Zacch Pickens, DT, South Carolina

Zacch Pickens is a former 5-star recruit who was kicked inside at South Carolina. He is incredibly raw, but Pickens could be a good addition to the DL rotation. He is probably a 3-tech at the next level, and would probably just be a rotational piece early. But there are traits to like and he helps a group that isn’t really standing out yet.

Adam’s Falcons Mock Draft

Pick 19: Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State

Ekwonu is a physical tone setter of an OL that can play multiple positions across the OL. I think year one he’s a LG for us, but he could be the potential answer to “who replaces Matthews” in a couple years. Or, he can kick out and play RT if Matthews sticks around for awhile.

Ekwonu is super physical in the run game and pulls with ease, is a really good athlete, and looks to bury people. In the pass game he shows a patient approach to his strike, but strikes with violence. He’s always looking for work and trying to take someone’s head off.

Pick 51: Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia

Kendrick is a good man-press corner that shows tons of flashes using great technique to off-set WRs and disrupt the play. He has good size and is able to carry speed down field. Kendrick is inconsistent with his hands at times, but that definitely can be developed. He has decent ball skills and makes timely adjustments on 50/50 balls.

The Falcons play a ton of man coverage and Fabian Moreau has been okay, not great, at CB2. They could look to link a running mate for AJ Terrell.

Pick 63: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M

I go back to the skill position part here with Isaiah Spiller. Spiller’s been in a few of my mocks, but rightfully so. He’s a physical RB who is probably the best pass blocker in the class as well — something that Arthur Smith is high on.

Spiller shows good contact balance and patience while running, and looks to finish runs physically. I think Arthur needs a bell cow to get back to being that balanced offense and I think Spiller fits the bill.

Pick 83: Zion Tupuola-Fetui, EDGE, Washington

Zion — or ZTF — is a fantastic EDGE rusher from Washington who shows tons of flash in the pass game. When rushing, he understands good technique and has a few pass rush moves that allow him to get hands off him. I remember well that he has an aggressive cross-chop that he likes to work and showcases a good long-arm.

I hated how the board fell and that I had to wait so long for an EDGE, but I do think ZTF could be a nice diamond in a talented EDGE class.

Pick 121: Ali Gaye, EDGE, LSU

Ali Gaye is a guy that I studied this past weekend and I came out of it wanting more. He’s such a good archetype that fits what the Falcons want from an OLB, I’d be hard-pressed to find out he isn’t on their radar. He shows, at times, the ability to work swim moves and flatten to the passer, as well as a high motor.

At times, he’s hesitant to get to his first move, thus allowing OTs into his chest and shocking him. Gaye shows effort in the run game, but it’s not consistent enough to say he’s good. At the very least, he always has a high motor. But this pick, this high is based off of the potential of a high motor, 6’6 260 lb EDGE rusher, and the team developing him into a good pass rusher!

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.