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.

Atlanta Falcons Q1 Review: Offensive Line

Atlanta Falcons offensive line
Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With the Falcons getting a week off, it is the perfect time to stop and take stock of where this team is and how far we can expect them to go. I’ve already covered Matt Ryan’s roller coaster of an opening. Today, we’ll turn our attention to the one group that Ryan will depend on the most moving forward; the Falcons offensive line.

The Falcons Offensive Line Is a Work in Progess

There were numerous questions in Atlanta prior to the 2021 season. The Falcons offensive line, however, stood out as the primary concern. The defense seemed destined for a bottom-five finish. That left the fate of this team resting squarely on the shoulders of the offense. The weapons were there, but would Matt Ryan have an opportunity to take advantage of them? Well, the results are starting to trickle in, and it’s been a mixed bag so far.

The Grizzled Vet

Despite the protests of a vocal minority, Matthews has been a dependable left tackle since entering the league in 2014. He has never been the type to dominate opponents physically. However, he’s a savvy player that finds himself in the top half of tackles every season. In terms of pass blocking, he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s allowed six pressures and zero sacks per PFF’s charting, good for eighth in the NFL, despite facing off against several quality pass rushers to open the season.

Though he’s maintained a high level of play as a pass blocker, there has been a noticeable drop-off in his performance in the run game. This decline has been a trend that began with the hiring of Dirk Koetter. I hoped a move back to an outside zone scheme would put him in a better position to succeed. It it hasn’t played out that way so far.

He’s routinely missed blocks and looked stiff in space, reflected in his 50.2 run-blocking grade from PFF. PFF grades aren’t the end-all measure, but it is a fair assessment in this case. If the Falcons want to build on the recent offensive performances, Matthews and his cohorts, need to step up in the run game.

Lindstrom Looking Elite

Chris Lindstrom was the most significant investment the Falcons have made in their offensive line since Jake Matthews, and the return on that investment is rolling in. The third-year guard has improved every season and now finds himself ranked as the fifth-best guard in the NFL by PFF. His tape backs up their assessment.

Per PFF’s charting, he’s allowed six total pressures and zero sacks through five games. That places him seventeenth in the NFL, but only because of the massive logjam of players tied for sixth with five total pressures. His performance is all the more impressive when considering the murder’s row of defensive tackles the Falcons have faced so far.

Lindstrom has also been the lone player on the Falcons line to be a consistent plus in the run game. Though he’s had a few rough moments, especially in the Philadelphia and Washington games, on balance, he’s been the only blocker that’s handled his assignment on a down-to-down basis, reflected in his 83.6 run-blocking grade from PFF.

Sharp Football Statistics has the Falcons averaging 4.5 yards/carry when running behind Lindstrom, 1.2 yards more than the next best Falcons lineman. His impact has been undeniable, and it’s refreshing to see an interior lineman develop into a borderline elite player.

Hennessy Will Drive a Man to Drink

The returns on the remaining investments along the Falcons offensive line have been a little less promising. Matt Hennessy is in his first season as the unquestioned starter, but it has been an up and down campaign thus far. As a pass protector, he’s allowed twelve pressures and a sack, per PFF. His worst game of the season was, by far, the opening tilt against the Eagles. At his best, he’s been average. At his worst, he’s been a total liability.

Despite ranking as the 13th overall center in the NFL according to PFF, Hennessy is easily overwhelmed by powerful interior players. Size and strength were known limitations for him, but the idea was he could leverage his athleticism to offset his lack of power. That hasn’t strictly come to fruition. He’s routinely missed reach blocks and is often late getting to the second level.

His inability to consistently seal off cutback lanes for Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson has limited this offenses ability to strike a balance between run and pass. Despite these inadequacies of late, I think he is showing signs of improvement from week to week. It’s not a steady ascension, but we don’t measure progress in a straight line. I suspect we will see a better version of Hennessy over these next four games than we’ve seen through the first five.

Asking too Much of Mayfield

Everyone’s favorite whipping boy this season has been Jalen Mayfield. After being stuck with the lowest pass-blocking grade ever handed out by PFF, Falcons fans were ready to ship Mayfield back to Michigan. I, however, have maintained my status as a Mayfield apologist the entire time. I won’t defend him as being a “good” player. All things considered though, he’s performed up to my, admittedly low, expectations.

Making a switch from guard to tackle is tough. It is only exasperated by switching from the right side of the line to the left side. For whatever reason, Arthur Smith decided the degree of difficulty wasn’t high enough for the third-round rookie. Bizarrely, he waited until halfway through training camp to give him significant snaps at the position. The chances for Mayfield to have a smooth start were essentially zero.

The Rookie is Turning a Corner

Despite the hurdles in front of him, Mayfield has steadily progressed from week to week. His PFF grades don’t cleanly track to that notion. However, he’s taken steps forward in each game based on my film review. He survived tough matchups against the Giants, Jets, and Washington, allowing only two sacks and nine pressures over those three weeks. Are those good stats? Not at all. However, considering he allowed two sacks and eleven pressures in the first two games, it’s measurable progress.

Along the way, he’s been a relatively decent run blocker. There are obvious mistakes, but there are absolutely dominant reps scattered in the last four games too. He buried Quinnen Williams early in the Jets game. Mayfield had similar flashes against the Giants and Washington as well. He still looks a bit tentative at times and is a bit stiff when he’s trying to maneuver in space. Considering he’s played at guard for roughly two months, I think he deserves to be graded on a curve. Much like Hennessy, I suspect we will see a better version of Mayfield in the second quarter of the season.

The Falcons Offensive Line Needs More from McGary

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of this group is Kaleb McGary. We’d all hoped he would take the next step in his development this season. If anything, he’s regressed to what he was in his rookie season. He isn’t giving up QB pressures at quite the same clip, but at 14 pressures allowed already, he isn’t far off. It would be a bit more excusable if he were a rookie/first-year starter like Mayfield and Hennessy, but with 34 starts at right tackle, he should be rounding the corner. Instead, he has most of us pining for the hasty return of Matt Gono.

To McGary’s credit, he did manage to shut out Chase Young and Shaq Barrett already this season, but he’s still routinely outmatched by edge rushers and looks lost as a run blocker. The same issues that have plagued him his entire career, lack of athleticism and length, continue to cause problems for him week to week.

I’ve tried to give the whole roster a fair amount of slack, considering the massive roster and schematic overhaul this team has undergone. Still, McGary is a player I expected more, even if he missed significant time in camp. He will need to take massive strides over the next few months if he wants to have any hope of being retained after his rookie deal expires in 2022.

Can The Falcons Offensive Line Come Together In Time?

It’s a mess, but they are slowly pulling things together. Matthews and Lindstrom are an excellent core to build around and have (mostly) lived up to the hype so far. The other young players on this line don’t need to magically transform into Pro Bowlers for this unit to be effective. Small incremental gains and a slow creep to average are enough to win games. The issue is 3/5ths of this line are well below average.

There is hope, though. Despite being placed in as tough of a situation as possible, Jalen Mayfield has shown considerable growth. Matt Hennessy won’t have to face a top-tier defense tackle every week for the entire season. Despite posting lackluster grades, McGary managed to shut out two of the best edge rushers in the NFL. Each player on this line has logged an impressive performance at least once. Now they need to put it together at the same time.

Atlanta Falcons Q1 Review: Matt Ryan

Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan

The Atlanta Falcons have completed the first quarter(ish) of the 2021 season, and with the team in a bye week, it’s the perfect time to contextualize their up-and-down start to the year. I will go through each position group, starting with Matt Ryan, and break down what we’ve seen and what we might expect moving forward. Allow me to give you guys fair warning upfront, I’m a stats nerd, and these posts will be dense with advanced statistics. I know some readers will be happy to indulge in the statistical nonsense, but for those of you whose eyes glaze over at the mention of DVOA/EPA/Success Rates, I will summarize my opinions to close out each section. So, feel free to ctrl-f “TLDR” to find the high-level takeaways.

Let’s dive in.

Atlanta Falcons Offensive Production

The Atlanta Falcons are 2-3 going into their bye week. Absent a prototypical late-game collapse against Washington; the Atlanta Falcons would have a winning record for the first time since 2017. Still, this is the best start the team has had in years, and though the opponents haven’t been high quality, there are signs this team is starting to find its footing. Let’s start with the total offensive production stats, as well as Matt Ryan’s individual passing stats. 

Atlanta Falcons Q1 Offensive Statistics and Rankings

Atlanta Falcons Offensive Production

Matt Ryan Passing Statistics

Based purely on raw production statistics, the Atlanta Falcons appear to be a below-average unit offensively. They are around the bottom third of the league in points scored, and yards gained. While Matt Ryan and the passing offense have clawed back its way back to league average, the running game has continued to be lackluster. For an offense that is supposed to lean on the running game, finding Ryan among the top five in attempts/completions shows how ineffective this team has been on the ground.

Atlanta Falcons Advanced Stats: Offense

Atlanta Falcons Advanced Stats

Here is a quick primer on EPA and Success Rate. EPA stands for Expected Points Added. Expected Points are calculated for any given play based on down, distance, and field position. Total EPA is an aggregated score for these individual plays. A positive number is a desirable outcome.

Success rate is relatively self-explanatory; it measures whether a play was successful. A play is considered successful if it gains at least 40% of yards-to-go on first down, 60% on second down, and 100% on third or fourth down. If you’re interested in a deeper discussion on EPA, check out this article.

The advanced metrics roughly mirror the team’s production, even if the numbers paint a slightly less optimistic picture. In terms of EPA (Expected Points Added), the Atlanta Falcons are 23rd in the NFL at -.016. For the uninitiated, a positive value is good while negative values are bad. The run game is dragging down the total number significantly. However, over five games, the passing game is still well below the middle of the league despite a decent success rate, suggesting the offense hasn’t been particularly explosive.

Thankfully, we have seen this offense start to blossom over the last two weeks. Here are the EPA/Success Rate numbers if we isolate the previous two games.

  • Total EPA: .193 (ranked 6th)
  • Total SR: 48.3% (ranked 12th)
  • Dropback EPA: .383 (ranked 4th)
  • Dropback SR: 54.2% (ranked 10th)
  • Rushing EPA: -.137 (ranked 22nd)
  • Rushing SR: 38.2% (ranked 24th)

Though the rushing statistics improved marginally, the passing statistics saw a dramatic improvement. There is an argument to be made about the strength of schedule, but games against bad teams count too. Despite Matt Ryan’s slow start to the year, he appears to be growing much more comfortable in this offense as the season progresses.

Is Matt Ryan Cooked or Cooking?

The hottest debate of the young season has centered around Matt Ryan. Falcons Twitter has been the battleground for Ryan haters and apologists for years. Still, the venomous discourse has accelerated dramatically since the team chose to pass on a quarterback in the 2021 draft. One side is convinced Matt Ryan is over the hill, while the other can’t comprehend the criticism. Meanwhile, the rest of the fanbase is left hiding under a table, hoping everyone calms the hell down. 

I could write an entire post on this debate and how unfortunate it is that we can engage in a nuanced discussion, but I’ve spent too much time on that soapbox. The truth, as is usually the case, is somewhere in the middle. Ryan had a disastrous start to the season. The film is terrible. The stats are ugly. Apologists will point to his supporting cast, and while there is some merit to that, Ryan deserves a sizeable portion of the blame.

We saw minor improvement in the Giants game, but despite a better stat line in the box score, it was still a sub-par performance for our franchise quarterback. I’ve seen PFF grades thrown around quite a bit on Twitter to illustrate how well Ryan has played over the last two weeks (which he has), but, conveniently, they never mention his 60.4, 65.9, and 52.1 grades in the first three weeks. 

Matt Ryan’s Turnaround is Real

The turnaround, however, is real. Over the last two weeks, Ryan has been lights out. He has completed 66.7% of his passes for 625 yards and six touchdowns. He’s posted 90+ PFF grades in both weeks, something he hasn’t done since 2017. It would be simple to write this off to improved line play, which is true to a degree, but that doesn’t give you the whole picture.

Through the first three weeks, defenses logged an average of 14.6 pressures per game. During Ryan’s recent resurgence, the line has allowed an average of 13 pressures over two games. While the line finally pitched a shut-out last week, the pressure rate hasn’t decreased dramatically. Both Ryan and the line have stepped up their play. In fact, in terms of navigating tight pockets and evading pass rushers, I’d say Ryan had his most impressive game since 2018 against the Jets. He routinely sidestepped pass rushers and delivered the ball accurately and on time. 

Matt Ryan Has to Keep Growing in the Offense

The hope is Ryan is growing more comfortable with this new scheme and the new players around him. Ryan has historically been a slow starter. This always seems to slip people’s minds when he doesn’t immediately leap to the top of the league every year. Despite the addition of Kyle Pitts and the emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson, this is likely the least talented group of skill players around him since his rookie season. These are all reasonable excuses for him to rank 21st in QB DVOA and 19th in DYAR (Defense Adjusted Yards Above Replacement). Despite these below-average numbers, the arrow is pointing up. However, there are still reasons to be nervous.

Atlanta Falcons Looking for Explosive Plays

The single most reliable predictor for offensive success is explosive plays. The single QB stat that reflects an offense’s ability to generate explosive plays is Intended Air Yards per Pass Attempt (IAY/PA). Matt Ryan is averaging 6.2 IAY/PA, which is the lowest in the NFL for all players with 100+ pass attempts. Stated simply, the Atlanta Falcons aren’t attacking downfield.

Part of that is by design. Arthur Smith isn’t Bruce Arians. He doesn’t want to attack defenses vertically every down. A middling-to-poor offensive line necessitates a greater emphasis on a short passing game. However, part of this is Ryan too. As tough as it is to admit, Ryan seems to have lost a bit of velocity on his passes. It’s not the end of the world, nor is it a reason to discard him immediately, but it will be a hurdle for this team to clear moving forward. 

TLDR: Matt Ryan

Opinions on Matt Ryan span a broad spectrum and are often dependent on variables that have nothing to do with the game actually being played on Sundays. However, if we restrict our focus to his actual performance, we’ll see reasons to worry and reasons to be hopeful, and both are valid. It’s foolish to demand unwavering loyalty, much as it is foolish to ignore the glaring mistakes we’ve seen from him early this season. In the span of five games, we’ve seen the best and worst of him. The big question is, which version will we get for the rest of the season? 

I suspect the recent tear he’s been on is a sign that he is growing more comfortable with the offense and that Smith is getting a better handle on setting Ryan up for success. His production and the advanced metric all indicate the arrow is pointing straight up for Ryan. However, it is probably unreasonable to expect him to match his recent output when facing some of the better defenses he’ll see over the next few games. The Cowboys, Saints, and Panthers are all on a completely different tier than the Jets and Washington. How he fares against top-level competition will give us the best look into what the future holds for this franchise.

Atlanta Falcons Dueling Mock Drafts

Atlanta Falcons mock draft

Well Atlanta Falcons fans, we are back again using a mock draft simulator to cheer us up. Anyway, Adam and myself are competitive, so we’re updating our Dueling Mocks from last time. Whose mock was better in terms of fixing our precious Falcons? Let us know!

(Shoutout to our friends at RiseNDraft.com for the mock simulator where we got the picks and draft order.)

Hunter’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft (@hthompsonNFL)

Round 1 Pick 5: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

  • Grabbing Booth here felt like a no brainer to me; we are desperate for talent alongside Terrell. Even though Fabian Moreau has looked decent, you can’t pass up on a talent like Booth. He is a twitchy, athletic CB who could be the perfect running mate for AJ Terrell. He and Terrell would create a duo that can lock WR’s on islands and let Dean Pees be a mad scientist with the rest of the defense.

Round 2 Pick 36: John Metchie III, WR, Alabama

  • Atlanta needs to do something about the WR opposite of Calvin Ridley, and adding Metchie brings something they’re missing – an explosive WR who can take the top off the defense. Metchie is a fast WR who Smith could use as YAC daddy or as an over the top deep threat that makes the defense be honest. Adding Metchie would do wonders for opening up the offense for Arthur Smith’s play calling.

Round 2 Pick 52: Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

  • I’ve done this pick before, but it just felt right the way the board was falling. Anyway, Kaleb McGary has been rough this season, Matt Gono hasn’t been cleared yet, and we need help at RT. Insert Faalele, the 6’9″ 380lb tackle to fix these issues. After opting out in 2020, Faalele is back and better than ever. Faalele is a mauler in the run game and moves much better laterally than you would think someone at his size moves. Adding Faalele next to Chris Lindstrom would create one of the best right sides of an OL in football.

Round 3 Pick 67: Zion Tupuloa-Fetui, EDGE, Washington

  • This might be one of my favorite picks to make for the Falcons in mocks. ZTF is a perfect EDGE for the Atlanta defense, he has the size, length, and athleticism to thrive in the Falcons defense. He slides to the third round due to missing time from an Achilles injury. When healthy ZTF is a dominant EDGE who displays an incredible first step and dominates at the point of attack. His athleticism gives him all the tools in the world, we just need to see how he plays when he gets back.

Round 4 Pick 114: Grayson McCall, QB, Coastal Carolina

  • Not sure if McCall will declare, but he could be an interesting mid round QB prospect for teams. He is lower in many QB rankings due to his strange college system. However, McCall can be more than a gimmick QB. He’s 6’3″ 200lbs and is athletic enough to get by at the next level. McCall also has an arm that is good enough for the NFL in most schemes and offenses. If McCall declares, Atlanta should take a look at him to be the potential successor to Matt Ryan.

Adam’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft (@Damski32)

Round 1 Pick 5: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M

  • First time I’ve put him in an Atlanta Falcons mock draft for ATB but definitely not the first time I’ve talked about A&Ms DeMarvin Leal. Super freak in every sense is already stout vs the run but straight up bullies OL in the pass game with a variety of moves. I say OL cause Leal’s position versatility is so intriguing to me and as a team that runs multiple fronts having a strong 6’4 290 lb chess piece that can lineup anywhere from 0-7 tech and stand up even to rush the passer is ultimately what I want in this front 7.

Round 2 Pick 36: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M

  • Isaiah Spiller is in every way an Arthur Smith style back. He’s physical, has great vision, fights for yards and has great contact balance. Also, his pass blocking is a plus trait. Schematically, he reminds me of former Titans RB DeMarco Murray; both lacked ideal top end speed but were bruisers between the tackles. Even better, both had great vision to set up blocks and cut up the backside of plays.

Round 2 Pick 52: Ikem Ekowonu, iOL, NC State

  • Ikem Ekowonu is probably the meanest/nastiest IOL in this draft. In the run game he looks like a heat seeking missile who’s trying to strike defenders and bounce them straight out of plays; in the pass game, he’s physical but sometimes can get caught being overly aggressive. The Mayfield project isn’t turning out super great and he’s definitely not making me not take Ekowonu. I think adding more competition and being nastier in the trenches is what Atlanta needs to do to get better.

Round 3 Pick 67: David Bell, WR, Purdue

  • Bell is a former basketball player who understands how to attack the ball with his body at its highest. Has strong hands and can be a physical YAC if needed be too. The game yesterday made it extremely evident that the Falcons absolutely miss Julio. To be blunt, they have too many of the same WRs; they need someone who can go get it, and it isn’t Ridley.

Round 4 Pick 114: Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame

  • Isaiah Foskey is another Notre Dame pass rush that I could see ATL being intrigued by. Long armed, big bodied pass rusher that just understands that he can destroy gaps and cause havoc. Foskey struggles with consistency, but when on, he’s a really physical player. At this point, I’m 100% going to gamble on a high upside guy with good length and size.

Falcons vs. Giants: Who’s Gonna Get Right?

Embed from Getty Images

What happens when a stoppable force meets a moveable object? The answer might come when the Falcons travel to MetLife Stadium to play the New York Giants. Both teams are looking to rebound from a disastrous start to the 2021 NFL season. The Giants have made Teddy Bridgewater and Taylor Heinicke look like Pro Bowlers, while Atlanta has set the franchise record for points allowed over the first two weeks of a season. Neither offense is performing well, though the Giants have shown a little more life comparatively. It’s been a bad start for both teams, but this is the week to get right.

The question is, which team will manage to put it together? This game presents a curious matchup because both teams are weak in similar areas. When faced with a choice between an anemic pass rush and a pushover offensive line, to whom do you give the edge? Which porous secondary will find some answers facing off against lackluster passing games? Who wants to “get right”, and who will spawn week three draft takes from their fan base?

Who Can Get Right in Pass Protection?

Neither the Giants nor the Falcons are coming into this game feeling good about either unit. In terms of pass protection, both teams are struggling mightily along the interior. Falcons guard Jalen Mayfield posted the lowest pass-blocking grade PFF has ever handed out in week one, while New York’s Billy Price has managed to one-up Mayfield by carrying a single-digit pass-blocking grade for the season so far.

Does it get any better at tackle? Not really. The Giants hoped the respectable performance from Andrew Thomas in week one signaled a turning point for the former top-five pick, but he followed it up with a rough outing against Washington in week two. Nate Solder has churned out two performances that approach league average, but the veteran tackle hasn’t had a “good” game since 2019. The Falcons can claim to have the best tackle of the two teams in Jake Matthews, but the ever-present liability Kaleb McGary presents across from him erases any edge that would give them.

Advantage: No one. Both teams are struggling to piece together an NFL-caliber offensive line. This comparison is a race to the bottom.

Can the Falcons Find a Pass Rush?

How about the other side of the ball? Can either team seize an advantage and create consistent pressure on the opposing quarterbacks? Despite Dean Pees’ history of manufacturing pressure via the blitz, he hasn’t replicated that success thus far in Atlanta. Though the Falcons did manage to bring down Tom Brady three times last week, they only generated ten total QB pressures per PFF’s charting. The Falcons had an identical performance in week one, leaving them near the bottom of the NFL in total QB pressures.

This game could be an opportunity for the Falcons defense to find its footing. The Giants have had severe communication issues in setting their protections, and Dean Pees will try to exploit that with his play calling. I wouldn’t expect the Falcons to win consistently along the edge, but between Grady Jarrett and Pees’ love for A-gap blitzing, the Falcons will have an advantage inside. Unfortunately, the same is true for the Giants.

Despite only having three sacks, PFF ranks New York in the top half of the NFL in QB pressures. Standout defensive tackle Leonard Williams leads the way with eight pressures, and the entire defensive interior accounts for 42% of the team’s 41 total QB pressures. Rookie edge rusher Azeez Ojulari has had a strong start with two sacks and six total pressures. This Giants front is still a far cry from the dominant units that led the Super Bowl a decade ago. Still, they are competent enough to cause significant problems for Atlanta, especially with their weaknesses in the interior. Giants fans have eagerly awaited a breakout game for Dexter Lawrence, and this may be when they get their wish.

Advantage: Giants. Grady Jarrett is probably this game’s best pass rusher, but the Giants have more talent across the board. Still, expect Atlanta to make their presence felt.

Who Can Get Right on Offense?

The Giants spent their offseason loading up on offense to prevent any excuses for Daniel Jones’ underwhelming showing at quarterback. It’s worked in a way, though probably not how the team envisioned. Kenny Golladay hasn’t begun to earn the $72 million contract he signed in the offseason. First-round pick Kadarius Toney has less receiving yardage than Tamorion Terry, and the only thing Terry has caught this year is a murder charge. Saquon Barkley hasn’t returned to form after missing 2020 with a knee injury. Despite this, Jones has stacked together two solid performances in 2021. He is currently the teams leading rusher, which isn’t great, and he played a turnover-free game against Washington. It’s a low bar to clear, but he’s trending in the right direction.

The biggest question for New York is whether or not Barkley can give them anything this week. It’s a favorable matchup for the Giants. Atlanta has allowed more yards before contact than any other team in the NFL and has a bottom five run defense DVOA per Football Outsiders. Since his knee injury, Barkley hasn’t looked like himself, but Atlanta is that “get right” team. If the Giants can finally get their run game going this week, it will create a clear advantage for them.

Receivers May Rule the Day

This advantage is amplified by the sizeable advantage the Giants’ receivers have over the Falcons secondary. With AJ Terrell (concussion) unlikely to play, the Falcons look to start TJ Green at corner this week. Green, a recent convert from safety, is a physical player but will be overmatched by any of the three top receivers for the Giants. It is impossible to find a single matchup that looks favorable for Atlanta’s secondary. If Evan Engram can make his 2021 debut, the situation goes from bad to worse. Atlanta’s pass coverage wasn’t good with Terrell. Absent their best player, this has the makings of a disastrous outing unless Atlanta can create consistent pressure.

Can the Falcons Do it for Four Quarters?

Atlanta’s outlook isn’t quite as rosy, but it too is trending in the right direction. After starting with an abysmal showing against Philadelphia, the Falcons seemed to regain their composure against Tampa in week two. Sure, the game ended with two ugly pick-sixes, but the offense looked good briefly in the second half last week. It’s something to build on.

Mirroring the situation in New York, Atlanta will look to exploit the Giants on the ground. The Giants have the third-worst rush defense DVOA and have been particularly susceptible to outside runs over the last two weeks. This plays into Atlanta’s strengths, as they are much better rushing off the tackles than between them. While I have doubts that the Falcons line will make strides in pass protection, there is potential for them to shift the balance of the game on the ground.

You Can’t Get Sacked if You Run the Ball

An effective run game can work wonders to mitigate lousy pass protection, which may open the door for Matt Ryan to turn his season around. Despite everyone’s high hopes, Ryan has been a bottom-five quarterback in essentially every metric so far. His intended air yards per completion and attempt are half of his career average. He’s looked hesitant behind a terrible line and has made multiple uncharacteristic mistakes over the last two games. His teammates haven’t done him any favors, but Matt needs to step it up.

Unfortunately, this is probably the best secondary the Falcons have faced so far. The Eagles and Bucs suffered multiple injuries that thinned them out. The Giants secondary has underperformed thus far, but on paper, it’s a talented group. With Russell Gage down with an ankle injury, the Falcons aren’t going to have any apparent mismatches outside. Calvin Ridley is formidable, but with no other threats at receiver, the Giants can bracket him without worrying about their other cornerbacks.

Breakout for Pitts?

The key to shaking that up is Kyle Pitts. The rookie hasn’t gotten off to a hot start, but this is a very favorable matchup for him this week. The Giants don’t have any linebackers that have a prayer against him in coverage. There isn’t an obvious choice at safety either, though I suspect Jabril Peppers will ultimately be the one to shoulder the responsibility. If this line can afford Ryan enough time to get the ball downfield, Pitts will have opportunities for big plays. It’s just a matter of dialing it up and executing.

Advantage: Giants, by a slim margin

Although Atlanta has the single best mismatch advantage with Kyle Pitts, the Giants have more options overall. New York has a better set of skill players, a better secondary, and a quarterback that can potentially mask offensive line deficiencies. Jones’s tendency to turn the ball over is a wildcard here, but New York should have no issue getting up and down the field if he can protect the ball.

Can the Falcons Get Right?

Though it breaks my little red and black heart, I find it hard to muster the confidence to predict a Falcons victory. As hard as it may be to believe, the Giants are better at almost every position group. I expect that to become more evident as the game wears on Sunday. There is always a path to victory for the Falcons, though. If I can envision a path to victory against the Bucs, a winless Giants team doesn’t present a hopeless situation. Consistent pressure plus an effective run game could be enough to steal a win, but the margin for error will be slim. In the end, I think we see improvement from the team, but not enough to spoil Eli Manning day at MetLife.

Final Score: Giants 28 – Falcons 24