After failing to take Justin Fields in last spring’s NFL draft, only to trade franchise cornerstone quarterback Matt Ryan and sign Marcus Mariota, the new-look Atlanta Falcons are, well, something.
Ryan joins former receiving dynamos in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley (suspended for 2022 season) as players now vacant from the Atlanta offense, leaving the Falcons at the slippery slope of a rebuild in just the second season under General Manager Terry Fontenot and Head Coach Arthur Smith.
Using our Mock Draft Machine, I looked at which prospects Atlanta could, and should, target when the draft rolls around. Here is my seven-round mock, including scheme fit, on each prospect:
ROUND 1 (NO. 7 OVERALL): TRAVON WALKER, EDGE, GEORGIA
One of the fastest rising prospects in the class, Travon Walker fills an immediate need at a multitude of spots due to his true position-less versatility. He’s powerful as an interior defensive lineman and quick to get home on the edge. Within the Falcons’ odd-front (3-4), Walker will be awarded the opportunity to wreak havoc inside, outside, play in space, track down ball-carriers both behind the LOS and outside the hashes, all while providing a familiar face for Falcons fans as he makes the short trip from Athens to Atlanta. He’s a culture changer within the front seven.
ROUND 2 (NO. 43 OVERALL): CHRISTIAN WATSON, WR, NORTH DAKOTA STATE
Christian Watson has long, excellent hands and is a premier YAC threat. It may take a few weeks for him to become accustomed to the physical nature that is the NFL game but I have no concerns of his potential performance ceiling at the next level. Watson possesses 4.3 speed with the ability to consistently separate as a technical route-runner, making him one of the most fluid athletes I’ve studied the last few years. That kind of receiver doesn’t grow on trees, especially at 6-foot-4. Atlanta is rebuilding and who better to add than a player with Pro Bowl potential oozing out of his frame?
ROUND 2 (NO. 58 OVERALL): LEWIS CINE, S, GEORGIA
After allocating picks towards both Jaylinn Hawkins and Richie Grant in consecutive drafts, it would be wise for Atlanta to add a true centerfield defender like Lewis Cine to shore up the safety spot. He’s the most overlooked piece within a historic Georgia defense and why not continue to add pieces from the most dominant defense in the country? Similarly to the approach Washington took just a few years back selecting Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Ryan Anderson, and Shaun Dion-Hamilton all from the same Alabama front seven. Adding players like Walker and Cine within your first three picks is a welcoming start to the selection process if I’m Fontenot.
ROUND 3 (NO. 74 OVERALL): KINGSLEY ENAGBARE, EDGE, SOUTH CAROLINA
Getting live eyes on Kingsley Enagbare in Mobile moved the needle for me. With pterodactyl-like length, he’s a player who’s shown the ability to consistently push the pocket and overwhelm offensive tackles with his blend of size and strength. The Falcons desperately need help on the edge and he should slot in nicely into Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees’ hybrid front.
ROUND 3 (NO. 82 OVERALL): CALVIN AUSTIN III, WR, MEMPHIS
After doubling down early at edge, adding Calvin Austin to pair with Watson inside a depleted wide receivers room could be a must-add here on Day 2. One of the most electric prospects in the class, Austin is a secondary’s worst nightmare due to his short-area twitch and track speed to take it the distance. He’s much, MUCH more than just a gadget player and should receive ample opportunities for a substantial role early in his career. Mariota needs weapons and Austin could quickly become the target hog within the intermediate areas of the offense.
ROUND 4 (NO. 114 OVERALL): TROY ANDERSEN, LB, MONTANA STATE
This kid can flat out play some football.
An All-American on the offensive side of the ball, Troy Andersen transitioned to linebacker and became one of the most versatile, impactful defenders at any level of college football. Whether Pees asks him to play inside or as a hybrid linebacker/safety, similar to the role Keanu Neal played for a short while, Andersen has the makeup and athletic profile to become a supremely well-rounded linebacker for Atlanta. Working alongside linebacker Deion Jones will only help his progression and with the necessary allotment of snaps, his impressive football IQ should allow him to blossom.
ROUND 5 (NO. 151 OVERALL): CAM JURGENS, IOL, NEBRASKA
An athletically-gifted prospect, Cam Jurgens has come on late in the evaluation process but earned himself a ton of money after showcasing his athletic profile at the combine. Dubbed a ‘Day 3 Tyler Linderbaum,’ Jurgens will provide Atlanta with both starting potential and a depth piece along the interior. If it were my guess, Jurgens would win his training camp battle with Matt Hennessy and slot in nicely as the nucleus of the offensive line. Jurgens makes for a heck of a value here in the fifth round.
ROUND 6 (NO. 190 OVERALL): BAILEY ZAPPE, QB, WESTERN KENTUCKY
Whether or not adding Marcus Mariota was a plan for both the now and future remains to be seen. It very much looks like a stop-gap option for this fall but I digress. With Feleipe Franks representing the only other signal-caller on the roster, adding a talent like Bailey Zappe who showcased the ability to deliver the ball with accuracy and zip at all three levels on his way to amassing a NCAA single-season record 62 touchdown passes this year, the Falcons could do much worse here late on Day 3.
ROUND 6 (NO. 213 OVERALL): ISAAC TAYLOR-STUART, CB, USC
An impressive man corner and a willing tackler in space, Isaac Taylor-Stuart could progress into an awfully nice piece if all comes to fruition. Outside of the value he’ll offer on special teams, his performance ceiling is a lofty one considering his athletic makeup.