The Atlanta Falcons’ 2019 season was much like the previous years under Dan Quinn: a roller-coaster from start to end. The Falcons started 1-7, squeaking out a four-point win over the Eagles, then finishing 6-2, including a surprising upset of the San Francisco 49ers and a four-game winning streak to end the season. That was enough momentum for the Falcons ownership to keep Head Coach Dan Quinn around, albeit with some other changes on staff. This Falcons 7-round mock draft aims to keep that momentum moving forward into next season as well as seal up critical needs for the Falcons for the foreseeable future.
Edge Rusher: The Falcons finished tied for 29th in total sacks. Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn are both hitting free agency, and the talent behind them is lackluster at best. Takk McKinley is coming off of a season-ending shoulder injury as well. This team needs a boost or two, especially with the offenses they face in the NFC South. Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline has said the Falcons and Dante Fowler have mutual interest, but we’ll see how that plays out in the coming weeks.
Left Guard: The Falcons invested two first-round picks into their offensive line last year, with Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom and Washington tackle Kaleb McGary. Both played well last season when on the field and look like building blocks for the future. The left guard spot, however, was a pretty disastrous effort all season long and caused numerous problems for the offense’s execution. This needs to be fixed.
Cornerback: I don’t think this is an area of “weakness” per se, but the cornerback room needs an upgrade. The Falcons were 22nd in passing defense, giving up almost 7 yards per attempt, and allowed too many big plays downfield. Part of that is the pass-rush, and part of that is the defensive back play. Desmond Trufant’s game has been on the decline, and Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield flashed but, by and large, were inconsistent at best this season. Adding more talent and competition to this room is a must.
Linebacker: There’s a good chance that De’Vondre Campbell leaves in free agency, as the Falcons are strapped for cap space and may allocate resources elsewhere. If that’s the case, adding another LB would be a wise choice for depth. Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun seem like the starters, but Campbell’s departure is a loss of over 1,000 snaps that need to be filled. Depth at linebacker is a need.
Running back: Reports have surfaced that the Falcons are going to cut Devonta Freeman this offseason. Freeman hasn’t been the same player he was on his rookie contract, and the team failed to get many explosive plays on the ground.
*Tight End: If the Falcons don’t re-sign Austin Hooper, tight end becomes a need.
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Atlanta Falcons 7-round mock draft
Round 1, Pick 16: AJ Epenesa, EDGE Iowa
Currently my EDGE2, Epenesa brings a diverse skill set to the Atlanta Falcons. He’s got the versatility to play all over the defensive line for Atlanta. His power, excellent hand usage, and top-notch fundamentals would be a superb addition opposite of the more juiced-up Takk McKinley. Another bonus? Epenesa is arguably the best run-defending pass rusher in this class, which will help the Falcons lower their explosive run plays allowed (42 allowed in 2019).
Round 2, Pick 47: Trevon Diggs, CB Alabama
Dan Quinn has his type at corner, and Diggs fits that mold. Diggs is a physical corner who thrives in press coverage and would fit right in with Dan Quinn’s heavy Cover 3 scheme. Diggs does a phenomenal job attacking the football with his length and should provide a boost to the playmaking department for a team that desperately needs it.
Round 2, Pick 55: Josh Uche, EDGE Michigan
Uche is my prime replacement for De’Vondre Campbell. Uche is a difficult evaluation based on value due to his usage, but I think this would be his best spot in terms of valuation with a draft pick. Uche is a juiced-up pass rusher with phenomenal bend, but it’s his ability in coverage that stands out as well. Campbell wasn’t great in coverage, but Uche has the traits to succeed in these shallow zone areas while also providing great ability in pass-rush situations.
Round 3, Pick 78: Jonah Jackson, IOL Ohio State
The left guard problem for Atlanta has to end this season. Jonah Jackson is a plug-and-play starter at left guard. Jackson’s a smooth mover in space and looks like the traditional “Dancing Bear” stereotype. Jackson is a feisty blocker and loves to put defenders in the ground. He’s been one of my fastest risers after his standout performance in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. Plug Jackson in here, and don’t worry about the left guard spot for years.
Round 4, Pick 109: Leki Fotu, IDL Utah
The Falcons have several defensive linemen hitting the free-agent market in the offseason, and they need to continue to add and build depth in the trenches. Fotu is a high-upside pick with excellent power and gap-plugging ability. Fotu would be an excellent addition upfront to pair with Grady Jarrett and makes a great pick to start Day 3 in this Falcons 7-round mock draft.
Round 5, Pick 139: Michael Pittman Jr., WR USC
Wide receiver isn’t a significant need, but the value here for Pittman would be great for Atlanta. Obviously, Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley were great despite injuries at wide receiver. Russell Gage and Olamide Zacchaeus were solid depth pieces as well, but they need another guy up there as their third receiver.
Pittman is an excellent possession-style receiver with excellent body control, size, and hands. Pittman isn’t the fastest receiver out there, which may push him down draft boards, but he would be a great fit with the explosiveness of Julio and the savvy of Calvin Ridley.
Round 7, Pick 205: Joshua Kelley, RB UCLA
With the potential departure of Devonta Freeman and Kenjon Barner, the Falcons need to add more talent to their running back room. Kelley is an underrated running back in this class. While he isn’t the flashiest runner in terms of his athleticism, Kelley makes defenders miss pretty easily and is a good “churner” for yards. He’s a good fit for a rotational role, given his quickness and elusiveness.
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