Welcome back, Falcons fans, to another seven-round mock draft. With the first week of free agency behind us, we have a slightly clearer picture of Atlanta’s needs heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. The addition of G Brandon Fusco has almost certainly eliminated the possibility of the Falcons drafting an offensive lineman early on, and the loss of DT Dontari Poe and EDGE Adrian Clayborn have solidified the strong needs on the defensive line.
For this mock draft, I used the Fanspeak Mock Draft Simulator. If you’d like to re-create the conditions of this mock, here are the settings I used: Drafttek big board, User-Voted team needs, Difficult setting.
Let’s dive right in to examine who the Falcons were able to secure in this simulation.
Round 1, Pick 26: DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
In this simulation, Maurice Hurst was actually the last of the top DTs available at pick 26. That’s just fine with me, as Hurst is perhaps the best interior pass rusher in the draft and has sky-high potential—with the ability to possibly play a “Michael Bennett” role for Atlanta and kick out to the EDGE in base packages. Assuming his medicals check out, he’d be an excellent fit for the Falcons. I already wrote up a full scouting report on Hurst, and here’s an excerpt from my DT prospect preview:
Hurst offers an interesting mix of athleticism and strength at the point of attack. He’s a bit small for DT at only 6’2, 282, but he rarely gets pushed back—even when doubled. Hurst is an impressive athlete with a non-stop motor, however, and is a very disruptive presence in the passing game. There are some issues he needs to correct, like learning to his use hands effectively, but Hurst is one of the most dynamic interior rushers in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Round 2, Pick 58: EDGE Josh Sweat, Florida State
Sweat is a player that benefited from a strong Combine performance, where he tested like an absolute freak and quieted many of the medical concerns about his knee. The 6’4, 251 EDGE has great size and length for the position to go along with his phenomenal athletic traits. He has all the tools to become a good NFL starter, but he’s raw and there are some questions about his effort and overall football IQ.
I see a player who could benefit from coming to a strong locker room with a quality coaching staff, as Sweat’s talent was squandered on FSU’s defense. The Falcons need a new #3 pass rusher with Clayborn leaving in free agency, and Sweat has the potential to be that and more. If he’s still around at the Falcons second pick, Sweat has all the traits the Falcons covet from their pass rushers and would be a good value early on Day 2.
Round 3, Pick 90: WR Dante Pettis, Washington
Perhaps my favorite late-Day 2 WR, Dante Pettis is a technician and fantastic route runner that can line up anywhere on offense. He’s not “great” at any one thing, but he can execute just about any route in the book and offers excellent return skills. Pettis checks all the boxes for a high-level WR3, and his advanced technical ability should make his adjustment to the NFL quicker than most players. Here’s what I had to say about Pettis in my WR prospect preview:
A polished receiver with plus athleticism and solid size (6’1, 192), Dante Pettis looks the part of an immediate NFL contributor. He’s capable of lining up anywhere and making plays, and that versatility translates to the return game as well. Pettis had inconsistent production at Washington and there are questions about his ability to handle more physical NFL defenses, but he’s an interesting option late Day 2-early Day 3.
Round 4, Pick 126: DT Folorunso Fatukasi, Connecticut
The Falcons continue beefing up the DT rotation with Folorunso “Foley” Fatusaki, an interesting prospect that has the flexibility to play at either 1T or 3T and has all the athletic tools that Quinn covets from his defensive linemen. He’s a high-effort player, too, but he’s very raw technically and his production never quite lived up to his potential. Early on Day 3, he could be a steal for a team like Atlanta that has the coaching staff to unlock his natural talents. Here’s what I had to say about Fatukasi in my DT prospect preview:
As a DT that the Falcons could target in the late Day 2, early Day 3 range, Folorunso Fatukasi is an intriguing option. At 6’4, 315 he’s got the frame of a three-down player at the NFL level. Fatukasi is raw in his technique and needs to play with better power, but he’s a versatile and talented athlete that could grow into a capable NFL starter with a year or two of seasoning.
Round 6, Pick 200: TE Dalton Schultz, Stanford
Falcons fans, bear with me here. Yes, Dalton Schultz is from Stanford—the university that produced both Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper. Toilolo, despite being a poor receiver, was a good blocker—and Hooper still has a ton of potential as a TE1. Schultz is a refined blocker and a reliable short-yardage receiving option, but he’s not going to “wow” you as an athlete. Still, for a sixth-round pick, Schultz could fill the void left by Toilolo for a fraction of the price. Here’s what I had to say about Schultz in my TE prospect preview:
Another player that could be on the Falcons’ radar as a potential early replacement for Toilolo—who is coincidentally also from Stanford—Dalton Schultz is a very good run and pass blocking TE with solid size (6’6, 242) who should be able to carve out a role early in his career. He’s an unspectacular but reliable receiver who can function as a short-yardage option, but he’s not going to wow you in that area. As an early Day 3 pick, Schultz could be in play as a blocking specialist to pair with the dual-threat Austin Hooper and receiving specialist Eric Saubert.
Round 7, Pick 244: LB Oren Burks, Vanderbilt
Another player who saw a boost to his stock from a strong Combine performance, Oren Burks tested off the charts for a LB—posting a 4.59 40-yd dash, a 6.82 3-cone, and a 131.0 inch broad jump. He’s versatile and capable of playing just about anywhere as a LB, but he’s still quite raw and needs time to develop and learn the specifics of a single position. If he’s still available this late, Atlanta shouldn’t hesitate to scoop him up. Here’s what I had to say about Burks in my LB prospect preview:
A late Day 3 prospect, Oren Burks is an intriguing developmental choice for the Falcons. At 6’3, 230, he’s got good size, with the versatility and experience to play all three LB positions. Burks has experience at safety, too, and is athletic enough to match-up in coverage against RBs and TEs. His versatility means that he never spent much time at any one position, and as such his awareness and instincts need a lot of work. Burks has tantalizing potential as a high-level special teams player and his versatility could make him an ideal depth LB.
Round 7, Pick 256: FB Nick Bawden, San Diego State
The Falcons use the final pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to secure the best remaining fullback on the board. Nick Bawden has a similar game to Patrick DiMarco, with impressive size and proven blocking ability to go along with good hands in the receiving game. Bawden could be a quality FB option and would almost certainly be an upgrade over Derrick Coleman—and this late in the draft, he’d be under contract at a very affordable price for four seasons. Here’s what I wrote about Bawden in my RB & FB prospect preview:
For those who want the Falcons to upgrade the FB position but don’t want to use a mid-to-late round pick, Nick Bawden could be just the man for the job. The 6’3, 245 Bawden began his career as a QB, but has since started two seasons at FB for SDSU. He’s a good blocker, with solid athletic ability and the hands to be useful as a chess-piece in the passing game.
This seems like a well-balanced draft class with solid value across the board. The Falcons get their reinforcements on the defensive line, with two DTs and an EDGE in the first four rounds. They also bolster their weak spots on offense, adding a WR3/returner, a quality blocking TE, and an upgrade at FB. Atlanta also manages to add an intriguing developmental LB prospect that could potentially contribute early on special teams.
What do you think of this draft class for the Falcons? Would you be happy with this haul, or are there picks you disagree with? Who are some of your favorite prospects for the Falcons?