The second week of free agency has ended, and with it, the Falcons roster is likely to be mostly settled until after the 2018 NFL Draft. There may be a few depth signings over the remaining few weeks, but for the most part, Atlanta has their team in relatively good shape. There aren’t a lot of huge needs for this team, with the biggest obviously being DT. It seems likely that the Falcons will address the defensive line with at least two picks, and we could see even more before it’s all said and done.
For this mock draft, I used the Fanspeak Mock Draft Simulator. To recreate the conditions of this mock, use these settings: Fanspeak big board, User-Voted needs, Difficult setting. Hopefully someday they’ll update the Composite big board, but in the meantime, we’ll have to make due.
Without further adieu, I present my latest mock draft for your perusal. Enjoy.
Round 1, Pick 26: DT Taven Bryan, Florida
The Falcons biggest need remains defensive tackle, and they address that need early with the selection of Florida DT Taven Bryan. Bryan is a fantastic athlete on the interior with a sky-high ceiling, and the Florida connection with Dan Quinn makes a lot of sense. He’s still a bit raw technically, but the Falcons have shown that they’re more than willing to handle the challenge of developing “toolsy” prospects. I wrote a bit about Bryan in my Combine DT prospect preview:
The 6’4, 291 Taven Bryan is an explosive and strong playmaker from the interior of the defensive line. Bryan was simply asked to shoot gaps every single play while at Florida, and he excelled at it. That style of play has led to some questions about his discipline and ability to play the run, but I’m not terribly concerned about that. Bryan’s athletic testing will likely determine how early in Round 1 he goes.
Round 2, Pick 58: DT Derrick Nnadi, Florida State
In a move that recalls the 2013 draft class, the Falcons double dip on their biggest need in the first two rounds with the selection of DT Derrick Nnadi. This is a bit high for Nnadi, but he’ll be gone by the time the Falcons pick in the third round. He’s a similar player to Grady Jarrett, and could provide depth at the 1T and 3T in the Falcons’ defense. Here’s what I wrote about Nnadi in my DT prospect preview:
Nnadi makes an appearance in almost every fan mock draft I’ve seen, and it’s easy to see why. His current value sees him available in the late Day 2-early Day 3 range, making him a logical candidate if the Falcons elect to go in another direction early in the draft or want to double up at DT. At 6’1, 299, Nnadi is on the smaller side for an NFL DT—but he makes up for it with a well-rounded skillset and good technique that allows him to win against superior athletes. He strikes me as a “poor man’s Grady Jarrett”, an undersized 1T or 3T that wins with leverage, strength, and technique.
Round 3, Pick 90: WR Anthony Miller, Memphis
With the Falcons addressing TE and CB (to some extent) in free agency, it opens the door for the team to focus on WR on Day 2. In this draft, Memphis’ Anthony Miller was still available towards the end of the third round—where I think he’s an excellent value. Miller is a fierce competitor that offers a versatile skillset. Here’s an excerpt about Miller from my WR prospect preview:
Miller possesses solid size at 5’11, 190 and is an impressive, quick-twitch receiver with a fiery competitive streak to his game. He’ll need to improve his drops and polish his route running, but Miller looks the part of a very good WR3 with WR2 potential in the NFL.
Round 4, Pick 126: LB Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida
At long last, my favorite player in the draft managed to fall to the Falcons in the fourth round in one of these simulations. The UCF LB with the incredible story has elevated his stock into the late Day 2 conversation, but Atlanta isn’t likely to spend a draft pick on a reserve LB until Day 3. If he’s here for the Falcons, he’s excellent depth with incredible special teams potential. I wrote up a full scouting report on Griffin, and here’s what I had to say in my LB prospect preview:
Shaquem Griffin might offer the perfect match of draft value and ability for the Falcons. He’s a fantastic athlete with a fiery personality and a physical style of play. Griffin can do it all, and if you can get over the fact that he has only one hand, he has the makings of a very good LB. His floor is a high-level special teams player and a quality depth LB, but I think he’ll force his way into a starting role early in his career. I’d begin considering Griffin in the late 3rd, but he could still be around early on Day 3.
Round 6, Pick 200: EDGE JoJo Wicker, Arizona State
With the way the board fell, the value at EDGE simply wasn’t there earlier in the draft. With the Falcons retaining Brooks Reed and bringing back Derrick Shelby, it’s not the screaming need we initially thought it was. However, Atlanta could still get an intriguing developmental option late in the draft, and in this mock they find one in Arizona State’s JoJo Wicker.
Wicker is a player very much in the Adrian Clayborn mold: a larger, more physical EDGE that offers some ability to play on the inside. He played in the 270s at ASU, but bulked up to 296 for the Combine. In my opinion, I think he’s best served at around the 280 range, as a base package EDGE and a DT in nickel sets. He’s got some juice off the snap and uses his hands well, with the versatility to play all over the defensive line. Wicker just needs to get his body right in order to be a high-level rotational player in the NFL, and would be a good value at this point in the draft.
Round 7, Pick 244: TE Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan
The Falcons no longer have a big need at TE with the addition of Logan Paulsen, but if they’re planning to once again carry 4 TEs on the roster, a late Day 3 addition like Tyler Conklin would make a lot of sense. Conklin’s stock is a bit low due to an injury-plagued 2017 season, but he showcased some good receiving skills and quality blocking when he was healthy in 2016. Here’s what I wrote about Conklin in my TE prospect preview:
Conklin is an interesting prospect, largely because of the medical issues he had in 2017. He sustained a “Jones fracture”—which should be familiar to Falcons fans, because Julio Jones had two of them—but managed to return from it during the season. His 2016 tape shows a very good receiving TE with solid size (6’4, 240) and a fiery demeanor as a blocker. Without the injury, Conklin would likely be getting more hype—as a mid-Day 3 pick, he could end up being a steal as a dual-threat TE.
Round 7, Pick 256: QB Riley Ferguson, Memphis
The Falcons have been connected to a fair number of late round QB prospects in this draft cycle, and they could elect to use the final pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to secure their top choice. They’ve shown some interest in Memphis QB Riley Ferguson, a 6’4 210 developmental option who has been generating some buzz as a potentially high-level back-up.
Ferguson was one of the more exciting QBs in college football in 2017, putting up 3,698 yards, 32 TDs, and only 10 INTs to go along with a 63% completion percentage. He’s got some plus traits that would fit well in an offense like Atlanta’s, like experience and comfort running play-action and bootlegs. There are some technical issues he’ll need to clean up, but Ferguson could be a much more affordable replacement for aging veteran Matt Schaub.
In this simulation, the Falcons address their biggest needs early on while adding some developmental pieces late in the draft. DT gets the “2013 treatment”, with two selections in the first two rounds of the draft. Atlanta then adds a WR3 with potential WR2 upside in Round 3, before taking rotational options at LB, EDGE, and TE. The Falcons close out their class with the selection of a young, developmental prospect at QB that could provide a much cheaper alternative to their current back-up.
What do you think of this draft class for the Falcons? Which picks did you love, and which did you hate? Any players that you are especially clamoring for Atlanta to select in the 2018 NFL Draft? Share your own mock drafts in the comments!