Happy draft season, Falcoholics.
It’s mock-draft-a-palooza right now on sports internet, with lots of people having lots of opinions about lots of players coming to Atlanta to do lots of things. Our Jeremy Riggs has a great breakdown of where all the big wig mock drafters’ heads are at the moment.
Most of this stuff is hot air, but it’s always interesting when someone with an eye behind the scenes publishes one of these things, backed up with hush-hush chatter of what’s to come.
NFL Network’s Peter Schrager, host of Good Morning Football, knows as well as any insider does what teams are thinking, and he’s assembled a fascinating mock draft for his second installment of the season. As a whole, it’s worth a read, and looks like the type of lineup we may see here in about a month or so.
So, who does he have the Atlanta Falcons taking? None other than Michigan DT Maurice Hurst.
Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn are gone, and Ahtyba Rubin remains unsigned. Hurst is an elite interior pass rusher who has the smarts to get on the field for the Falcons right away.
Hurst had a bit of trouble at the combine with a test on his heart, but has since been cleared for football, and still projects as a first-round talent. Many smart opining forces are big on Hurst and what he could do for an NFL team, and it’d be hard not to get excited if this were the pick. Curiously, Schrager has Hurst going over Florida DT Taven Bryan, another popular Falcons mock target.
If he’s heard something about the Falcons’ plans, perhaps this is a tease to where Atlanta’s preferences lie with the DT class. Note that Vita Vea (#15 to Arizona) and Da’Ron Payne (#19 to Dallas) are off the board at this point in the juncture.
He’s got the Saints making a stomach-churning pick of QB Lamar Jackson (like we want to deal with him for a decade plus), the Bucs making a doubly-stomach-churning pick of G Quenton Nelson (egad) and the Panthers replacing Andrew Norwell with G Will Hernandez (again, ew).
Other notable NFC moves would see the Rams nab G/C James Daniels, the Vikings stock their LB group with Leighton Vander Esch and the Eagles and Packers add CBs Jaire Alexander and Mike Hughes, respectively.
In this scenario, Atlanta lands its next major presence on the defensive line, and someone who could team up with Grady Jarrett to wreak havoc on guards and centers for the foreseeable future. That sounds pretty nice to us.
Through all these mock drafts and knowing Atlanta’s needs, it does feel as if defensive tackle will be the pick, and one of Hurst, Bryan, Payne or Vea will be the guy to sport the Falcons cap. Vea looks like a top-20 pick, so he’d be less-likely than the other three sans a trade.
So, right now, unless Atlanta pulls off a trade for a DT or lures a guy like Jonathan Hankins in late in the free agency process, defensive tackle’s where to keep your focus and Hurst, Bryan and Payne are probably your frontrunners.