The Combine has wrapped up, and with the knowledge we’ve gained from the official athletic testing, it’s time for my first mock draft of the season. The Falcons don’t have many pressing needs, but there is plenty of room for improvement at multiple positions.
I do all my mock drafts using Fanspeak’s On the Clock Mock Draft Simulator. If you’d like to replicate the conditions of this mock, I always use the “Composite” big board, the “User-Voted” team needs, and the “Difficult” setting. Is OTC perfect? Absolutely not, but it does a reasonable job for a computer simulation.
Keep in mind, this mock doesn’t fully take the Combine’s athletic testing into account. Some of the big boards in the Composite have been updated, others have not. It’s still fairly close to what I think proper value is for these players. With that out of the way, let’s dive right in to this mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 26: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
With Da’Ron Payne on the board at pick 26, this is an easy choice. His Combine performance may elevate him even higher than this come draft day, but he’s an ideal fit for Atlanta. I have already done a full evaluation on Payne, and here’s what I had to say about him in our DT prospect preview:
Payne has the look of a prototypical NFL DT, with phenomenal natural strength and explosive burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s a great run defender and an improving pass rusher that can play at 1T or 3T and contribute right away. Payne’s biggest weakness was his difficulty in taking on double-teams, but on a stacked DL with Jarrett, McKinley, and Beasley he’d have plenty of opportunities to dominate 1-on-1.
Round 2, Pick 58: C/G James Daniels, Iowa
James Daniels may have pushed himself into the late first conversation with a phenomenal Combine, but in this scenario he ends up falling right into the Falcons’ lap in the second round. He’d be an ideal pick to start at RG immediately, and could eventually take over at C for Mack down the road. Here’s what I had to say about Daniels in the OL prospect preview:
Daniels is a phenomenal athlete at the center position who started every game over the last two seasons at Iowa. At 6’4, 305 he’s a little on the lighter side—but for a zone-blocking scheme, he should be just fine. He’s played guard in the past and should be able to transition back there without too much trouble, but there are questions about how well he can hold up against NFL size and strength.
Round 3, Pick 90: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
Another player that the Falcons have their eyes on falls right into their lap in the third round. Hurst would be an ideal player to take over for Levine Toilolo, and offers a lot more as a receiver. The only downside is that he will be a 25 year old rookie. Here’s what I wrote about Hurst in our TE prospect preview:
A true dual-threat TE that should probably be generating more buzz, Hayden Hurst has the frame of a blocking TE (6’5, 250) and the athleticism of a receiver. While he’s not an elite athlete by any stretch, he’s good enough to be a mismatch against LBs and safeties and he’s a quality blocker as well. Hurst has the potential to come in and start right away, and could be a legitimate upgrade over Levine Toilolo at TE2. He’ll likely demand a late Day 2 pick, however.
Round 4, Pick 126: WR Tre’Quan Smith, UCF
One of my favorite WRs in the draft slides a bit, which makes him a perfect target for the Falcons in the fourth round. Smith is a deep threat with a ridiculous catch radius that I believe can turn into a WR2 down the line. I’ve already done a full scouting report on Smith, and here’s what I had to say in our WR prospect preview:
Tre’Quan Smith is an intriguing deep threat with solid size (6’1, 210) and freakishly long arms. He’s got great long speed and was a fantastic red-zone option for UCF, with 13 TDs in 2017. Smith isn’t an elite athlete and needs to further develop his route running, but as a 3rd-4th round pick, he should find his way into a role as a high-level WR3—with WR2 potential down the road—early in his career.
Round 6, Pick 200: LB Tegray Scales, Indiana
A player that is getting criminally underrated in my opinion, Tegray Scales is one of the most instinctive LBs I’ve watched this year. He’s small and isn’t a special athlete, but as a late-round depth LB and special teams contributor, Scales is a good value here. Here’s what I wrote about Scales in our LB prospect preview:
Scales is another undersized LB (6’0, 230) that makes his mark with his advanced football IQ and phenomenal instincts. His ability to instantly diagnose plays and flow to the ball allowed him to post huge numbers during his career. Scales is physical for his size, but he’ll never be an elite player in terms of taking on blocks. His athletic testing will be big for his overall stock, but as an early Day 3 pick, Scales looks like a high-level depth player with the potential for more.
Round 7, Pick 244: CB Taron Johnson, Weber State
Taron Johnson tested fairly well at the Combine, and I like his potential as an improvement to the Falcons’ depth at CB and maybe future starter in the slot. He’s a good value at this point in the draft, too. Here’s what I had to say about Johnson in our DB prospect preview:
A small-school prospect with intriguing potential as a nickel CB, Taron Johnson has length but simply isn’t heavy enough to play on the outside (6’0, 180). He’s got the agility and quickness to find success in the slot, however, and he’s physical enough in run support that he’s not a liability there. There are issues in Johnson’s technique that need to be cleaned up, but I like his potential as a future nickel starter and depth CB early on Day 3.
Round 7, Pick 256: DL Matt Dickerson, UCLA
I’m still hoping that the Falcons pull off the trade for Michael Bennett, but even if they do, adding someone like Matt Dickerson late in the draft is ideal. Dickerson has the size (6’4, 290) and the versatility to play an “Adrian Clayborn” role for the Falcons. Here’s what I wrote about Dickerson in our EDGE prospect preview:
An intriguing late round depth addition, Matt Dickerson has great size (6’4, 290), strength, and technical ability. He’s a high-motor player that offers some inside-outside flexibility, but his best fit is likely as a base package EDGE that can stop the run effectively. Dickerson is a limited athlete and isn’t much of a factor in the passing game, but if he can play the run at a high level, he could potentially be a cheap replacement for someone like Derrick Shelby.
In this scenario, the Falcons have a lot of their favorite players fall right into their lap. It’s a very lucky situation—one that is within the realm of possibility, but is ultimately unlikely to happen. Payne is a tremendous addition to the DL that can contribute right away. Daniels is an injection of athletic ability to the OL that should solidify the group going forward. Hurst is an ideal fit to replace Toilolo, and will make a dangerous complement to Hooper in 2TE sets.
Smith gives the Falcons a talented WR3 option to replace Taylor Gabriel that could eventually develop into a WR2 in time. The Falcons then add three quality depth pieces to the roster in Scales, Johnson, and Dickerson. Overall, the team comes away with a lot of early contributors and some intriguing potential.
What are your thoughts on this mock draft scenario? Which picks do you love, and which picks would you change if certain other players were available? Post your own mocks in the comments!