Every year, I put together one mock draft, and this is it. I’d offer more preamble but you know how mock drafts work and you’re familiar with my approach to them by now, which emphasizes needs (positional or otherwise) over just slotting in the best possible player I think may be available. You’ll see the results of that below.
Round 1: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Bryan’s not my #1 choice at defensive tackle, but he is the player likeliest to make it to #26 out of this group and actually get selected by the Falcons, methinks.
The attraction with Bryan is his considerable upside. He has strong measurables for a defensive tackle, and there are times where his power and quick feet cause immeasurable problems for opposing offenses, as Allen Strk illustrates below.
Bryan earns a well-deserved sack. Fitting it happens on a stunt where he is commanding all the attention. Completely blows up Texas A&M's left side. Monster performance. pic.twitter.com/e9zy4VNHva— Allen Strk (@Allen_Strk) April 18, 2018
There are also times where Bryan either meets with a player good enough to stymie his power and he looks lost, and there are times he fights through his man and gets to the backfield and looks lost. He needs coaching, technique work, and time, but as the case with a lot of tantalizing players, the talent really is there. You just have to believe he’ll utilize it if you’re Atlanta and you take him at #26, but I suspect Atlanta would.
Round 2: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
I’ve come around a bit on taking a cornerback, and Hughes is a genuinely interesting prospect, especially if he falls this far. He doesn’t have that ideal length or blazing speed Dan Quinn and company look for, but he’s a physical, aggressive cornerback with the potential to be truly great. He’s also a strong option to fill the returner spot for the Falcons, at least in the short term, making him a nice pick in both the long and short terms. The team would likely experiment with having him play outside in nickel sets, kicking Desmond Trufant or Robert Alford inside.
I recognize that Hughes may go before this point, but there’s so many quality cornerbacks in the late first/second round mix I think he may make it. I’d be glad to nab him here.
Round 3: Foley Fatukasi, DT, Connecticut
Here’s that double dip you ordered. I could see the Falcons pursuing an offensive tackle here or a receiver, and I had briefly penciled in Oregon’s Tyrell Crosby before I had a change of heart. Fatukasi is a logical fit for the Falcons because he gives them a third young, talented defensive tackle for their rotation, and because he has the talent to be mighty useful.
Given his size and strength, he’s not the run defender you’d expect him to be, but he can grow into that role. There’s enough pass rushing talent here to think he has the potential to mix in on three downs, as well, and to steal some time away from Bryan if the latter doesn’t develop quickly. Ideally, he, Jarrett, and Bryan would form a terrific rotation for the next few seasons, and he has the chance to become a starting-caliber player in his own right.
Round 4: Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State
Hines has been mocked to the Falcons multiple times, and it’s not difficult to figure out why. Like Tevin Coleman, he’s incredibly speedy and can make a cut and simply vanish. Unlike Coleman, he’s arguably not built for a starter’s workload at 5’8, 198 pounds. Also unlike Coleman, he comes into the NFL with experience at receiver, something that could prove to be useful before long.
I envision Hines competing for a returner gig in 2018, as he spent time there in college and returned three kicks and punts for touchdowns, though Hughes could potentially beat him out. Then I see him being a legitimate option at #2 behind Devonta Freeman, with more than enough talent to carve out a major role in this offense as a runner and as a receiver. I’d be thrilled to see the Falcons nab him in the fourth round.
Round 6: Joe Ostman, DE, Michigan
Ostman seems to be picking up some steam in draft circles, so I’m hedging my bets a bit with a potential seventh round pick and having him go late in the sixth. He’s an interesting athlete the Falcons have met with, with the ability to get around the edge at warp speed but with plenty of refinement (and strength training) ahead before he’s a complete end, particularly against the run. As a late-round project at defensive end who can be eased in behind the team’s formidable Takkarist McKinley/Vic Beasley/Derrick Shelby/Brooks Reed quartet, though, he’s an interesting player who merits real consideration. His upside is real.
Round 7: Deion Pierre, LB, Samford
Pierre’s a real athlete who would have the luxury of primarily playing special teams—something he has long experience with—in his first season with Atlanta. With time, he could become a very useful reserve given his speed and instincts, but if he tops out as a useful special teamer and emergency linebacker that’s still a mighty useful player late in the seventh round. He’d be the team’s fifth option at the position in 2018.
Round 7: Jonah Trinniman, WR, BYU
Trinniman is an A+ speedster with little history of production in college, which makes it aggressive to even draft him at all. With a couple of other teams (most notably the Bears) sniffing around him, though, it makes sense to make sure he doesn’t get wooed by another team as a priority free agent, particularly with the very last pick in this class.
The Falcons would give Trinniman a crack at earning the #3 receiver job, though I expect he’ll lose out to one of the more veteran trio of Justin Hardy, Reggie Davis, and Marvin Hall. With that speed and a year in mothballs, though, Trinniman could turn into an interesting weapon and a potential returner for the Falcons in 2019. Consider him the sort of late round dice roll the Falcons tried once with Devin Fuller, but hopefully with better results.
This class accomplishes all the things I’d want Atlanta to accomplish, even if I’m not expecting them to get my first choices (or even theirs) at every position. The team winds up with high-upside picks at defensive tackle and cornerback, interesting long-term options at running back and defensive tackle, and some athletic dice rolls at defensive end, linebacker, and wide receiver. I expect them to address fullback and safety via UDFAs—keep an eye on Afolabi Laguda from Colorado at the latter—but I think this draft positions them well both for this year and for the future.
What does your final mock look like?