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Falcons 7-Round Mock Draft: The Final Countdown

Draft day is here at last! Here’s Kevin’s final attempt at predicting the Falcons’ 2018 draft class.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

We’re finally here! The 2018 NFL Draft kicks off tonight, and I’m super excited to see who the Falcons choose to join The Brotherhood(TM) this season. Make sure to join myself and the rest of the staff for our Draft Party 2018 tonight and Friday!

There has been plenty of buzz surrounding the team over the last few days, most notably concerning Atlanta’s desire to trade up for Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne. Taking all that into account, it’s time to attempt my final and hopefully most predictive mock of the 2018 #DraftSzn. By predictive, I mean this is what I think Atlanta will do—not necessarily what I would do—given the way the board fell.

For this simulation, I used Fanspeak’s On the Clock mock draft simulator. Here are the settings if you’d like to attempt one yourself: Composite big board, User-Voted team needs, Difficult setting.

Let’s get to it!

Round 1, Pick 26: DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan

Maurice Hurst is my DT1 for the Falcons in this draft, and if he falls to 26 I’d make the pick in a heartbeat. The truth is that Atlanta seems to be enamored with Taven Bryan if they stay put at 26, and Da’Ron Payne if they’re planning to trade up. Both of those guys are good, and I understand why the team feels that way. Still, in this scenario, Bryan was off the board and trade ups weren’t an option. Hurst is an excellent consolation prize, assuming his medicals check out. I 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: DT Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hays State

The Falcons have “double-dipped” on positions of need in the draft several times under Dimitroff, and this year continues that trend. As much as I’d like to see someone like D.J. Chark or Anthony Miller at this pick, Atlanta simply hasn’t shown much interest in either of them. That means they’re probably planning to go in a different direction early. Shepherd at this point is slightly early for my tastes, but he’s a phenomenal athlete with sky-high potential—exactly the type of player Quinn and Dimitroff love to take in the second round. Here’s what I wrote about Shepherd in my DT prospect preview:

Someone who was practically invisible before the Senior Bowl, Shepherd dominated his competition in Mobile and turned a lot of heads in doing so. Coming from Division II means a lengthy developmental process and adjustment period, but Shepherd has the look of a high-level athlete at DT that can win with his hands too. He’s clearly a 1-2 year project, but Shepherd could end up as one of the best DTs in this class over time. I’m intrigued by him and would consider pulling the trigger on Day 2.

Round 3, Pick 90: LB Fred Warner, BYU

A pick I’ve made several times for the Falcons, Fred Warner simply makes perfect sense for this team at this draft slot—if he’s available. Warner fits the mold of Quinn’s preferred LBs, Atlanta has shown plenty of interest, and there’s a definite need to improve the LB depth. There’s still work to do to turn Warner into a starter, but he’s got time to develop behind a very good starting duo and can contribute on special teams early. Here’s what I wrote about Warner in my LB prospect preview:

The latest in the line of “hybrid” or “money” LBs in the Deone Bucannon mold, Fred Warner also has experience playing both LB and safety during his career. At 6’3, 227, he’s got the frame to play either spot, too. He’s a good athlete and a fluid mover with plenty of experience in coverage. Warner also has fairly well developed instincts for such a versatile player, which should make his NFL transition easier. He’ll need to improve his technique as a tackler and add more bulk to his frame at the NFL level, but Warner is an intriguing prospect in the early Day 3 range.

Round 4, Pick 126: RB Nyheim Hines, NC State

Another case of need, interest, and draft value all matching up quite nicely. Nyheim Hines has drawn attention from the Falcons since early in the draft process as a potential RB3 and 3rd down back. He’s also got the ability to be a dangerous kick returner, and could develop into a possible replacement for Tevin Coleman in 2019. Hines may go even earlier than this, but if he’s still available here I love the value. Here’s what I had to say about Hines in my RB prospect preview:

A player that the Falcons are rumored to have interest in, Nyheim Hines is somewhat of a “tweener” at the RB position. He’s definitely on the small side at 5’9, 197, but Hines has the look of a high-level athlete that could contribute in both the running and passing games. Durability is a concern, but that would be less of an issue if Hines was used as a change-of-pace back or as part of a committee approach. His athletic testing will go a long way in determining his value.

Round 6, Pick 200: QB Riley Ferguson, Memphis

The closer we get to draft day, the more confident I feel that the Falcons are going to invest a Day 3 pick into a potential Matt Schaub replacement. Riley Ferguson has been connected to Atlanta multiple times and is a natural fit in a West Coast offense. There’s some genuine talent there to develop, but Ferguson’s stock has been steadily climbing over the past few weeks. If the Falcons want him, they’ll likely need to take him with their sixth rounder. Here’s what I wrote about Ferguson in a previous mock:

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.

Round 7, Pick 244: WR Javon Wims, Georgia

A pick that just makes too much sense for the Falcons late in the draft, Javon Wims is criminally underrated by the NFL as a whole. He’s got very limited starting experience, but excellent size and contested catch ability. Wims could be an asset in the red zone and as chain-mover, and I think he’s got the potential to be a good WR3 in the NFL. Here’s what I wrote about Wims in my WR prospect preview:

A local favorite with great size at 6’3, 215, Javon Wims made a name for himself in 2017 with an impressive season that saw him take over as Georgia’s WR1. He’s great at pulling in contested catches and can win as a deep threat with his size, but Wims doesn’t have the look of a great athlete and needs to continue to develop his route running. As a late-round pick, Wims offers the ability to make an impact early on, but his ceiling is likely a solid-to-good WR3.

Round 7, Pick 256: CB Michael Joseph, Dubuque

With the final pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Falcons select an awesome story and high-potential developmental CB in Michael Joseph. Yes, he’s coming from Division III—but Joseph has the athletic tools and measurables that Quinn covets in his DBs. He’s raw but very talented, and could potentially carve out a role as the CB5 or CB6 on the roster who can contribute on special teams early in his career. Here’s what I wrote about Joseph in my DB prospect preview:

Talk about a player that’s tough to find film on. Michael Joseph played his college football at Division III Dubuque, where he dominated the competition at every turn. He’s got the size (6’1, 181) that Dan Quinn likes from his corners, and (admittedly, from highlights) he looks like a good athlete. I’m interested to see how Joseph tests and how he performs in the drills, but I like him as a potential Day 3 sleeper. He’ll certainly need a year or two to acclimate to the NFL, but he looks talented enough to earn a roster spot as a 5th or 6th CB.

There you have it—my last, best attempt at predicting what the Falcons will do during the 2018 NFL Draft. As we all know, this will probably be horribly inaccurate 24 hours from now, prompting us all to consider was it even worth it? Still, I think this class provides a lot of potential for the Falcons in 2018 and beyond.

The team adds their impact starter on the defensive line in Hurst, a high-potential developmental DT in Shepherd, a possible future starter and quality depth LB in Warner, a trio of offensive depth pieces in RB Hines, WR Wims, and QB Ferguson, and a developmental CB in Joseph. I’d be pretty happy with this haul, and I think these players all have the potential to help the Falcons immensely over the next 4 years and beyond.

What do you think about this draft class for the Falcons? Who do you think the team will draft tonight and through the weekend? Share your own mock drafts in the comments below!