The 2018 season is complete for the Atlanta Falcons so let’s get the offseason started with a fresh mock draft.
The window of opportunity for the Atlanta Falcons can either be viewed upon as half-open or halfway closed, depending on your perspective. The 2018 season for the Falcons began in disaster, was injected with improving play and a handful of wins in the middle of the season, and then hit a bad skid that cost the team a playoff spot. But one thing is for certain, the talent level of the Falcons is still solid enough to be one of the best teams in the league next year. The 2019 draft presents a chance to improve even more to this roster with an estimated nine total draft picks. So let’s get started with a forecast of how the draft may play out for the Falcons.
Round 1, 14th Overall - Brian Burns, DE, Florida State
Hear me out please.
The Falcons drafted one Vic Beasley in the 2015 NFL Draft and outside of leading the league in sacks in just his second season, there has not been much to write home about when it comes Beasley. As a result, many are fearful of drafting another undersized edge rusher. But Burns may not be your ordinary edge rusher. Burns is a freak of nature at 6’5 235 lbs. Even with his long limbs, Burns displays the type of bend around the edge against offensive linemen that only a few pass rushers in the NFL today can show. Sure, weight is needed to be added to his frame but Burns has future All-Pro written all over him, and we can’t be afraid of every guy who is a little more lean because of how Beasley has turned out.
Round 2, 45th Overall - Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College
A dilemma could possibly be waiting for the Falcons during the offseason at the guard position. Signs are pointing to the team moving on from veteran Andy Levitre, who is an unrestricted free agent and there is an ongoing debate as to whether Wes Schweitzer is ready for a permanent starting role.
In Lindstrom, the Falcons find themselves a day one contributor who has the skill set to win the starting job in training camp in between Jake Matthews and Alex Mack. Coming from the run heavy Boston College system, it is noted that Lindstrom has the strength at the point of attack and able to finish his blocks with regularity. Lindstrom has some nastiness in him as well which is a welcome sight for a rather mild, soft-spoken offensive line.
Round 3, 80th Overall - Isaiah Buggs, DL , Alabama
The Falcons need to add some much needed punch to their defensive line, whether on the edge or on the interior. Since they addressed the edge earlier with the selection of Burns, now the attention is turned to the inside. Bringing in Buggs adds a 6’4 295 pound option on the inside who can also be utilized as a strong-side 5-tech defensive end on base downs.
Buggs fits the part as a burly, rugged defensive lineman that is aggressive and tough to deal with. Watch his film and you will see a prospect with massive hands and more than enough physicality to give opposing lineman problems when he comes with a head full of steam. Add on a little weight to Buggs and the rotation of Grady Jarrett, Deadrin Senat and Buggs can be an issue for many teams.
Round 4, 111th Overall - Lucas Niang, OT , TCU
It may benefit the Falcons to invest a little more in the trenches based on the inconsistent play on both sides. It is quite possible that the team could cut ties with veteran Ryan Schraeder as a post-June 1st cut that could save the team considerable cap space. It is also possible that the team will bring him back for 2019 with hopes of improvement.
If the team goes the latter route, grabbing a prospect such as Niang gives the team a little cushion to let a younger prospect develop with the idea of possibly being the starter in 2020. Niang comes with some size as he is 6’7 and roughly 325 pounds but Niang has functional athleticism and is able to anchor in pass protection while also having the length and agility to reach on extended run plays. Once again, a lot depends on what the Falcons do with Schraeder and if the team wants him to stick around, Niang can still be taken with room to properly develop.
Round 4, Compensatory Pick - Jace Sternberger, TE , Texas A&M
The Falcons brought in veteran Logan Paulsen this past offseason to fill the blocking tight end role on the offense and while he did, the Falcons have some wiggle room here to somewhat upgrade that role.
We could see an increased role by Eric Saubert next season, but can anyone say with conviction that is the case in 2019? Not necessarily. Sternberger however can be a solid insurance policy for the Falcons as they attempt to get younger at the position.
Sternberger has great size at 6’4 250 lbs and may not seem athletic at first glance but also can be a definite weapon as a receiver alongside tight end Austin Hooper. As far as his blocking prowess, it is more than solid at this point with the ability to get more physical with additions his NFL frame. Flashback to the early part of the 2016 season when the Falcons had a bit of a luxury with the young Austin Hooper and another veteran in Jacob Tamme. Sternberger adds a little more juice to the already dangerous Falcons offense, regardless of what happens with Saubert.
Round 5, 142nd Overall - Terry Godwin, WR , Georgia
Another possible loss that the team may endure this season is the departure of veteran Justin Hardy. In four seasons with the Falcons, Hardy has only 76 catches and just nine touchdowns. He’s not necessarily guaranteed to be on the Falcons in 2019 and the same can be said for Marvin Hall, who is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent this offseason.
Godwin is familiar name to a portion of the Falcons fan base with over 130 catches to his resume during his four seasons at the University of Georgia. Godwin is a technician as a receiver due to his route running which is fairly advanced at this point of his development. Godwin’s experience makes the Falcons wide receiving corps a little more well-rounded.
Round 5, Compensatory Pick - Carl Granderson, DE , Wyoming
There is no such thing as too much defensive line help. Especially when it comes to the Falcons. Granderson is a prospect that the Falcons can take their time with when it comes to his development as right now, he is more useful in run defense and setting the edge in the run game than he is as a pass rusher. However, that does not mean Granderson could not be useful there. In flashes, Granderson has shown the ability to covert from speed to power when attacking the edge. Once he develops his ability to consistently use his hands, the Falcons may have a weapon here.
Round 6, 173rd Overall - Tanner Muse, S/LB, Clemson
Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to Dan Quinn and what he likes on his defense. That is exactly what Muse offers as a hybrid defender that has seen time both at safety and linebacker during his Clemson tenure. Muse is a big-bodied defender at 225 lbs that can cover fairly well in coverage against tight ends and is not afraid to stick his nose in activity closer to the line of scrimmage. A likely special teams piece early on, for sure, but if the team does not seen significant progress in linebacker Duke Riley, Muse could take his spot.
Round 7, 208th Overall - Zack Moss, RB , Utah
I for one believe that running back Tevin Coleman has played his last game as a Falcon. In today’s NFL, all it takes is one team to throw the right amount of dollars.
While the team appears to pair up Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith as the top two backs in 2019, the Falcons can utilize their last pick of the draft to add a bruiser to the rotation and possibly give third stringer Brian Hill a battle in training camp. Moss has some similarities to Hill and is a one-cut and get upfield back that runs behinds his pads.