Draft season is heating up with the East-West Shrine Game in the rear-view mirror and the majority of the Senior Bowl practices already in the books. We should begin to see the 2019 NFL Draft class coalesce over the coming weeks, with things getting really settled after the NFL Combine. Until then, however, there’s still plenty of unknowns surrounding many players—particularly the first round.
For instance, the buzz is that at least three teams are eyeing QBs in the top-15—and it wouldn’t be entirely shocking to see others trade up too. That could lead to some interesting situations and players who shouldn’t be falling anywhere near the 14th pick somehow winding up there.
For this week’s mock draft, I used Fanspeak’s On the Clock mock draft simulator. If you’d like to recreate the conditions of this mock, use the following settings: Fanspeak big board, User-Voted team needs, Difficult setting. As an aside, I don’t really like any of the big boards that are up there right now. Fanspeak’s is pretty inaccurate overall, in my opinion. Thus, if a player I knew wouldn’t be there was still available when the Falcons picked, I skipped over them in an effort to make this mock at least somewhat realistic.
Without further adieu, let’s get to the third edition of my Falcons mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 14: DT Ed Oliver, Houston
Does Ed Oliver falling to the Falcons at 14 seem like a pipe dream to you? It shouldn’t. Considering the needs of the teams ahead of the Falcons and the addition of Kyler Murray to the draft class—making it likely that at least three QBs will go before Atlanta’s pick—it’s not all that crazy. More teams in the top-15 have big needs at EDGE than DT, especially if Jacksonville (who are rumored to be after Dwayne Haskins), Denver (who are “locked in” on Drew Lock), and Miami (who are, supposedly, interested in Kyler Murray) all take QBs.
We’ve seen it before: an elite but “undersized” DT prospect falls into the early teens. Aaron Donald—who’s the most talented DL prospect I’ve ever scouted—fell all the way to 13 because of size concerns. We could see a very similar situation this year, except this time it would benefit the Falcons.
In Oliver, Atlanta would get an elite 3T that can make plays on every single down. He’s incredibly strong for his size and possesses some of the most impressive movement skills I’ve seen from a DT. Pairing him with Grady Jarrett would give the Falcons one of the most dangerous interior duos in the NFL for years to come. Oliver would be an absolute steal at 14 and would make this crappy 7-9 season 100% worth it.
Round 2, Pick 45: OT David Edwards, Wisconsin
For the sake of variety I’ll be trying to switch up my picks from week-to-week, but right now some of these players just make too much sense for the Falcons. David Edwards is a natural right tackle with exceptional size and athletic traits. If he’s there at pick 45, Atlanta should be ecstatic. Here’s what I wrote about Edwards in last week’s mock:
Edwards certainly looks the part at 6’7, 319 and possesses excellent athletic ability from his history of playing TE. Those looking for the Falcons to upgrade their run blocking will love Edwards’ nastiness in that area. He’s a mauler on the ground and he’s athletic enough to excel in the zone blocking scheme. Edwards has only recently transitioned to OT from TE, so his technique still needs a lot of refinement, but you simply can’t teach his physical tools. Honestly, I might even consider Edwards at 14 if the Falcons’ top targets are gone.
Round 3, Pick 79: EDGE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
I know Jaylon Ferguson has a lot of Falcons fans excited, and I can understand why: he’s put on an absolute clinic as a pass rusher during his years at LA Tech. He’s been called the “Sack King” or “Sack Daddy” after he broke the record for most career sacks in the NCAA with a whopping 45 over four seasons. Despite his penchant for taking down the QB, Ferguson might actually be an even better run defender at the NFL level.
Ferguson’s productivity in college in impressive, but concerns about his athletic ability probably cap his upside. Still, he’s a big, physical EDGE at 6’5, 269 that can man the strongside and play on base package downs even if his ceiling as a pass rusher is only in the 6-8 sack range. I see Ferguson as an early contributor in a rotation as the third EDGE, with the possibility of becoming a #2 pass rusher later in his career. He’d be a welcome addition to an EDGE group that is severely lacking in depth.
Round 4, Pick 117: G Dru Samia, Oklahoma
You may have never heard of Oklahoma’s Dru Samia before. I certainly hadn’t before doing some digging on him, but he’s someone that the guys over at The Draft Network are pretty high on. Samia looks the part of an elite athlete at guard that projects best to a zone blocking team in the NFL. Concerns about his size—he’s 6’5 but only listed at 297 pounds—are real, but Samia has shown excellent technique and ability to anchor that offset those issues. With his frame, you’d think he might be able to bulk up a little more, too. If he lasts until Day 3, he’s a risk worth taking for the Falcons—particularly if they add another guard in free agency.
Round 4, Pick 138: RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Some people have a problem with the Falcons taking a “small” back like Justice Hill, but to those people I ask: why? Atlanta already has two good short-yardage backs in Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith, and Brian Hill—who was known as a strong, physical runner coming out of college and even played some FB for the team in 2018—looks to have made his return to the rotation. What the Falcons need is a good pass protector and third down specialist, and that’s exactly what Hill offers. Here’s what I wrote about him in my first mock draft:
Hill certainly isn’t a physically imposing back at 5’10, 190, but he’s the third down specialist the Falcons have lacked since Jacquizz Rodgers left for Tampa Bay. He’s agile and smooth as a runner, showcasing excellent balance and footwork, and is a dangerous weapon in the passing game. Despite his frame, Hill is reliable as a pass protector and should immediately carve out a role there. He’s a perfect replacement for Coleman and should be an ideal complement to Freeman and Ito Smith.
Round 5, Pick 153: LB Joe Giles-Harris, Duke
I do expect Giles-Harris’ stock to rise over the coming months—particularly because I think he’ll test pretty well at the NFL Combine—but as long as he’s going this late in drafts, he’s a slam dunk pick for the Falcons. Here’s what I wrote about Giles-Harris in last week’s mock:
Giles-Harris has great size at 6’2, 240 and looks the part of a 3-down LB in the NFL with technically refined tackling and exceptional coverage ability. While Giles-Harris isn’t an elite athlete in the realm of Deion Jones, he’s still plenty quick enough to fly around the field and make stops. His weaknesses are similar to Jones’: Giles-Harris is never going to be an elite LB at stacking-and-shedding blocks. Still, the Falcons scheme should minimize the need for that, and Giles-Harris could eventually form a very good duo with Deion Jones, particularly on third down.
Round 5, Pick 173: CB Iman Marshall, USC
Another pick that Falcons fans are likely to see multiple times in my mocks. Iman Marshall from USC didn’t quite have the career many expected as a former 5-star recruit, but he’s got all the tools to become a very good slot CB in the NFL. If his stock continues to linger in this mid-Day 3 range, the Falcons should be very interested. Here’s what I wrote about Marshall in my first mock draft:
A 5-star recruit out of high school, Marshall is a very impressive athlete. While he doesn’t have elite long speed, his change-of-direction ability and closing speed are remarkable. His size is merely average—6’0, 205—and his tackling needs a lot of work, but Marshall has the makings of a very good slot CB in a year or two.
Round 6, Pick 188: WR Terry Godwin, Georgia
With my draft crush at WR—Jakobi Meyers—getting pushed up boards due to a good Senior Bowl week, the Falcons have to go in a different direction this late in the draft. That’s fine, as there are plenty of quality contributors at the position that should still be available. One of those is a name that Georgia fans should know well—Terry Godwin.
Godwin put on an absolute clinic at the East-West Shrine Game, showing off elite route running and technique to go along with impressive change-of-direction ability. While Godwin is only 5’11, 185, he’s a natural separator and brings surprisingly good blocking chops to the table as well. He can take the spot of Justin Hardy on the roster at WR4, and should prove a more productive option in the long run.
Round 7, Pick 232: S Sheldrick Redwine, Miami
The Falcons have such a bounty of picks in this draft that they really will be able to upgrade a lot of the depth on the roster. With their final pick, they target a quality SS option in Miami’s Sheldrick Redwine. While he deserves to be drafted based on his awesome name alone, Redwine is an intriguing safety that brings a good mix of coverage and physical run-stuffing ability to the table. At 6’1, 195, Redwine’s athletic testing will go a long way in determining his draft stock, but the 7th round would be a great place to find a potential long-term backup behind Keanu Neal.
After three mock drafts, it’s clear that I view fixing the trenches as a key priority in this draft. The Falcons seem to think so as well, even if I’m not sure they’ll be as...direct as I have been in my mocks. In this scenario, Atlanta walks away with the steal of the first round in DT Ed Oliver—who should form a downright terrifying interior combo with Grady Jarrett for years to come. In the second round, the Falcons once again find themselves lucky with David Edwards falling right into their lap to take over for Schraeder at RT.
In the third, Atlanta adds a rotational high-floor EDGE in Jaylon Ferguson that should help fill out the depth chart and make someone like Brooks Reed more expendable. Capping off four straight trench picks is the addition of the underrated G Dru Samia from Oklahoma, who should compete for a starting spot on the offensive line immediately.
The rest of the Day 3 picks go to filling out the depth chart with quality young players. RB Justice Hill is the perfect complement to Freeman and Ito Smith and offers excellent pass protection and receiving ability. LB Joe Giles-Harris is very underrated and could easily find himself starting next to Deion Jones in 2019. CB Iman Marshall has the athletic ability to be a very good slot CB in the future. WR Terry Godwin could come in and replace Justin Hardy right away as WR4—and should be more consistently productive. S Sheldrick Redwine has all-around ability as a potential SS backup, and could be an upgrade over Sharrod Neasman.
What are your thoughts on this draft class for the Falcons? Who are some of your favorite players in the class? Any players in particular you’d love to see Atlanta add in this year’s draft?