It was a long season, thanks primarily to the fact that we got more staff firing rumors than wins. Despite a promising 2019 offseason that led to playoff expectations, the Falcons will go back to the drawing board to upgrade their roster. It will undoubtedly be an offseason where head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff will feel immense pressure to get things corrected.
If they don’t, well, that’s a different conversation for a later day. Let’s get into my third mock draft for the Atlanta Falcons.
Round 1, 16th Overall - Javon Kinlaw, DT , South Carolina
A season-ending victory over Tampa Bay may have been a slap in the face for the fanbase that wanted to lose on purpose, aka “tank.” So yes, they miss out on possibly getting elite talent in the top-10, but luckily for the Falcons, defensive line is one of the best positions in the 2020 draft. The Falcons need upgrades across the entire defensive line. The best talent likely available at this point in the draft is an athletic specimen that made first team All-SEC this past season.
Kinlaw was tied for fifth in the SEC in sacks with six and added another six tackles for loss on his superb 2019 season. As a prospect, Kinlaw has a well put together frame at 6’6 and 310 pounds. He is equipped with explosiveness and impressive lateral agility for a prospect with his size. The Gamecocks moved him across their entire line at times as he even saw time as a strong-side defensive end on a 4-3 front on occasion. Kinlaw also shows value as a useful piece as a 3-down player. Kinlaw’s addition alongside Pro Bowler Grady Jarrett can give the Falcons a lethal interior combination.
Round 2, 47th Overall - Curtis Weaver, DE , Boise State
Still keeping the theme of upgrading the defensive line alive, Weaver’s addition will provide an experienced starter with 40 career games and 34.5 career sacks in three seasons for the Broncos.
Thanks to his length and strong lower base, Weaver has shown consistency in the department of getting and maintaining leverage against opposing linemen. Weaver has also shown the ability to effectively rush on the edge as well as knifing through interior linemen on passing downs, where his length really becomes an issue. Add in his ability to establish the edge as an anchor in run defense and you have one of the more NFL-ready players in the entire 2020 draft.
Round 2, 59th Overall - Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
Is it a major need? In my honest opinion, no. But can the cornerback spot use a little upgrade? Eh, I can reasonably say yes.
There is no question that cornerback Kendall Sheffield was the Falcons best rookie in 2019. His development along with the improvement of cornerback Isaiah Oliver during the second half of the season gives the Falcons promise going into 2020. Veteran corner Desmond Trufant was enjoying a very solid season until he suffered a broken forearm in Week 14 against Carolina.
But in this league, you can never have enough corners and while his teammate Jeffrey Okudah received most of the headlines, Arnette steady improved over the course of 2019 season. He was a key reason why the Buckeyes held Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross to a combined 10 catches for 80 yards in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. Arnette is one of the more instinctive cornerbacks in the entire draft class and during his senior season in Columbus, showed the ability to be technically sound in man coverage and plays with solid change-of-direction skills in zone coverage. The addition of Arnette will immediately give the Falcons a deep stable of corners that are interchangeable.
Round 3, 78th Overall - Jake Hanson, IOL, Oregon
I would not be surprised if the Falcons decide to move on from veteran center Alex Mack. With his age and little dead money spent with his possible release, it is a consideration. The pool of quality centers in this draft is rather shallow and it will benefit the Falcons to grab one fairly early. Even if they have to slightly reach for one. The Falcons need to improve o-line play next season as franchise quarterback Matt Ryan was under distress way too consistently.
While Hanson is not the most elite of centers, he is very fundamentally sound and is pretty crisp in his technique. Hanson is also NFL-ready although his overall ceiling as a center prospect is pretty near as he has been a starter at center for the Ducks since his 2016 redshirt freshman season. Hanson has 10-year starter written all over him.
Round 4, 109th Overall - Khalid Kareem, Edge , Notre Dame
I’ve said it plenty of times on Twitter as well as in my previous mocks. I really would love to see the Falcons double dip at defensive end in this draft. The mediocrity in the pass rushing phase was a clear indication. So after adding a productive defensive end in round two, now the Falcons look to add some more juice off the edge.
Kareem was not a huge sack maker in South Bend for the Irish with just 13 career sacks but on film, his length and athleticism still found ways to pop, whether he was causing pressure on the quarterback or defending lateral runs to his side. Kareem is in the neighborhood of 260 pounds but still needs to learn to utilize the power he is in possession of.
Yes, Kareem needs work in his technique but given the proper time and development, he can be a pest and can be a very solid complementary pass rusher.
Round 5, 140th Overall - Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State
There is also likelihood that the Falcons will transition from starter Devonta Freeman this offseason, given his down year and hefty salary this offseason. In the event that they do, the Falcons will have the group of Smith, Hill, and Ollison as ball carriers. Not necessarily the sexiest running back combination.
In Hill, the Falcons gain one of the more productive running backs in the SEC this past season with 1,521 scrimmage yards and 11 total touchdowns. His aggressive running style and explosiveness is the reason why he averaged 5.8 yards a carry throughout his career. Hill is not the most elusive back in the world, but his leg drive and vision allows him to scoot by a few defenders here and there. Hill could be a fun weapon in what may ultimately be a RB-by-committee approach in 2020.
Round 7, 206th Overall - Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
For the second consecutive season, the Falcons saw their hard-hitting safety, Keanu Neal, have his season end prematurely due to an injury. While he is likely the starter in the 2020 season once healthy, the 2019 season showed that the depth at the position needs addressing. Dugger has 237 total tackles in his 42 career games along with 10 career interceptions, which shows how productive he was at the FCS level.
Dugger is an aggressive hitter as a 6’2 defender and is a very versatile prospect as he was used at linebacker, running back, and even return specialist. Dugger may not be a starter but you may not find more versatile players in the draft than the young safety, and his value is worth this selection.