It’s now Week 14 of the 2019 NFL season, and the Falcons are sitting at a depressing 3-9. That record is currently bad (or good?) enough to land Atlanta the #5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which could be used to add a franchise-changing caliber player to the roster. Earlier this week, I also talked a bit about where I expect the Falcons to end up in terms of draft position when the dust settles on the season.
With all that in mind, I’m ready to present my second mock draft of the season for the Falcons. We’ll go 7 full rounds using The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine and I’ll do my very best to pick quality players for Atlanta at each spot. If you missed the first iteration of my mock draft, you can find it here.
Without further adieu, let’s get to the draft picks.
Round 1, Pick 5: EDGE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
With Chase Young heading to the Giants at 2 in this mock and after witnessing the improved play of the secondary since the bye, I’m going to go in a different direction with this pick. I still like Okudah, but it seems pretty clear that EDGE is a far more pressing need for Atlanta at this point.
A.J. Epenesa’s hype from 2018 has died down a bit, but that doesn’t make him any less of a top-tier edge defender. At 6’6, 280 and with very good movement skills for a player of his size, Epenesa checks all the boxes for a team in need of a dominant, 3-down presence on the outside. He can anchor against the run and features a powerful bull rush that is capable of completely overwhelming weaker opponents. Epenesa has the athleticism to win with speed and bend, too, but he hasn’t quite learned the technique yet. In a season or two, he could be the complete package, and he could also potentially offer some interior rush ability in pass rushing packages. The Falcons can’t afford to pass on that opportunity.
Round 2, Pick 37: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
I’m not a big fan of drafting RBs high, but sometimes the value and need match up perfectly to make it work. If Clemson’s Travis Etienne falls this far—which is probably unlikely—I think he’s an ideal fit for the Falcons and definitely the best player available at this spot in the draft. Atlanta is almost certainly going to move on from Devonta Freeman in 2020, and there are serious concerns about Ito Smith’s recent concussion history.
With only Smith and second-year RB Qadree Ollison under contract in 2020 in that scenario, the Falcons have a screaming need at the position. I can’t think of a better RB fit for the Falcons—assuming they return to their West Coast-style attack—than Etienne, who is one of the most dynamic athletes in the entire draft. He’s an elite speedster with incredible agility and surprising contact balance, and he’s a threat to take it to the house on every single run. His receiving ability was questioned heading into the season, but he’s proven himself capable in that area with 28 catches for 289 yards (10.3 average) and 2 receiving TDs in 2019.
Drafting Etienne would pair Matt Ryan with an affordable and potentially elite RB for the next 4 seasons, maximizing their window of competitiveness and giving Ryan an option to take some of the pressure off of the passing game as he continues into the latter portion of his career.
Round 2, Pick 64: CB Jeff Gladney, TCU
While the play of the secondary has improved somewhat since the bye, moving Damontae Kazee back to safety has created a big need at CB. I’ve been impressed with the play of Kendall Sheffield in the slot, and Desmond Trufant has been very good since his return from injury. While Isaiah Oliver has looked better recently, I don’t think it would be wise to go into 2020 with him as the unquestioned outside starter.
TCU CB Jeff Gladney is a versatile CB prospect who can fill a number of roles on the Falcons defense. At 6’0, 183, he’s big enough to survive on the outside and is a strong tackler. But Gladney’s best attribute is his ballhawking ability: he’s put up 12 and 14 PDs in 2018 and 2019, respectively, to go along with 3 INTs. Gladney has the athleticism to keep up with NFL WRs and the competitive fire that you love to see from your DBs. He’s got some technical stuff to clean up, particularly in the short area of the field, but Gladney could end up being a steal on Day 2.
Round 3, Pick 69: C/G Solomon Kindley, Georgia
The Falcons need to get a center to start grooming behind Alex Mack, as this is likely to be Mack’s final season with the team. Luckily for Atlanta, there are number of talented options in the Day 2 range to choose from. A run on interior offensive line before this selection took away my favorite prospects in Washington’s Nick Harris and LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry III, but there’s another very good option available: Georgia C Solomon Kindley.
Kindley is a scheme-versatile interior prospect with the size (6’4, 336) to survive at either center or guard. He’s got a ton of power, making him a strong run defender with a good anchor in pass protection. Kindley’s mobility is surprising for his size, and it’s good enough for him to be effective in a zone-scheme rushing attack. I like Kindley as a player who could potentially upgrade one of Atlanta’s guard spots in 2020 before transitioning to center in 2021.
Round 4, Pick 101: LB Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech
The only repeat selection from my first mock draft, Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks is simply too good of a match of value and need to pass up at this spot. While Brooks lacks ideal size at 6’1, 240, his athleticism and production are eye-popping. He’s having a downright ridiculous season in 2019, with 108 total tackles, a whopping 20 (!!) TFLs, and 3.0 sacks. His coverage ability is strong and he’s got fantastic range as a tackler.
Brooks hasn’t been the most consistent player—this season’s production is definitely an outlier—and he won’t be a fit in some NFL defenses due to his struggles with shedding blocks. But in the scheme that Atlanta runs (assuming the new coaching staff puts in something similar), Brooks is a perfect long-term fit next to Deion Jones. He’d be an instant upgrade in coverage over De’Vondre Campbell and a better athlete than Foyesade Oluokun.
Round 5, Pick 133: WR Quartney Davis, Texas A&M
The Falcons have managed to get by pretty well in 2019 after the departure of Mohamed Sanu due to the emergence of WR Russell Gage and TE Jaeden Graham, but their depth at receiver could certainly use an upgrade. Sanu brought a lot of size to the position, and currently the only WR over 6’1 in Atlanta is Julio Jones.
2020 features an absolutely stacked WR class, which is going to lead to some players falling in the draft. One of those who fell in this mock was Texas A&M’s Quartney Davis, who’s got good size at 6’2, 200 but moves like a much smaller player. Davis is a smooth route runner who can pull off just about every route in the book, and he’s got some surprising athleticism to go along with it. He’s versatile and can line up both inside and outside, making him an ideal depth player for an NFL offense. Davis has dealt with his fair share of injuries in college, which has hurt his production and draft stock, but he’s a low-risk/high-reward addition in the fifth round.
Round 7, Pick 204: EDGE Josh Uche, Michigan
This pick could go a ton of different ways—the Falcons could choose to invest in their top choice at kicker, for instance, if Younghoe Koo isn’t the answer—but the value here on Michigan EDGE Josh Uche was simply too good to pass up. Uche only has one season as a starter, but he’s a great athlete that has managed some strong production as a pass rusher over the past two season (7.0 and 7.5 sacks, respectively).
Uche is definitely on the small side for the NFL at just 6’2, 250—making a starting job on the EDGE unlikely. However, as a situational pass rusher in nickel packages, Uche could have a meaningful role on an NFL defense. He’s got great bend and natural quickness, and could potentially carve out a niche with a creative defensive coordinator as a third-down specialist. I can see Uche as a match up weapon against mobile QBs who you can deploy as a spy, and also a versatile blitzer. He’s not a traditional 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB, but he’s got the talent to play in the NFL.
What are your thoughts on this draft class for the Falcons? Who are some players that you’re targeting for Atlanta in the 2020 NFL Draft? Any under the radar prospects you love this season?