The 2019 NFL Combine has come and gone. We’ve seen some outstanding performances and some very disappointing ones, and also heard some very interesting rumors about where certain teams might be going with their early picks—the Kyler Murray to Arizona noise is particularly silly, in my opinion.
How does the Combine change things for the Falcons’ draft plans? The answer is...it doesn’t really. Truthfully, most teams have their boards pretty much set before the Combine even happens. The athletic testing isn’t as important as some think—meanwhile, the interviews and medical testing are probably more important than many fans realize.
Still, it tends to move around the stock of players—particularly in the later rounds of the draft. For this mock draft, I used The Draft Network’s new “Mock Draft Machine”. For those that enjoy this sort of thing, I’d highly recommend it. Personally, I feel their predictive board is a lot more accurate than anything on Fanspeak.
Let’s jump right in!
Round 1, Pick 14: DT Ed Oliver, Houston
Ed Oliver may have elevated his stock with an exceptional day at the Combine, but there’s still a non-zero chance of him lasting until pick 14. The Combine doesn’t move the needle for NFL teams as much as it does for fans, and the size/scheme concerns that worried some teams probably haven’t totally dissipated. If Oliver makes it past Buffalo (who might be enamored with an equally impressive tester in WR D.K. Metcalf), he is probably falling to the Falcons. I wrote a full scouting report on Oliver, and here’s how I described his skillset:
Ed Oliver is an elite DT prospect at the NFL level. He’s an ideal fit at 3T in a 4-3 defense, though he’s got the potential to be moved around—particularly in a scheme like the Falcons use. His movement skills, deep understanding of leverage, and impressive strength make him a 3-down player that can excel against both the run and pass—despite concerns about him being “undersized”. It’s not often that you find a player of this size with Oliver’s level of lateral mobility. He’s an elite athlete in every sense of the word—explosive off the snap, incredibly quick with his feet, and downright dominant with his physicality.
Round 2, Pick 45: C/G Erik McCoy, Texas A&M
One of my favorite Day 2 OL prospects, Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy elevated his stock in a big way with a tremendous showing at the Combine. He fits the profile of a Falcons’ offensive lineman perfectly, and one of his closest athletic comps (according to Mockdraftable) is ex-Falcons G Chris Chester. He would be in line to start immediately at either guard spot, and his experience at center could eventually make him the long-term replacement for Alex Mack. Here’s how I described McCoy’s skillset in a previous mock draft:
Coupling a sizable 6’3, 310 frame with excellent athletic ability, McCoy is a natural fit for the Falcons’ zone blocking scheme. He’s also got plenty of physicality to match those movement skills, making him a dynamic run blocker that is just as dangerous with his power. McCoy’s strength makes him difficult to move in pass protection, although his technique in that area still needs refinement.
Round 3, Pick 79: EDGE Zach Allen, Boston College
With the Falcons bringing back Vic Beasley for 2019, it’s clear that the team doesn’t view EDGE as their biggest need this offseason. Still, going into the season without adding anyone else to the rotation would be downright foolish, as the depth chart right now consists only of Beasley, Takk, and Steven Means. Enter Boston College’s Zach Allen—an inside-outside hybrid player that can take on a similar role to Adrian Clayborn in Quinn’s defense. I talked about Allen in my EDGE prospect preview, and here’s how I described his talents:
At 6’5, 285, Allen has great length and is very difficult to move as a run defender on the edge. Despite his high weight, Allen is a very capable athlete with some impressive burst to his game. Allen’s best traits, however, are his hand usage and high-level football IQ. He’s never going to be an elite pass rusher off the edge, and he won’t be able to hold up against the run consistently on the interior. He’ll require creative usage to maximize his talents—but Quinn’s scheme already has a defined role for him. Allen is a Day 2 option if the Falcons elect to go elsewhere in the first round.
Round 4, Pick 117: OT Tytus Howard, Alabama State
The Falcons allegedly view Ty Sambrailo as a “starter”, according to Dan Quinn, but I think we all know the truth: Sambrailo is a stopgap option at best, and is meant to be a bridge to a young draft pick. If the Falcons elect to wait on OT until late Day 2 or early Day 3, Alabama State’s Tytus Howard could be a perfect fit. I doubt he’ll last this long in the real draft—in this scenario, I’d definitely consider a trade-up into the late third round. I mentioned Howard in my OT prospect preview—here’s a quick write-up on his skillset:
Alabama State’s Tytus Howard is a small school standout with phenomenal athletic ability. Howard would be a great fit in a zone blocking scheme where he could make the most of his exceptional movement skills in space and quick feet. Technically, Howard is still quite raw, and he’ll need time in an NFL conditioning program to bring his strength up to an appropriate level. Still, Howard is my favorite of the mid-round OT prospects, and I think he can be the Falcons’ long-term answer at RT. It would be best not to count on him in his rookie season, however.
Round 4, Pick 137: CB Isaiah Johnson, Houston
If Houston CB Isaiah Johnson is still around this late, the Falcons need to snatch him up. Johnson’s tape is littered with inconsistencies and he’s far from a finished product, but he put on a show at the Combine and has elite traits for the position. The Falcons can afford to develop Johnson before throwing him into the fire, making this a very high-upside pick on Day 3. Here’s how I described Johnson’s skills in my CB prospect preview:
One of Falcons’ fans favorite targets, Isaiah Johnson certainly looks the part of a Dan Quinn CB at an imposing 6’3, 195. Johnson has high-end traits and the look of a potential press nightmare on the outside, with good long speed, quickness, and the physicality to match up with the bigger and stronger WRs in the NFL. He’s a former WR that clearly understands the other side of the game, and he reminds me a little bit of former Falcon C.J. Goodwin.
Round 5, Pick 152: RB Myles Gaskin, Washington
With my favorite RB for the Falcons—Justice Hill—seeing his stock explode after an impressive Combine performance, the Falcons will have to look elsewhere for a RB at this point in the draft. Washington RB Myles Gaskin is another option who is likely to be around this late, and while he isn’t quite as athletic as Hill, he’s got plenty of upside and proven production. I talked about Gaskin’s talents in my RB prospect preview:
Myles Gaskin is a talented runner and receiver—despite getting relatively few opportunities in the passing game. Gaskin’s best attributes are his vision and elusiveness, which make him a perfect fit in a zone blocking scheme. He’s been effective running both inside and outside in college, but his best fit is probably as a rotational RB2 in the NFL. The nature of the RB position means that Gaskin, despite his talents, has a realistic chance to be available for the Falcons on Day 3 because of his lack of prototypical size.
Round 5, Pick 172: TE Foster Moreau, LSU
LSU’s Foster Moreau turned a lot of heads at the Combine with his impressive workouts. I knew he had some juice to him, but he was never utilized much as a receiver and the general consensus among a lot of draft analysts was that he didn’t have much upside in the passing game. Well, even if he needs a lot of work, the athleticism is clearly there for Moreau to be more than just a quality blocker. At this point in the draft, Moreau is a good value for Atlanta to find a cheap, high-upside replacement for veteran Logan Paulsen. Here’s how I described Moreau’s talents in my TE prospect preview:
If the Falcons are looking to save a little money at the TE position, they could decide to go after a very good blocking TE later in the draft. LSU’s Foster Moreau is one of the best in the class, with a physical, tenacious streak to his game and enough athleticism to thrive as a blocker in a zone scheme. He’s technically refined as both a run and pass blocker and should be able to contribute there as a rookie.
Round 6, Pick 186: WR Cody Thompson, Toledo
This WR class is insanely deep, and with the Falcons missing out on some of my favorite targets in Jakobi Meyers, Terry Godwin, and Mecole Hardman, I had to look a little harder to find a great fit. Luckily, Toledo’s Cody Thompson ended up falling—as some receivers are going to do, due to the sheer volume of quality players in this class. I like Thompson as a future WR3 that can contribute in a lot of ways on the field. At only a sixth round price tag, that’s darn good value. I mentioned Thompson in my WR prospect preview, and here’s how I talked about his skillset:
Thompson is a natural, comfortable receiver—his soft hands and advanced technique are his best attributes. He’s also got a nice frame at 6’2, 205, and his football IQ and character are off the charts. Thompson lacks elite deep speed, but he’s still an above-average athlete that’s capable of generating yards after the catch. He can line up all over the field—although his best NFL fit might be a matchup piece in the slot—and he’s a solid blocker as well. Add to that some quality special teams value—he’s made some plays as a returner and has blocked three kicks in his career—and you’ve got a WR prospect that should be able to find the field early in his career.
Round 7, Pick 230: S Will Harris, Boston College
I was really hoping to pick up LB Terrill Hanks or CB Jimmy Moreland with this final pick, but both went just a few spots ahead of the Falcons. So instead, Atlanta targets depth at another position with the addition of S Will Harris. He’s a reliable, versatile backup that can do a lot for you early in his career. Harris has an excellent shot at making the roster as the fifth safety—particularly if Kazee is being moved to CB full-time. Here’s how I described Harris’ talents in my S prospect preview:
Harris has good size for the position at 6’1, 207, with solid athletic ability. He has experience at both free and strong safety, and could potentially play both in the NFL. Harris is very good in coverage—although I think he’s a better fit overall in man—and is a good form tackler. He’s dependable in run defense and wraps up reliably. There are a few negatives to Harris’ game. For starters, he’s never had good ball skills, with very minimal turnover production. He’s much more comfortable in man coverage, and seems to lack instincts when playing zone. Harris is a smart player, so he’s rarely caught out of position, but he doesn’t end up making as many impact plays as you’d like.
In this mock draft, the Falcons address all of their major needs, just not necessarily in the most logical order. Ed Oliver still being available at 14—it’s more possible than many fans want to admit—kind of throws a wrench into things. It’s clear that DT isn’t the biggest need in Atlanta, but Oliver is simply too good of a talent to pass up. In the second round, the Falcons add one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the draft in C/G Erik McCoy to bolster the other side of the trenches.
In the third, the Falcons finally address EDGE with an “Adrian Clayborn-like” player in Zach Allen. With their two fourth round picks, Atlanta begins to address depth across the roster with the developmental players OT Tytus Howard and CB Isaiah Johnson. Both fit the prototype the Falcons are looking for, but both need time and coaching before they’re ready for prime time. The two fifth rounders go to addressing free agent departures, with RB Myles Gaskin filling the void left by Tevin Coleman and TE Foster Moreau taking over for Logan Paulsen.
Atlanta uses their sixth rounder on what I view to be an absolute steal in WR Cody Thompson, who has legit WR3 upside and can factor into the competition at returner. Finally, the Falcons select S Will Harris to help fill out the depth chart at safety and add another quality special teams contributor.
What are your thoughts on this potential draft class for the Falcons? Who are some players you’d love to see wind up in Atlanta? In what order would you address the team’s needs?