The 2019 NFL Draft is in sight. So here is my final crack at how the Falcons 2019 draft haul may look.
For a team that had little cap space at the beginning of the offseason, the Atlanta Falcons have strung together a number of interesting signings that shored up depth at several spots on the roster and formulated a sense of flexibility for the upcoming draft. Of course, draft season is not it’s normal self unless there is an exuberance of draft rumors and smokescreens. There has been plenty of those floating around what the Falcons may or may not do. I’m sure you did not click on this article for the small talk, so let’s get underway.
Round 1, 14th Overall - Brian Burns, DE , Florida State
I’m back on the bandwagon.
Going back to my second mock draft back in January, I was in on selecting Burns at this spot simply because he addresses a critical need for the Falcons. While the rumors of trading up for Ed Oliver has become more prevalent by the week, that is still a definite possibility. My belief as we get closer is that Ed Oliver will be a top-7 pick, which will eliminate the Falcons from trading up to 8th with Detroit for him, which is probably the tipping point for moving up without giving up a huge number of assets. I’m sure most are wondering about an offensive tackle here but again, I believe the likes of Jonah Williams and Jawaan Taylor will be gone by 14. So best player available at either offense or defensive line is the call here.
Which brings us to Burns. A lengthy pass rusher with a 34” wingspan that put on the much needed weight to be a 250-lb pass rusher that actually showcases speed-to-power and a nice arsenal of pass rushing moves to get to the quarterback. Burns is considered the second best pass rusher in the draft by many and rightfully so. Some teams may not be in favor of taking him because of his weight, but similar to the selection of Calvin Ridley last year, the Falcons will find excellent value with the selection of Burns.
Round 2, 45th Overall - Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State
Earlier in the offseason, the Falcons handed out a contract extension to veteran offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo. It was met with confusion by some but Sambrailo was a reasonable part of the Falcons success during the second half of the season. He could be in line for a starting gig this upcoming season and beyond.
Notice I said ‘could’.
The Falcons are still in need of depth at the offensive tackle spot and while Sambrailo played well, his stance as the starting right tackle is not 100% set in stone. We all know that head coach Dan Quinn loves competition. What better way to do that than to add an athletic offensive tackle that can add some youth to an offensive line that gave up 42 sacks last season. Upgrading the offensive line has been a priority since the conclusion of the regular season. Consider the selection of the 6’5 322-lb athletic freak that has seen an uprising in draft stock, a much needed infusion.
Round 3, 79th Overall - Sean Bunting, CB , Central Michigan
It has been repeated by Quinn as well as many Falcons writers that cornerback depth is also high on the priority list during the draft. The team allowed the departures of veterans Robert Alford and Brian Poole not too long ago and promoted second-year corner Isaiah Oliver as a starter on the outside. It also appears that defensive back Damontae Kazee is destined to be the team’s nickel corner.
So the top three corners are solidified when you add Desmond Trufant to the equation. But behind them, things start to get a little murky. In Bunting, the Falcons add another lengthy corner with ideal NFL size that is versatile enough as a physical press corner and the Falcons often-ran Cover 3 coverage. Look past the helmet and the not-so flashy, well-known reputation and the Falcons add a future starter in Bunting. A cornerback group just got stronger and more versatile.
Round 4, 112th Overall (sends 2019 4th rounder/117th overall, 2019 5th rounder/152nd overall to Detroit for 2019 4th rounder/112th overall) - Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia
Eventually, you should have known that a trade would manifest. The ongoing trade rumors between the Falcons and Lions materializes in this mock although it is not in the first round like many are speculating.
Swapping fourth round picks and sending an extra fifth from this year puts the Falcons in place to grab a game-changer at the receiver position. Not that they necessarily are in need of one but a speedy deep threat that can take advantage of the attention given to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley can elevate this offense. The Falcons brass has grown fond of Hardman over the course of the draft process and it’s no secret that while he can add a Taylor Gabriel-type effect to the talented offense, he can also be an asset as a returner if need be.
Year one for Hardman will be a feeling out period where the offense can insert a few gadget plays and utilize his great speed but with the team possibly moving on from a couple of names next offseason, now is the time to shore up the depth as they bring Hardman along gradually. As an added bonus, Hardman also provides return ability as he averaged 15.2 yards per punt return the past two seasons and 25.0 yards per kick return, and can compete with Kenjon Barner.
Round 4, 137th Overall - Justice Hill, RB , Oklahoma State
Keeping with the offensive theme here, running the football has also become a priority for the Falcons this upcoming season after the hiring of offensive coaches as well as key free agency signings at offensive guard and tight end.
The team hopes that the health of lead running back Devonta Freeman is on the positive side this season and while second-year running back Ito Smith showed plenty of promise in year one, the jury is still out on whether he can handle an expanded role beyond the duty of a third-down back. Hill gives the Falcons a running back that is elusive and has the vision to be productive in inside zone schemes, where the Falcons are apparently headed in their phase of the run game. Hill complements Freeman very well and can be a safety valve in case Freeman suffers the injury bug.
Round 5, 172nd Overall - John Cominsky, DL, Charleston
I understand that many may not be aware of this particular prospect and that’s okay, given that he’s not from a powerhouse school. That is what the good folks at Falcoholic is here for.
The re-signing of Adrian Clayborn and the free agent acquisition of Tyeler Davison added some muscle to the Falcons defensive line, which was lacked last season. Yet, if you are familiar with the Falcons scheme, versatility is crucial, especially up front. Cominsky made his presence felt at the Combine by weighing in at 286-lbs, executing a 4.69 40-yard dash, and an impressive 7.03 3-cone drill. So yes, he is able to move that mass of his impressively. Cominsky saw plenty of time as a strong-side defensive end in college and will see the same for the Falcons on base downs. But where he took a step forward was his ability to penetrate interior gaps quickly and be a force there also. Music to the ears of the Falcons defensive coaching staff.
Round 6, 177th Overall (sends 2019 6th rounder/186th overall, 2019 7th rounder/230th overall to San Francisco for 2019 6th rounder/177th overall) - Ulysees Gilbert, LB , Akron
Linebacker depth with tested this past season with injury to stud linebacker Deion Jones and the forceful circumstance of playing Foye Oluokun during his rookie campaign a little more than expected. The team is still wanting to see more out of former third round pick Duke Riley and time is running out.
Gilbert provides a great amount of athleticism and his lateral quickness is somewhat reminiscent of Jones. Gilbert is also very instinctive and with a little time, Gilbert can possibly steal a role at WILL alongside Jones. If not, he can be valuable depth.