Writer Eric Robinson returns with his latest mock draft which features an early shake-up.
The anticipation grows by the day. We are now within that one month period until the 2019 NFL Draft. For the Atlanta Falcons, the ongoing anticipation surrounds the inevitable which is likely the Falcons targeting a defensive stalwart early. As head coach Dan Quinn applies a more hands-on approach with the Falcons young defense this season, it appears as if Quinn and the Falcons management look to inject even more youth and skill into their defensive unit. Enough of the small chatter, let’s get to the nitty gritty shall we.
Round 1, 7th Overall (sends 2019 1st rounder/14th overall, 2019 2nd rounder/45th overall, 2019 5th rounder/152nd overall to Jacksonville for 2019 1st rounder/7th overall) - Ed Oliver, DT , Houston
I tapped into my inner Thomas Dimitroff and struck a deal for a top-notch talent. As we get closer to the draft, I feel more and more that the Falcons are truly in play for a guy who I believe is one of the best players in the entire draft, regardless of position. Oliver is superb and the frequent comparisons to Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins is about as accurate as they come.
Oliver weighed in at 287 pounds at the Combine and 281 pounds at his Pro Day but will more than likely beef up a little more at the next level and his elite quickness and penetrating ability next to Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett will be hellish to deal with for opposing offensive lines.
Yes, it is costly for the Falcons as they attempt to slide up seven spots into the top ten. But the Falcons may be well compensated with an All-Pro caliber lineman that can be a menace for offensive lines to deal with every Sunday. Leapfrogging teams such as Denver, Cincinnati, and Buffalo for the chance to take Oliver could prove to be a worthwhile investment.
Round 3, 79th Overall - Joe Jackson, DE, Miami
I know the trade for Oliver probably worried a few because they departed with a 2nd rounder and still have to address the Edge position. But all is not lost and here is where the Falcons look to add more talent to their defensive front.
Jackson is an interesting product, one that came to the Miami program at roughly 240 pounds and showed plenty of speed and fluidity as a pass rusher. Now Jackson is roughly around the 270 mark and still maintains the knack for getting after and disrupting the quarterback. Jackson posted 22.5 sacks in three seasons for the Hurricanes along with 35.5 tackles for loss in that same span. Jackson has the ability to be a solid pass rusher for the Falcons over time given his length and natural strength at the point of attack, and could mix in for his first season before eventually becoming a prominent part of the defensive end rotation.
Round 4, 117th Overall - Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State
The Falcons have made key signings this offseason on the interior of the offensive line to provide quarterback Matt Ryan more protection than what he received during the 2018 season. While the team hopes that veteran Ty Sambrailo is able to man the right tackle spot, it would be beneficial for the team to invest in a quality swing tackle prospect for depth woes and to develop a potential starter down the line.
Howard is a freakish athlete at 6’5 322 pounds and played both quarterback and tight end earlier in his football career, so you can see some small traits here and there that showcases his athleticism. The length is there, the ability to be mobile is there, but Howard needs some fine tuning. That means he can slot perfectly as a reserve for a year and possibly be the Falcons starting right tackle in 2020 and beyond.
Round 4, 137th Overall - Mark Fields, CB, Clemson
Watching former starter Robert Alford depart this offseason was not a surprise to many. But seeing former starting slot corner Brian Poole was met with mild shock. It was recently noted by Quinn that second-year corner Isaiah Oliver will man the starting corner spot vacated by Alford and it has been widely speculated that defensive back Damontae Kazee will be first in line as the team’s nickel corner.
But the corner position as a whole could still use some needed talent to help round out the group. Where the Falcons could add flexibility to the secondary is the selection of Fields. A 5’10 corner with outstanding speed, Fields was overshadowed by the amount of talent on Clemson’s defense over the years. But his 4.37 speed is just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to Fields skill set. He can be very useful in the slot thanks to his quick twitchy play and athleticism which can allow Kazee to fill in at free safety if veteran Ricardo Allen is not himself after an Achilles injury last season. Fields is a much better corner than given credit for and his presence can give the Falcons excellent quickness and technique at the position, something they can always use more of.
Round 5, 172nd Overall - Wyatt Ray, Edge, Boston College
The Falcons just about have to address the defensive end spot more than once in this draft. Plenty of expectations will be placed on Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley this season but the team is still in need of pass rushing help. Ray played alongside some very solid pass rushers while with the Eagles. His 2018 season showed great promise with 11.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Ray can be inserted at the LEO role thanks to his ability as a weak side defensive end.
Round 6, 179th Overall (sends 2019 6th rounder/186 overall, 2019 7th rounder/230th overall to Arizona for 2019 6th rounder/179th overall) - Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State
The Falcons may still look to insert a little speed to the receiving corps after letting go of former receiver Marvin Hall this offseason. So the team looks to grab Hart, who has a number of similarities to former Falcon Taylor Gabriel. In space, Hart can be dangerous thanks to his quickness in space and fluid footwork. In his four seasons at Georgia State, Hart displayed production with over 200 career catches and an average of 14.6 yards per catch. Hart’s route running is arguably his best attribute and with a team that has a few great route runners, Hart’s transition to the NFL level may be quicker than expected. Not to mention, he can also be a true asset as a kick/punt returner.