We hope you’re enjoying this roundtable mock draft series which is now entering its final moments. We’ve put our Thomas Dimitroff hats on and are pretending to be the general manager of the Atlanta Falcons (I also love bikes and hair gel) for each of the first three rounds of this year’s NFL Draft.
As a refresher, here’s how this roundtable works: Each writer participating will make their selection for the Falcons at pick 79, and they’ll provide a brief analysis as to why they selected that player. The selection has to be somebody whom the writer thinks will realistically be there at 79.
We’ll assume that the team will stay at 79 with no trade-ups, for the sake of not getting too convoluted.
With the third round, this will be the last article of this series. We may do a roundtable of all seven rounds next year.
You’ll see the writer’s name in italics, followed by their selection in bold, and analysis in block quotes.
Round 3, pick 79: Isaiah Johnson (CB - Houston)
After addressing the trenches on both sides of the ball in the first two rounds, Isaiah Johnson is a pick to cover a need on the back end of the defense.
Johnson has the measurables and tools which teams dream of in a cornerback, but he’ll be available this late because of how raw he is. He was a wide receiver up until a few years ago and may have to redshirt his first year in the NFL; but with the immediate options the Falcons have at the cornerback position, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue (Isaiah Oliver would need to take that next step, however).
With his height, length, speed, and play recognition, Isaiah Johnson has a chance to turn into an excellent CB in the NFL. He needs to work on his coverage and tackling technique, but that can be taught, especially with Dan Quinn at the helm. Johnson is a high-reward prospect if we’re willing to be patient.
Round 3, pick 79: Nate Davis (G - North Carolina - Charlotte)
With this pick, following the thread of my picks thus far, the Falcons will have picked up two offensive linemen and a cornerback. Why on earth?
There are two reasons. The first is that I think the Falcons may well do this, electing to bulk up on the line in a draft that Dan Quinn has avowed is better than the past few classes, where the team has been dangerously neglectful of the entire line with just fourth, sixth, and seventh-round investments under DQ. The second is that this class is loaded with interesting, high-upside defensive linemen who can be had in the fourth round and later, and this team has stocked up at defensive end and defensive tackle to such a degree that they can afford to draft projects who get limited playing time in Year 1 but could arrive with a bang in 2020.
That out of the way, Davis is sensible because the Falcons have shown interest in him, he’s ideally quick and strong to play guard for this football team, and in a fair fight he might actually be able to beat out Jamon Brown for the right guard job this year. Getting two long-term starters at right guard and right tackle would go a long way toward solving this team’s need for young, quality offensive linemen over the next few seasons, and Davis fits the bill here.
Round 3, Pick 79: Sean Bunting (CB-Central Michigan)
I think we all fully expect the Falcons to target a cornerback early in the draft, although I feel selecting one in the first round would be a head-scratching move. Bunting stands out to me as one of the better mid-round talents at corner thanks to his size and length and his ability to be a perfect fit for the Cover 3 defense that the Falcons execute. He saw plenty of time at both outside corner spots as well as the slot occasionally. In the immediate, Bunting makes the cornerback group more well-rounded. Long term, he is without a doubt starting material for the Falcons when his time comes.
Round 3, pick 79: Jachai Polite (DE - Florida)
So for the first two round of The Falcholic staff’s mocks, I’ve had the Falcons selecting G/T Cody Ford and CB Rock Ya-Sin. As I mentioned in the round two article, the Falcons need to look at their defensive line in round three, which I have them doing.
With their 79th overall pick, I have them selecting defensive end Jachai Polite out of Florida. Polite’s an edge rusher, which the Falcons need to add, who brings great prowess in getting to the opposing team’s quarterback. I think the biggest knock on Polite right now is his 4.84 40 time at the NFL Combine.
I think adding Polite would be a great pick in round three, and he’ll continue the tradition of a Daytona Beach to Atlanta pipeline, with others including former head coach Mike Smith, WR Eric Weems, S Ricardo Allen, etc.
Round 3, Pick 79: Isaiah Johnson (CB - Houston)
First pick: EDGE Brian Burns
Second pick: OT Tytus Howard
The Falcons addressed their two biggest needs in the first two rounds of my mock draft, and they set their sights on another in the third round. Houston’s Isaiah Johnson certainly fits the mold of a Dan Quinn CB. He’s big (6’2, 208), fast (4.4s 40-yard dash), and incredibly athletic. Check out his ridiculous spider graph.
Atlanta has shown interest in Johnson, holding a private workout with him earlier this month. While Johnson is a prototypical outside CB physically, his technique leaves a lot to be desired and his tape is...well, it’s pretty bad. Quinn has a very good track record of developing defensive backs, and I don’t think the Falcons would be scared off by Johnson’s need for significant refinement.
Johnson is more of a future-oriented pick than an immediate impact player. If he develops, he could eventually become Trufant’s replacement in 2020 or 2021 (more likely). His ceiling is sky-high, but depending on him to play meaningful snaps in 2019 is a recipe for disappointment. So let’s hope he gets a season or two to develop before Atlanta needs to thrust him into a starting role. It’s rare, however, to find players with Johnson’s upside in the third round.