We’re officially getting into the thick of the 2020 offseason, with the NFL Combine approaching in just two weeks and free agency only a few weeks after that. The Falcons have not made any significant moves as of yet—outside of a strange announcement that the team wouldn’t be re-signing Vic Beasley—but those moves will be coming very soon.
With all that being said, there’s still time for one more mock draft prior to the Combine—where risers and fallers will probably make all my predictions look silly. Oh well. For today’s mock, I went in with a unique premise: for whatever reason, the Falcons decide to pass on EDGE in the first round. Maybe their target guy (Epenesa and/or Chaisson) is gone at 16, or maybe they just decide they can’t successfully draft EDGE players in the first. Who would be the choice then?
For this mock draft simulation, I used The Draft Network’s excellent Mock Draft Machine to pick for the other 31 teams. Check out my picks below, and if you’ve missed any of my previous mocks, you can find them here:
Round 1, Pick 16: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
If the Falcons miss out on their top EDGE target, or simply aren’t in love with any of the options available at 16, they could elect to bolster the interior of the defensive line instead. Atlanta has an all-around star in Grady Jarrett, but they’ve failed to add another impact pass rusher alongside him. South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw could be the perfect piece to complement Jarrett long-term with his excellent size (6’6, 315) and standout athleticism.
Kinlaw is among the most explosive DTs I’ve scouted in recent years and pairs that with excellent overall strength. He’s more agile than you’d think for a player of his size, too, which makes him capable of playing all three downs in the NFL. Physically, he’s got the traits of an elite, Pro Bowl-caliber starter. Technique-wise, however, Kinlaw still has a lot of room to develop. Leverage is a particularly big issue—which isn’t surprising when you’re 6’6—and his arsenal of pass rush moves is pretty limited at this point.
Despite those shortcomings, Kinlaw’s traits and athletic ability give him the opportunity to be an instant impact starter. If he can put in the work and continue to develop his technique and football IQ, he could become truly dominant in the NFL. Pairing that with Grady Jarrett could give the Falcons one of the most terrifying interior DLs in the league for years to come.
Round 2, Pick 47: EDGE Curtis Weaver, Boise State
If the Falcons pass on EDGE in the first round, they must address it with their second pick. Luckily, a year-one starter is still available at this point in the draft in Boise State EDGE Curtis Weaver. If you’re looking for a Beasley-esque speed rusher with electric athleticism, Weaver isn’t going to be your guy. Instead, Weaver is a bigger EDGE (6’3, 265) with long arms, strong burst off the snap, and advanced technical ability.
Weaver isn’t the flashiest player on tape, but he’s undeniably productive. He’s versatile and can rush from multiple spots, though I believe his best NFL fit is probably at 5T. Weaver lacks ideal lateral mobility, but he’s a very smart player with good physical traits. He uses his length well and already has a variety of pass rush moves at his disposal. Weaver could stand to get stronger and may eventually find himself playing more of a Michael Bennett inside/outside role in the NFL, but I like his ability to contribute right away for the Falcons. I wouldn’t expect Weaver to consistently put up 10+ sacks in the league, but he’s an EDGE who can play all three downs and produce from Day 1.
Round 2, Pick 55: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
The Falcons are in a weird spot with their CB group. Desmond Trufant is coming off an injury and may find himself a cap casualty as early as 2021, and 2018 second-round pick Isaiah Oliver had an up-and-down sophomore season. The bright spot has been Kendall Sheffield, who performed admirably in the slot during his rookie year. With Jordan Miller sidelined to start the 2020 season, Atlanta needs to add an early injection of talent to keep the group afloat.
Luckily, a very good prospect falls to the Falcons at 55: Alabama CB Trevon Diggs. Diggs has flirted with first-round consideration throughout the offseason, but could easily see himself fall into Day 2 due to the abundance of talent at the top. He’s a perfect fit in Atlanta’s Cover 3 defense, with strong footwork and instincts in zone coverage. As a WR-to-CB convert, he’s also got natural ball skills and tracks the ball well. Diggs would be a potential outside starter for the Falcons with good size (6’2, 207), but he’s got some issues with his tackling that must be fixed.
Adding Diggs would give the Falcons additional flexibility in 2021, and also add some competition for Isaiah Oliver this season.
Round 3, Pick 78: C/G Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
Tyler Biadasz falling to the third round? That’s crazy, right? Wrong. The truth is that Biadasz had a down year in 2019 coming off a pretty significant injury, and teams are understandably scared by it. The Falcons, however, are in a position where they can take a risk on a center prospect and give them a year to get healthy and/or develop their technique. That makes Atlanta a logical fit for Biadasz, who despite his poor 2019 still has the ceiling of a very good NFL center if he can return to his 2017/2018 prowess.
Biadasz has good size for a center at 6’3, 321, and has showed off some impressive athleticism in the past. As a three-year starter at Wisconsin, Biadasz has extensive experience and has shown well-developed technique in both pass protection and run blocking. However, his play suffered considerably this season—he just didn’t look like himself for much of the year. It seems pretty clear to me that this is a consequence of his injury and not a drop-off in actual talent. Drafting him is a gamble, as he may never return to his previously dominant self, but I think it’s a gamble worth taking for the Falcons in the third round.
Round 4, Pick 109: RB Cam Akers, Florida State
With reports surfacing that Atlanta plans to move on from RB Devonta Freeman this offseason, the need to add a RB in the draft is significant. Just Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison remain under contract in 2020, and the concerns about Smith’s concussion history should not be overlooked. The Falcons benefit from the overflow of RB talent at the top of the draft, as a starting-caliber option falls to them in Round 4: Florida State’s Cam Akers.
Akers is a well-rounded RB with excellent athleticism and size (5’11, 212) who languished behind an awful OL at Florida State. He pairs his speed and agility with a physical running style that makes him an option at all areas of the field. Akers has never gotten significant work as a receiver, and his pass protection skills are lackluster to say the least. However, getting an RB with his physical traits this late in the draft would be a steal. Akers might be an early-down specialist in his rookie season, but has all the potential to develop into a three-down feature back in time.
Round 5, Pick 139: S Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois
We’ve recently been subjected to a lot of speculation about Keanu Neal’s future in Atlanta. While I doubt Neal is going anywhere in 2020, the Falcons would be wise to add some depth with developmental potential behind him in case his injury problems continue. Enter Jeremy Chinn from Southern Illinois, a Senior Bowl standout with exceptional size (6’3, 219) and athletic ability.
Chinn is an absolute playmaker in both run defense and the passing game. He’s a physical presence against the run who can make plays from a variety of spots, and is very comfortable when lined up in the box. Chinn’s ball production in coverage is impressive: he’s piled up 13 interceptions and 31 pass deflections during his four-year career. He’s currently much more comfortable in zone than in man, however, and there are questions about where his long-term NFL fit is.
I see Chinn as a potential “moneybacker” player, who plays a kind of hybrid LB/S, “big nickel” role for the Falcons. The step up in competition will be significant and I’m not sure how much to expect from Chinn in his rookie season, but his long-term potential for a mid-Day 3 pick is exceptional.
Round 7, Pick 205: LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming
With the team electing to patch other holes with their earlier picks, one position simply had to be neglected until late in the draft: LB. It seems all but guaranteed that De’Vondre Campbell will walk in free agency, which leaves the Falcons fairly thin at the position behind Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun. In fact, the only other options on the roster right now are Ahmad Thomas and Jamal Carter—who both profile more as safeties than LBs.
Atlanta can still add a dependable depth player late on Day 3 in Wyoming’s Logan Wilson, who coincidentally also has experience as a defensive back. Wilson has a ton of experience, both at LB and DB, and has been extremely productive at Wyoming. He’s smart and quick to process plays in front of him, and has plenty of strength to finish plays. However, Wilson is a limited athlete—which probably caps his ceiling as “solid starter” or “dependable backup” in the NFL. That’s still valuable to a team—particularly a team as cash-strapped as Atlanta—and adding him late in the draft would prevent losing him in the UDFA scrum.
What are your thoughts on this potential draft class for Atlanta? Who are some players you’d like to see the Falcons target in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft? Share your own mock drafts in the comments below!