The day has come. The 2020 NFL Draft has finally arrived, and in a matter of hours we’ll learn who the Falcons will select with their first round pick. This has the makings of a particularly exciting draft, as Atlanta has been at the center of a vortex of trade-up rumors. They’ve been attempting to get as high as #2 overall—presumably for Chase Young—but apparently a deal wasn’t reached.
It’s time for the Final Countdown mock draft. I’ll take my best shot at predicting the Falcons moves through all 7 rounds, and give my explanation for each pick. 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:
TRADE — Round 1, Pick 6: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
Falcons trade 16 and a 2021 first round pick to the Chargers for pick 6.
The Falcons want a blue-chip player in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they desperately need their Day 2 picks to fill out positions of need on the roster. How can they possibly get a trade-up into the top-10 done without giving up their second or third-round selections? By taking the ultimate gamble and sending next year’s first-round pick to the Chargers for the sixth overall pick. This is a deal that could be mutually beneficial for both sides. If the Chargers aren’t interested in Justin Herbert (or another QB) at 6, it means they’re probably targeting one of the top options in 2021. An additional 2021 first rounder could give them the ammunition they need to get in position for their preferred option next season.
Depending on how much interest there is in this pick, it might take a little more to get it done (one or both of the Falcons’ fourth-rounders). But the vital picks in this draft are 47 and 78, and I truly believe the team needs to find a way to keep them.
Now, on to the player. Clemson LB/S/EDGE/Unicorn Isaiah Simmons is a truly special player. He can line up all over the defense, cover TEs and RBs, make plays on the football, step up into the box and lay the wood, and rush the passer from a blitzing position. Other than two-gap and take on multiple OL, I’m not sure there’s much Simmons can’t do. He’s a perfect player for the modern NFL—a true matchup neutralizer—and would give the Falcons a versatile weapon to deploy against any offense. There are so many ways that Simmons can help you, it’s almost like he’s filling multiple holes for the team.
There’s been so much buzz about Atlanta trading up for a CB that it makes me suspicious. Being that obvious is generally not a smart tactic. Instead, I think Atlanta might be creating a smokescreen around their actual target: Simmons. He’s one of three players in this draft class that is worth a significant trade-up, and I’d be ecstatic if Atlanta managed to add him.
Round 2, Pick 47: DT Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M
With the team adding an impact, blue-chip player in Simmons at the top of the draft, there are two big needs remaining: DT and CB. The way the board fell in this simulation, the value was better at DT. Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike has been rising up draft boards, but there’s still a chance he could be available at pick 47. He’s not as physically imposing as Javon Kinlaw or Derrick Brown, but he’s an explosive pass rusher who could be an excellent long-term partner for Grady Jarrett. Here’s how I described Madubuike in my DT prospect preview:
Madubuike has an exciting athletic profile, and I expect him to be one of the more impressive testers at the Combine. He’s a smooth mover and has an advanced understanding of leverage, which he uses to bolster his skills as a penetrator. Madubuike lacks ideal length, however, and this can get him into trouble against bigger opponents. He’s also not the most consistent player in terms of motor—which could be a red flag for Dan Quinn. If the Falcons are looking to add a high-upside DT in the second round, they’ll have a hard time finding a better one than Madubuike.
Round 3, Pick 78: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia
If the Falcons do decide to wait on CB until the latter part of Day 2, they’ll probably be praying that Virginia’s Bryce Hall remains on the board at pick 78. While there are other possible options—Troy Pride Jr., Amik Robertson, Harrison Hand—none fit Atlanta’s scheme quite as well as Hall. Hall was a borderline first-round talent after the 2018 season, but an injury in 2019 hurt his play and dropped his stock significantly. Here’s how I described Hall’s skillset in my CB prospect preview:
At 6’1, 200, Hall has great size and length for the position and is more than capable of matching up with size on the outside. He’s got tremendous ball skills and is one of the most disruptive players at the catch point in the class. Hall also brings a lot of play strength and physicality to the position, and he’s a plus player against the run and as a blitzer. However, Hall is a relatively average athlete who isn’t particularly impressive in terms of fluidity or long speed. He’ll be best served in a zone scheme where he can use his fantastic football IQ, instincts, and physicality to disrupt routes and break up throws. His injury hurt his stock in 2019, which could make him a steal in the middle part of Day 2 for the Falcons.
Round 4, Pick 119: EDGE Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
The Falcons addressed most of their major needs with their top-3 picks, but there are still some holes to fill. Atlanta is still lacking an impact #3 pass rusher, and they have a shot at a potential candidate early on Day 3. Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes has good size (6’3, 264) and was a productive pass rusher and run defender throughout his college career. The biggest thing that stands out about Willekes is his non-stop motor and competitive fire—he’s absolutely relentless on the field.
Willekes has some limitations which cap his ceiling, however. He lacks ideal length and play strength for an early-down run defender. Athletically, he’s above average, but not truly special. Long-term, I think Willekes can grow into a role as a rotational third EDGE who wins with effort and savvy. If he can continue to get stronger and hone his athletic ability, he could be a productive player in the league for years to come. That’s good value for a fourth-round selection.
Round 4, Pick 143: C/G Keith Ismael, San Diego State
The one big need left on the board for me is a backup center to groom behind Alex Mack, and a late riser is still on the board at pick 143. San Diego State’s Keith Ismael has only recently been generating some hype, but he’s going to get drafted a lot higher than earlier projections (borderline UDFA). Ismael is probably only a fit for zone-based offenses, but he’s a fluid mover and a very smart player.
At 6’3, 309, he’s not small but is probably best suited to a long-term role at center. He’s got the competitive toughness that Quinn covets and very good technique in pass protection. Ismael will struggle against high-end power rushers and massive NTs as a run blocker, and needs to use his mobility to create space in the run game. I love his long-term potential and I think he could end up being the best of the Day 3 offensive linemen in this entire draft class. With a year to learn and grow behind Alex Mack, Ismael could wind up as a steal for the Falcons as an eventual starter at center.
Round 7, Pick 228: RB Adrian Killins, Jr., UCF
Thomas Dimitroff said he wanted to add speed to the RB corps, and there isn’t a better speed back in the entire NFL draft than UCF’s Adrian Killins Jr. Killins has reportedly run as fast as a 4.37—and I wouldn’t be shocked he’s even faster than that, based on his tape. At UCF, Killins was the king of YAC and was a dominant player with the ball in his hands. He could take a dump off or screen pass for 40 yards and make it look effortless. While he was a productive runner as well, I’m not sure that’s a role he can succeed at in the NFL.
Size is a big issue for Killins, as he’s listed at just 5’8, 158. He’s not going to survive long at that weight and will have to bulk up, particularly if he’s going to be running the football. Even if he does add a little weight, Killins needs to have specific role in the NFL. He’s an explosive, home-run hitter in space and a very good receiver, and that’s how he needs to be used. A future transition to a WR role might even be the best move for his future. Still, adding 4.37 speed to the roster for just the cost of a seventh-round pick is worth the gamble in my book.
That’s it, my final prediction for Atlanta’s 2020 draft class. What are your thoughts on this mock draft scenario for the Falcons? With all the buzz surrounding a trade-up, who do you think the team is targeting? Post your final mocks in the comments below!