Ladies and gentlemen, the 2020 NFL Draft is just two weeks away. As the dust clears around free agency and the Falcons needs become more obvious, we’ve got a much better idea of where the team is likely to spend their very limited resources. After the Hayden Hurst trade, Atlanta has just six picks in the upcoming draft. They will need to spend them wisely if they hope to return to competitiveness in 2020.
It’s time for my penultimate mock draft, where I take my best shot at predicting Atlanta’s moves on draft weekend. 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
My top choice for the Falcons right now at 16 is South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw, and it’s looking more and more likely that he could fall. After Indianapolis traded 13 overall to San Francisco—a spot where Kinlaw was often projected to go—Kinlaw much more frequently lasts until 16 in mock draft scenarios. The flipside of that is the CBs available at 16 tend to be weaker—C.J. Henderson and Kristian Fulton are frequently off-the-board. But getting Kinlaw at 16 would be a steal, and here’s why (from a previous mock draft):
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: CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah
If the Falcons miss on CB in Round 1, they absolutely must address the position in Round 2. Luckily, there is a logjam of CB talent early on Day 2, and Atlanta will likely have their pick of a few guys. I’ve had them going after Alabama’s Trevon Diggs and Clemson’s A.J. Terrell in past mocks, so this time I’m sending them Utah’s Jaylon Johnson. Johnson isn’t the biggest or the longest CB at just 6’0, 193, but he makes up for it with fluid, effortless movement skills and physicality at the line of scrimmage.
Johnson’s got the competitive fire of a top CB prospect and is totally unafraid to challenge bigger and stronger WRs at the line. He’s one of the more technically refined prospects in the class and is a capable player in both man and zone coverage. His agility and foot quickness are truly special, and he’s capable of covering just about any route in the tree. Johnson is also reliable and tough in run support, and can relied upon on the outside.
The concerns with Johnson are his merely above-average athletic testing and lack of prototypical size for the outside. He’s also had multiple shoulder surgeries in his career—despite missing only 1 game—which will be something to monitor for NFL teams. Overall, I like Johnson as a CB who can come in and start immediately on the outside for the Falcons with legit CB1 upside.
Round 3, Pick 78: EDGE/LB Josh Uche, Michigan
With only six picks and a plethora of needs, the Falcons will have to get a little creative. They could also consider trading down, but this is Dimitroff we’re talking about here. Michigan’s Josh Uche is one of a number of EDGE/LB “hybrids” who we’ve seen in this draft class, and could fill multiple needs on the Falcons depth chart with his selection. He had an awesome Senior Bowl performance as a pass rusher and played a lot of off-ball LB in college. His stock skyrocketed after Mobile, but has cooled somewhat in recent weeks.
As a hybrid player who requires a creative defensive mind, Uche was always going to go a little later than expected. Here in the third round, he makes a ton of sense for a team like the Falcons who have a need at both LB and EDGE. Uche can take over Campbell’s SAM role in the base defense, can blitz from anywhere in the formation, and can line up as a pass rushing specialist in the nickel. He’s got natural coverage instincts, length, and absurd athletic talent and can potentially develop into a “TE neutralizer” in time. Uche could be the perfect “two birds, one stone” pick for Atlanta in the third round.
Round 4, Pick 119: S Brandon Jones, Texas
With so few picks, the Falcons are forced to wait until Day 3 to address safety depth. With two quality FS options in Damontae Kazee and Ricardo Allen, it makes sense for Atlanta to target a SS to backup Keanu Neal. Texas’ Brandon Jones is a tremendously physical player with excellent competitive toughness and strong athletic traits. He measured in a little small at the Combine—5’11, 198—but for a Day 3 safety, that’s not a huge concern. Here’s how I described Jones’ talents in my safety prospect preview:
Jones is at his best when he can play in the box, using his above-average explosiveness and quick play diagnosis to his advantage. He’s got solid long speed and some quality range in short-area zones, but he’ll struggle if asked to change directions rapidly. Jones is a standout run defender with excellent physicality. He’s a phenomenal tackler who brings the wood on every play, and I love his attitude and toughness as a box player. In coverage, he’s plenty capable in zone and has good instincts to find the ball. He’s relatively limited athletically in man coverage and is probably best suited to playing against TEs. Jones needs to play in a defense that will let him do what he does best: stay in the box, pummel opposing ball carriers, and disrupt routes in the short area of the field. He’s going to struggle if asked to play deep or trail more dynamic receivers in man coverage.
Round 4, Pick 143: RB Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State
Day 3 is all about maximizing value, and that’s exactly what the Falcons do with their second fourth-round pick. Instead of targeting the biggest need, Atlanta instead goes after a falling prospect who can outplay his draft stock. RB isn’t quite a priority anymore with the signing of Todd Gurley, but Appalachian State’s Darrynton Evans would be a worthy addition to Atlanta’s RB committee.
Thomas Dimitroff alluded to Atlanta being open to drafting a “speed back” in a recent press conference, and that’s exactly what the team will be getting from Evans. He’s a home-run hitter with 4.41 speed and explosive burst who has made a name for himself as a returner, too. His vision is still developing and his ability to win in short yardage isn’t great, but the team has a multitude of other runners for those duties. Evans can provide a strong receiving and pass protection presence on third down and give the RB corps what it is currently missing. With Ito Smith’s health a question mark and Brian Hill a potential cap casualty, Evans makes a lot of sense for Atlanta.
Round 7, Pick 228: C/G Keith Ismael, San Diego State
Atlanta has had some luck in recent years with late-round offensive linemen—namely, Wes Schweitzer—and takes another swing at a potential future starter at center. San Diego State’s Keith Ismael is a player I only recently became aware of, but I’m very intrigued by his potential in a zone-based offense. Ismael moves quite well and is very technically sound, which is important for a primary reserve on the offensive line. He’s clearly got a strong football IQ and high competitive toughness and a leader on the offensive line.
Ismael is far from a perfect prospect—what do you expect in the seventh round, after all? He’s on the smaller side at 6’3, 309 and has a significant lack of length. Ismael’s anchor is adequate but he’ll struggle against massive NTs and high-end power rushers in one-on-one matchups. He’s a much better fit in a zone scheme attack and won’t move a lot of defenders off the ball with power. However, Ismael is a quality player in pass protection and can execute well enough as a run blocker in zone to have the ceiling of a future starter. He’s likely best served as a quality backup initially, which is what he’ll be in 2020 behind Alex Mack.
What are your thoughts on this mock draft scenario for the Falcons? Where would you go at the top of the draft? Do you think Atlanta will trade up or down at some point in the 2020 NFL Draft?