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2021 Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft - 1.0

The offseason begins which means it’s that special time of the year.

Miami v Pittsburgh Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The 2020 season failed to meet the expectations of the Atlanta Falcons and their fan base. It leaves the franchise in an interesting state of affairs at the current moment. The team will introduce a new head coach and general manager, which may possibly change the entire course of the team. But as the page gets turned to the 2021 offseason, so does the start of draft season.

Now that the regular season has concluded for the Falcons, time to forecast a bit what the Falcons may do in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. Let’s get started.

Round 1, 4th Overall - Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Wilson is a name that is an unknown to the casual fans but a well recognized one amongst draft fanatics. How good was Wilson this past season? Okay for the most part, I guess, as he was jut second in the country in passer rating and 10th in the country in passing yards per game. What pops off on tape for Wilson is his ability to push the ball downfield with ease along with his knack of showing excellent pocket presence and able to make all the throws outside of the pocket.

This is probably not a popular opinion for most but it is one that I am not truly against. Simply because a new coaching regime and a new front office will likely want to groom their guy to be ready to go in 2022 while still leaning on veteran quarterback Matt Ryan next season. This isn’t a knock on Ryan by any means. The future Hall-of-Famer finished the 2020 season third in passing yards along with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

But based on Ryan’s contract value (which may get restructured this offseason) it will financially hurt the franchise to part ways with Ryan before the 2022 season. For those who still question a move such as this, I point to the Green Bay Packers. A team that selected a first round passer in 2020 (Jordan Love) despite still having excellent quarterback play from Aaron Rodgers. A team that had troubling offensive line issues but still went in that unique direction. Didn’t seem to hurt them much now, did it?

(Again, this is not what I believe they SHOULD do but more so what I believe a new head coach and new general manager LIKELY WILL do) Boca Raton Bowl - BYU v Central Florida Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Round 2, 50th Overall (Falcons trade 2nd round/36th overall to Dolphins for 2nd round/50th overall, 3rd round/82nd overall, and 6th round/187th overall) - Patrick Jones, DE, Pitt

I’m sure many were antsy to add a defender with the first pick and trust me when I say that is still a possibility there. However, for the sake of the mock, it is time to start addressing what was a lingering issue all season long: improving the talent on defense.

Jones is a 6’5 265-pound pass rusher with plenty of length and a fluid get-off at the snap that allows him to get to the quarterback swiftly. Over the past two seasons, Jones has totaled 17.5 sacks and led the ACC in sacks this past season with nine. He was also 14th in the country this season in tackles for loss. Jones was used in a variety of ways as he saw time lined up on the strong and weak side defensive end spots as well as sliding inside over the center on long third downs.

It will be interesting to see how the defensive coordinator spot will play out for the Falcons but one thing is for sure, the Falcons need plenty of help when it comes to getting after the quarterback.

Round 3, 68th Overall - Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse

The Falcons lacked playmaking ability in the secondary this past season, specifically at safety. Part of it has to do with the absence of safety Damontae Kazee. Kazee is an unrestricted free agent this offseason so his presence on the team in 2021 is up in the air. The future for veteran Ricardo Allen is also pending as he can possibly be a cap casualty.

The departure of both will leave no sure plan at free safety. But the drafting of Cisco can aid tremendously. The 6’0 safety led the country in interceptions in 2018 with seven and was tied for seventh in the country in interceptions in 2019. In both of those seasons, he led the ACC in the same category. Cisco needs some refinement as a tackler but of course that can be developed with time and reps. His nose for the football and natural playmaking ability is something that the Falcons defense is considerably lacking.

Round 3, 82nd Overall (from Miami) - Myjai Sanders, Edge, Cincinnati

Keeping the theme going by adding much needed talent and difference making ability on defense. Sanders is one of those “freak” athletes at 6’5 and 255 pounds. With his frame, he has the ability to add another 10 pounds of muscle and an athletic presence that can be a problem for offensive tackles with heavy feet and stiff hips. Often on tape, Sanders is shown chasing plays from the back side and hustling until the final whistle. I think what I love the most about him as a prospect is that he plays as if someone pressed his buttons before the game. An athletic edge rusher with speed and length that plays with an attitude. A true puzzle piece for the defense.

Round 4, 99th Overall - Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State

A consistent run game was evidently missing from the Falcons offense this season. The free agency signing of veteran Todd Gurley was met with disappointing results and the team will obviously have to address this position in the offseason.

To help matters, nabbing a guy such as Sermon to be the bell cow at running back adds a dynamic that the Falcons can truly use late in games. Throw on his tape against Northwestern in the 2020 Big Ten title game and the Buckeyes semifinal matchup against Clemson recently and you will see a thumper that bounces off tacklers and gets stronger as a ball carrier as the game progresses.

In recent weeks, he has improved his play for Ohio State when the team really needed it. He’s not going to win a ton of foot races. But when the Falcons are nursing a lead late and need a run game to put the game on ice, Sermon has that ability and more.

CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Round 5, 132nd Overall - Marco Wilson, CB , Florida

Let’s turn the attention back to the defense. Rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell was a very solid selection in the 2020 NFL Draft and his presence on the Falcons defense gives them a future All-Pro at the corner position. Opposite Terrell this season, however, has been a different story.

The likes of Kendall Sheffield and Isaiah Oliver has not given the Falcons much reliability, with both showing significant inconsistencies throughout the season. It remains to be seen if either can turn things around in 2021 and beyond but it would not hurt for the Falcons to add more talent to, at the very least, push both Sheffield and Oliver. Wilson has solid NFL size at 6’0 and close to 200 pounds and is one of the more physical corners in the draft. There are plenty of tools for Wilson to carve out a nice career as a professional and adding him to the cornerback group improves the depth in the long run.

Round 6, 163rd Overall - Austin Watkins, WR, UAB

One of the bright spots on the season was the play of receiver Calvin Ridley. He ended the 2020 season fifth in the league in receiving yards and was tied for first in the league in catches of 20 yards or more. They did however miss the presence of stud receiver Julio Jones, who missed seven games due to a hamstring injury.

At the top, the Falcons are set at receiver once Jones is back to his normal, healthy self. The depth however outside of the top three can use a little sprucing. Injecting the skill set of Watkins won’t hurt at all. In 2019, the 6’3 receiver was one of best deep threats in all of college football by averaging 19.1 yards per catch with 1,092 yards. It will be interesting to see how Watkins looks during pre-draft evaluations given his big play ability as a deep threat.

Round 6, 187th Overall - Amari Gainer, LB, Florida State

The overall play of the Falcons linebacking corps raised several eyebrows and turned a few heads. Linebacker Foye Oluokun earned some Pro Bowl buzz while rookie Mykal Walker improved as the season progressed. Middle linebacker Deion Jones led the team in sacks with 4.5, which was also a career-high for him.

The depth behind that trio is pretty bare with a couple of linebackers facing free agency this offseason. To help matters, the final pick adds an athletic prospect in Gainer who was used in several spots within the Seminoles defense. From weak side linebacker to even some spot duty at safety. Gainer is fluid and offers plenty of versatility.