The Atlanta Falcons managed a 4-4 record heading into Week 10, and allowed me to avoid doing mock drafts out of necessity—unlike the previous two seasons. At this point in the year, however, we actually have enough tape on prospects and a clear enough picture of the NFL landscape that it makes sense to conduct a mock draft. I know fans are interested in seeing what Atlanta could do in 2022, so I will oblige you with an entirely-too-early mock draft this week.
But hold on a second. This can’t just be any old mock draft. We need to get wild with it. That’s why I’m loading up The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine and looking for a trade-down opportunity for the Falcons, who desperately need to add impact players on affordable contracts for 2022 and beyond.
In this scenario, we’ll assume the Falcons haven’t made any player trades—that means Deion Jones and Calvin Ridley, among others, are still around. In that case, the salary cap will be tight once again in 2022, which makes it all the more important to pick up additional picks. Let’s see what we can do with pick 19.
TRADE — Round 1, Pick 31: EDGE Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina
Falcons trade pick 19 to the Ravens in exchange for pick 31, pick 93 (3rd), and pick 131 (4th).
The Falcons will probably be looking for a trade-down if they’re drafting here, as they need to load up the roster with affordable rookie contracts. It certainly helps that 2022 features a deep EDGE class, and if Atlanta is patient, they can pick up additional picks and add an impact defender at the end of the first round.
South Carolina’s Kingsley Enagbare is one of my favorite edge rushers in this class, and I think there’s a chance he winds up going higher than this. Enagbare is a prototypical prospect at EDGE, with good size (6’4, 265), strong athletic traits, and a relentless play style. He’s an instant-impact pass rusher who should be able to grow into a more consistent run defender with time and coaching. Enagbare doesn’t have the sky-high ceiling of some of the players who will be drafted ahead of him, but I like his chances to contribute immediately and still think he can be a primary edge defender for the Falcons.
Round 2, Pick 51: WR David Bell, Purdue
In this scenario the Falcons have kept Calvin Ridley on his fifth-year option, but they’d still be wise to add an impact player to the wide receiver position for multiple reasons. I like the rotational players in this WR corps—Olamide Zaccheaus and Tajae Sharpe are good complementary pieces—but Atlanta needs another threat on the outside. Purdue’s David Bell has been one of the best receivers in college football in 2021, and his size profile (6’2, 205) will be very attractive for an offense like Arthur Smith’s.
Bell is a physical receiver who can win in a variety of ways. He’s strong at the catch-point, can win in contested situations, and has great hands. While Bell isn’t an elite athlete at the position and lacks short-area quickness, he does have solid long speed and can use his size to make plays on deep throws. He’s a physical runner after the catch and offers a big, reliable target for Matt Ryan. While I’m not sure he’s a WR1 at the NFL level, I think he can be a high-level WR2 who fits really well into what the Falcons want to do.
Round 2, Pick 63: RB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
Pick received from Titans.
The Falcons haven’t been as good on the ground as they’ve wanted to be, and it’s clear Arthur Smith wants the rushing attack to be a significant part of his offense. While I’m hopeful Cordarrelle Patterson sticks around in 2022 and beyond, Atlanta could certainly use an upgrade over the rest of their RB rotation. Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller is one of the best runners in college football, and would be a perfect fit for Smith’s offense.
Spiller has the size that Smith likes (6’0, 215) along with exceptional vision and balance. While the Falcons have struggled to give their running backs clean rushing lanes, Spiller has excelled at navigating traffic and making the first man miss. He’s a physical, hard-nosed runner in short-yardage situations and is a good overall athlete, although he lacks true breakaway speed. Spiller is also comfortable in both zone and power concepts—he can do it all, and do it well. His biggest weakness is his hands—Spiller doesn’t look particularly comfortable catching the ball, and has had issues with fumbles throughout his career. With Patterson hopefully still in the fold, Atlanta can allow Spiller to take on more of an early-down role while the veteran handles the passing down work.
Round 3, Pick 83: S Brandon Joseph, Northwestern
The Falcons have seen good things from second-year safety Jaylinn Hawkins—enough that I’d be comfortable giving him a starting job in 2022—but we’ve still seen very little from rookie Richie Grant. I’m nowhere close to writing off Grant just yet, but the Falcons could still use more talent in the secondary. Especially with both Erik Harris and Duron Harmon hitting free agency in 2022. A versatile player like Northwestern’s Brandon Joseph could be the perfect addition at this point in the draft.
Joseph (6’1, 192) is a capable player in the secondary who can man just about any position asked of him: he’s excellent in deep coverage, is a strong tackler in the box, and has even looked good as a slot defender. His athletic traits look good on tape, and while I’m not sure he’s elite in any one area, his ability to do it all at a plus level makes him an ideal fit for Dean Pees’ defense.
Round 3, Pick 93: EDGE Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State
Pick received from Ravens.
Even though the Falcons added an impact pass rusher at the top of the draft, this position group needs a lot more investment. Outside of Enagbare and 2021 fifth-rounder Ade Ogundeji, there are no other edge players under contract for 2022. Perhaps the team brings back Dante Fowler on a reasonable deal, but even if they do, adding another young edge rusher is a very good idea.
Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie is not a name I heard much before the season, but he’s been very productive over the first 9 games: 6.5 sacks and 13.5 TFL. At 6’4, 250, Ebiketie certainly has the build of an NFL pass rusher and has shown blazing speed off the edge. I’m not convinced he’s a reliable player against the run right now, and he will probably need to bulk up his frame if he wants to make an impact on early downs. At this point, I’m more concerned with finding good pass rushers, and I think Ebiketie could end up outplaying his draft spot in Atlanta.
Round 4, Pick 121: LB Micah McFadden, Indiana
In this scenario, the Falcons haven’t traded Deion Jones and have presumably let Foye Oluokun hit free agency due to cap constraints. Even if the script is flipped, Indiana LB Micah McFadden is a player I’ll have circled for the Falcons at this point in the draft. McFadden has played an inside linebacker role throughout his career and has good size for the position at 6’2, 232. He’s athletic and has looked good as a pursuit player and when dropping into zone coverage. McFadden also has a physical, aggressive edge to his game that will certainly make fans happy.
The part of McFadden’s game that stands out the most for the Falcons is his exceptional ability on blitzes. McFadden piled up 6.0 sacks in 2020 and has been even more effective in 2021, with 6.5 sacks through 9 games. He’s also piled up TFLs as a run blitzer, notching 34.5 over his three seasons as a starter. McFadden isn’t a true “stack-and-shed” linebacker and will struggle to take on offensive linemen directly in the run game, but I love his attitude and think his versatile skillset makes him a perfect fit for Atlanta’s defense.
Round 4, Pick 131: OT Tyler Vrabel, Boston College
Pick received from Ravens.
Now firmly in the depth portion of the draft, the Falcons would be wise to continue adding pieces to the offensive line. The interior has received a lot of investment in recent years, with Chris Lindstrom, Matt Hennessy, Jalen Mayfield, and Drew Dalman all on rookie contracts. We’re still TBD on the long-term future of Hennessy and Mayfield as starters, but a pick this late is unlikely to displace them. Where depth is needed more is at offensive tackle, where Kaleb McGary’s long-term future will be a big question heading into 2022.
McGary has been solid or better this season, but swing tackle will be wide open next year. Will Matt Gono or Jason Spriggs return? Even if they do, the Falcons could use another young player. Boston College’s Tyler Vrabel is a good option for that role, as he’s been a quality tackle throughout his career. At 6’5, 310, Vrabel has good size and has been an effective pass protector and run blocker. I don’t think Vrabel is a high-end athlete and he’s also not the biggest or strongest player, which is why he’s available at this point in the draft. As a long-term swing tackle option and solid spot-starter, I think Vrabel is a good fit for Atlanta.
Round 5, Pick 161: TE Will Mallory, Miami
With Kyle Pitts on the roster, the Falcons don’t need to add an impact pass-catcher at the TE position—but they will probably be losing Hayden Hurst to free agency. 2022 actually features a pretty deep tight end class, and if the Falcons are patient and a little lucky, they can get a quality TE2 option on Day 3. Miami’s Will Mallory pairs solid size (6’5, 245), athleticism, and receiving ability with solid blocking chops.
Mallory isn’t a high-volume pass catcher (57 receptions for 836 yards, 14.7 YPR, and 8 TD over 3 seasons), but he is an effective one when called upon. He’s also played a versatile role as a blocker, lining up in-line, as a fullback, and in the slot. Mallory runs good routes and has soft hands, making him a reliable complementary target. His pass blocking is good, but he doesn’t consistently make an impact in the run game. I like Mallory’s fit as a second fiddle to Pitts, and think the Falcons can improve his blocking over time.
Round 6, Pick 198: CB Storm Duck, North Carolina
I’m just going to be honest here and say I don’t really know much about any of the late Day 3 prospects at this point. But what I do know is there is a cornerback named Storm Duck out there, and he deserves to be drafted by the Falcons for that alone. In seriousness, Duck had a breakout season as a true freshman but has since struggled to get on the field with injuries. If he had played more, he might be a Day 2 prospect, but as it is now, he’s mostly a projection. The size (6’0, 205) and athleticism are certainly there to make it work, and at nearly pick 200 in the draft, I’d be willing to take a swing on a cornerback with upside.
What are your thoughts on this trade scenario and draft class for the Falcons? Post your own way-too-early mock drafts in the comments below!