The new coaching staff and front office are well situated and we are about a week away from the start of NFL free agency and about a month and a half away from the Jacksonville Jaguars beginning their new era with the start of the 2021 NFL Draft. By this juncture, the Atlanta Falcons have made a few small moves r to get themselves heading in the right direction for better cap space and will continue to build on that, but the NFL Draft this year should be viewed as an important one for a new-look, cap-strapped Falcons franchise.
My last mock draft might have ruffled a few feathers. I’m quite positive that this one will grab the attention of many also. Buckle up.
Round 1, 6th overall (trade w/ PHI: 4th overall for 6th overall, 37th overall, 2022 3rd rounder) - Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
I really think it is smart for folks to understand that a quarterback is absolutely in play early on for the Falcons and that it should be, if we’re being honest. Not because quarterback Matt Ryan has hit a wall and is no longer a winning passer in the league, but simply because I’m sure the organization feels they may not be drafting here again in upcoming years. This is an opportunity to be proactive and secure the future.
Of all the quarterbacks that are getting the most first round talk, Lance is the quarterback who will likely need the most developmental time until he sees the field. That makes him perfect for a Falcons team that is eyeing Ryan as a starter in 2021, at the very least. Lance has underrated arm talent and executes very well out of play action passing, which is a staple of an Arthur Smith offense. As stated, he needs some seasoning and hasn’t played a full collegiate season since 2019, but the Falcons would find themselves with a diamond waiting to be polished here.
Round 2, 37th overall (via PHI) - Joseph Ossai, OLB, Texas
As a result of the trade down earlier in the draft, the Falcons defense nets a pass rusher. I recently published my scouting report for Ossai and one thing about him is his hustle and motor as a pass rusher.
Ossai is definitely in need of some refinement as a pass rusher, but he is absolutely worth the pick because of his speed as a pass rusher and his ability as a run defender at this stage of his development. The fact that he has 29 tackles for loss the past two seasons is a nice indication of that.
Round 2, 47th overall (trade w/LAC: 35th overall, 185th overall to LAC for 47th overall, 77th overall, 114th overall) - Richie Grant, S, Central Florida
Last year, I was adamant about selecting a playmaking free safety on the backend who could be versatile and showcases tremendous ball skills. The Falcons decided to pass on safety Antoine Winfield Jr. in last year’s draft, but hopefully they won’t let this prospect escape their grasp.
Grant is one of those instinctual safeties that is often in the right place at the right time. To put it plainly, I believe he has the best instincts of all the safeties in the entire draft class. His versatility is a trait that can very well work to the Falcons advantage in what is sure to be a defensive scheme that will have layers.
Round 3, 68th overall - Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
If you studied the Titans offense at all in 2020, you would know that the Titans led the NFL in “12” personnel (one running back, two tight ends) sets at a 35% rate, executing 373 total plays out of that personnel grouping. In other words, tight ends are essential in Arthur Smith’s offense and currently, the Falcons only have one tight end on the roster for the 2021 season and beyond and luckily for them, the tight end class in this upcoming draft is pretty solid overall.
Jordan has an intriguing skill set and is dynamic after the catch. Jordan was lined in various spots all over the field for the Hurricanes and when healthy, was a dangerous weapon in the passing game. His ability as a blocker is better than advertised as well and is equipped with an NFL frame. A tandem of Hayden Hurst and Jordan can be elite, folks. Elite.
Round 3, 77th overall (via LAC) - Trey Smith, G, Tennessee
The Falcons will likely have a sizable hole at the left guard position this offseason, and in order for the offense to make any strides this upcoming season and beyond, the offensive line needs considerable upgrading. Smith was a prized recruit as a 5-star in the 2017 recruiting class.
During the 2020 season, Smith only allowed one sack and one penalty in nine starts. Smith is a physical blocker with a mountainous NFL frame at 6’5 and roughly 330 pounds. Even with that large frame, Smith is able to attack defenders when tasked to block on the move. Smith is capable of being a longtime NFL starter in the NFL and can provide much needed stability at the position.
Round 4, 104th overall - Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
This is my third mock draft, and it is my third mock in which I slotted Sermon here in the fourth round. Sermon showed plenty during the Buckeyes postseason run in the Big Ten title game and the College Football Playoff. From great contact balance to surprising quickness in the open field as well as a physical skill set that you would expect from a 220 pound back. Sermon has lead back potential and is capable of shouldering the Falcons run game for years to come.
Round 4, 114th overall (via LAC) - Trill Williams, CB, Syracuse
The additional pick from the Chargers trade earlier snag a future starter at corner in Williams, who has an intriguing skill set which is capable of being at wide corner, slot, and occasional duty as safety. Thanks to defensive coordinator Dean Pees, the Falcons are likely to incorporate a versatile scheme that will change up depending on game flow and opponent. It only makes sense to add the 6’2 corner who was a playmaker for Syracuse in his 27 career games.
Round 5, 145th overall - Robert Hainsey, OT , Notre Dame
The fifth round is where the Falcons start to add depth across the roster, and it begins with adding more skill to the offensive line. The Falcons have a couple of backup offensive tackles (Matt Gono, John Wetzel) that are free agents, so their depth is pretty non-existent at this point in the offseason.
Hainsey is an overall solid swing tackle who has refined technical skills already, allowing him to step into a role early. The one red flag for Hainsey is that he is likely capped when it comes to athleticism and improving his frame for the NFL workload. Inserting Hainsey into the Falcons offensive line group, however, provides a three year starter at Notre Dame who can back up both offensive tackle spots.
Round 5, 177th overall (comp) - Malik Herring, DL , Georgia
Addressing depth within the trenches here seems to be the theme because it is the theme. Herring was a weak-side defensive end when recruited by the Georgia Bulldogs and now stands at a stout 280+ pounds. He gradually grew into roles on the edge and the interior during his time in Athens. How about we keep that development going by allowing Herring to be a 5-tech defensive end in the Falcons 3-4 defensive scheme? That will ultimately give the Falcons a nice rotation at 5-tech of Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson, John Cominsky, and Herring.
Round 5, 179th overall (comp) - Tony Fields II, LB , West Virginia
Going into the 2021 season, the Falcons will only have two inside linebackers (Deion Jones, Foye Oluokun) under contract. So of course, depth is addressed here with the athletic Fields having a number of similarities with both Jones and Oluokun. Fields is a rangy linebacker who thrives when tasked to drop back in coverage. When it comes to run defense, Fields is excellent at using his athleticism to clog up run lanes.
Early on, Fields will be a key special teams cog while modeling his game after the two starters before him on the Falcons depth chart, and he and Mykal Walker could grow into something much more than that.
Round 6, 214th overall (comp) - Cornell Powell, WR , Clemson
With their last pick, I decide to add more wide receiver depth in the form of a 205-lb receiver who had a breakout 2020 season. Powell wasn’t able to break out until his fifth season in the Clemson program, but he did post 882 yards last season and was tied for first in receiving touchdowns with seven. With the little amount of on-field play seen from Powell, he flashed as a deep threat with solid hands and the ability to make plays after the catch. There’s plenty of intrigue here, and Powell can find at least a small role behind Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Russell Gage.