The first wave of free agency has come and gone, and the Falcons have made a flurry of small moves to shore up the depth on the roster. Additions like safety Erik Harris, running back Mike Davis, and cornerback Fabian Moreau could all challenge for starting spots and give the team more flexibility in the draft. Other signings, like edge rushers Brandon Copeland and Barkevious Mingo, and the trade for tight end Lee Smith have filled out some of the most problematic depth spots on the team.
The Falcons are still likely to add a few more players in free agency—offensive line and quarterback, in particular, seem like the positions to target—but we now have a more clear picture of how the roster will look heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. That means it’s time for another 7-round mock draft for Atlanta!
Interested in my previous mock drafts? You can check them out below:
For this mock draft scenario, we’re going to assume a commitment to Matt Ryan for at least the next two seasons—which makes sense considering the max restructure the Falcons just did on his contract. With the 4th overall pick up for grabs, how far does Atlanta want to trade down, and who might they be targeting early in the draft?
As always, I’ll be using The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to complete this mock.
TRADE — Round 1, Pick 6: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
Falcons trade pick 4 to the Eagles for picks 6, 70 (3rd), and 84 (3rd).
With Atlanta deciding to stick with Matt Ryan, they take a number of calls for the 4th overall pick. Denver and San Francisco are both interested in moving up for QB Trey Lance—the last of the top quarterbacks remaining after Lawrence, Wilson, and Fields went 1-2-3—but the Falcons don’t want to move quite that far. Instead, they make a deal to drop two spots with the Eagles, who also want to be aggressive in pursuing their QB of the future. It works out for both parties: Philadelphia doesn’t need to give up premium resources for a top QB prospect, and the Falcons get a couple extra Day 2 picks without dropping out of range of the top non-QB prospects.
With Penei Sewell off the board to the Bengals at 5, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is easily the pick at 6. There’s been plenty of smoke surrounding the Falcons and Pitts as of late, with the team rumored to be very interested in his acquiring services. It’s a fit that makes a lot of sense: Arthur Smith is one of the most TE-focused coaches in the league, as the Titans led the NFL in 12 (2 TE) sets and were among the league leaders in TE targets in 2020. It’s rare to see a TE mocked in the top 10, but Pitts is a very rare talent in his own right.
Pitts would give Atlanta perhaps the most dynamic tight end in the league, and a potentially elite offensive weapon. It doesn’t fill a major need—the team has Hayden Hurst, after all, who’s a quality starter—but if new GM Terry Fontenot is serious about BPA, you could make an argument that Pitts is it. A 12 personnel grouping of Julio, Ridley, Pitts, and Hurst would present terrifying matchup problems for the vast majority of NFL defenses. It doesn’t fix Atlanta’s defensive woes, but if the team can score 30+ points per game a la 2016, it might not matter.
Round 2, Pick 35: OL Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
Speaking of scoring 30+ points per game, adding an elite weapon at TE won’t be enough to get there. The Falcons have to fix an offensive line that was largely average in 2020, and they do that by selecting Michigan offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield. Mayfield played tackle in college and was very good there, but he’s got a much higher ceiling at guard in the NFL. He’s got the size (6’5, 320) to succeed at either spot and is an impressive athlete for his stature. Mayfield has limited starting experience, but his technical refinement is impressive for a two-year starter.
The transition to guard may take time and some growing pains, but Mayfield is simply the best offensive lineman available at this point and drastically raises the talent level up front in Atlanta. His versatility at tackle is also valuable if injuries strike, or if Kaleb McGary falters over the next few seasons.
Round 3, Pick 68: S Jevon Holland, Oregon
After the addition of Erik Harris—who is a natural strong safety—in free agency, the Falcons can focus their attention on an impact free safety in the draft. The 2021 NFL Draft features a deep class, particularly on Day 2, and Atlanta gets an opportunity to add one of the most intriguing names in the class: Oregon safety Jevon Holland. Holland is a versatile safety prospect who has the size (6’1, 200) and athleticism to play just about anywhere in the secondary.
Holland played a number of roles at Oregon, including single-high, box safety, split zones, and even slot cornerback. His ability as a chess piece makes him a natural fit in a Dean Pees defense, where safeties are expected to be somewhat interchangeable. Holland’s range is excellent, as are his coverage instincts and ballhawking skills. He’s also a reliable run defender who rarely misses tackles—an important characteristic for a deep safety. Holland is an immediate starter who can make an impact from day one in Atlanta’s new-look defense.
Round 3, Pick 70: EDGE Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
Pick acquired from the Eagles.
The Falcons bolstered their depth on the edge quite bit over the past two weeks, adding reliable veterans in Brandon Copeland and Barkevious Mingo to the rotation with Dante Fowler Jr. They still need an impact player opposite Fowler—who the team is depending on to improve in 2021—and they get one in Oregon State’s Hamilcar Rashed Jr. Rashed Jr. is an ideal player in Dean Pees’ multiple defense, as he has experience lining up in a variety of positions—including 3-4 OLB, 4-3 DE, and even off-ball 4-3 LB.
Rashed Jr. has the quality size (6’3, 254) and standout athleticism of a potential NFL starter. His motor is non-stop as both a pass rusher and run stuffer, and he will attempt to chase down plays from across the formation without hesitation. Rashed Jr. needs technical development, particularly in terms of his pass rushing repertoire (which is quite limited), but he’s a tremendous value this late in the draft. I can’t wait to see what Dean Pees can do with a player like Rashed Jr.
Round 3, Pick 84: RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
Pick acquired from the Eagles.
Even after the signing of former Panthers running back Mike Davis, the Falcons need an injection of talent at the position. Davis, Ito Smith, and Qadree Ollison are a solid trio in need of an electric playmaker, and that’s exactly who Atlanta gets in Memphis RB Kenneth Gainwell. What Gainwell lacks in ideal size (5’11, 191) he makes up for in athleticism. He’s a dynamic presence in both the rushing and passing game with RB1 potential in the NFL.
Gainwell needs to add weight onto a lean frame—10 or so pounds to get to 200 would be huge—but he’s an electric playmaker and arguably the best receiving back in the class. He was so good in this area that he routinely lined up in the slot at Memphis, where he demonstrated advanced route running skills for the position. Gainwell would be a perfect fit in Atlanta, where he could begin his career as part of a committee with Davis and Ito Smith before eventually taking over the feature back role in a year or two.
TRADE — Round 3, Pick 91: CB Paulson Adebo, Stanford
Falcons trade picks 108 (4th), 182 (5th), and 183 (5th) to Cleveland for pick 91.
The Falcons addressed the safety position with Jevon Holland earlier in the draft, but cornerback is still a significant need. With the potential starters going quickly, Atlanta packages their fourth-rounder and their two compensatory fifth-rounders to jump back into the bottom of the third round for Stanford CB Paulson Adebo. Adebo put together some quality tape during the 2019 season before opting out for 2020, which hurt his stock considerably due to the emergence of other prospects.
Adebo has prototypical size for the outside at 6’1, 190 and is a quality athlete. He’s versatile and is capable of playing in both man and zone coverage. Adebo’s ball skills are also top notch, and he’s a strong competitor at the catch point. However, Adebo isn’t impressive as a run defender and needs to show more “want to” as a tackler. He’ll have to answer questions about his physicality, but if the Falcons think they can get him to play harder in Dean Pees’ defense, he could be a steal this late on Day 2.
Round 5, Pick 148: WR Seth Williams, Auburn
The Falcons have a quality wide receiver trio in place and added a potentially elite weapon at tight end in Kyle Pitts, but outside of Julio Jones there is a distinct lack of size at WR. At this point in the draft, it was hard to pass up the value of Auburn’s Seth Williams here in the fifth round. At 6’2, 224, Williams has excellent size and physicality for an outside receiver at the NFL level.
Williams has outstanding hands and is a dominant presence at the catch point. His physicality makes him very difficult to handle in the red zone, and he can excel in this area at the NFL level. Williams has quality long speed, but his lateral agility is fairly average. His success will be based on his physical gifts and size, as he isn’t great at separating with his routes. At worst, Williams can be a possession and red zone specialist who also has a key role on special teams.
Round 6, Pick 187: DT Khyiris Tonga, BYU
The Falcons managed to bring back Tyeler Davison after he agreed to a pay cut, which takes the need for an immediate starter at nose tackle off the board. However, a more traditional 3-4 1/0T may be a better fit long-term in Dean Pees defense—and Davison’s contract is easy to move on from in 2022. Luckily, there are a few notable nose tackles who should be available later in the draft, like BYU’s Khyiris Tonga.
Tonga is a massive space eater at 6’4, 322. As you might expect from his size, Tonga is an exceptional run defender. He has experience playing both 1 and 0 tech, and can two-gap and take on double teams effectively. Tonga relies on his strength and bull rush to create pressure on pass plays, but he is adequate in this area. He’s unlikely to ever offer much as a pass rusher, but he can be a long-term starter as a run stuffing NT for the Falcons. In the sixth round, that’s good value.
Round 6, Pick 217: WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa
This late in the draft, the Falcons are looking to add the best player available to their roster. The 2021 wide receiver class is both deep and talented, and a very good player is still on the board at the back end of the sixth round in Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette. I’ve mocked Smith-Marsette to Atlanta multiple times because he fits their needs well: he’s got good size at 6’2, 186, is a tremendous athlete, and offers ability as a returner.
Smith-Marsette wasn’t used to his full talents at Iowa, so his production has been surprisingly low. He’s also shown some character concerns that will require vetting: Smith-Marsette was arrested in 2020 for intoxicated driving and speeding. If the Falcons think they can get his head on straight, Smith-Marsette could be an absolute steal this late in the draft. And if he can’t get it together, all it cost to take the chance was pick 217. He’s absolutely a gamble worth taking.
What are your thoughts on this mock draft scenario for the Falcons? Share your comments and your own mock drafts below!