One certainty in the 2021 NFL Draft is that the Atlanta Falcons have an opportunity to jump start their new regime in a major way. Because they are in possession of the fourth overall pick and picks in the top half of just about every round, the Falcons are in prime position to add some much needed talent across the board to their roster.
What is most interesting, of course, is what the Falcons will do with their first selection. The strengths of this draft and where Atlanta is currently positioned suggests they will go for offense with that selection. Will the Falcons add elite talent if they stay at fourth overall? Can the team find a possible trade to gain more picks? What prospects could they walk away with to improve their defense? Let’s forecast what the Falcons may do in this year’s upcoming NFL Draft in my latest mock.
Round 1, 4th overall - Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Let’s go ahead and get this out in the open. The selection of Fields is not necessarily what I would do if GM, or what I believe the Falcons should do. An ideal scenario in the opening round for the Falcons would be to trade down and collect prime picks for the present and future. However, this is a selection that I truly believe will ultimately occur based on the circumstances.
Sure, Fields may be NFL-ready the day he is drafted, but that does not mean the Falcons need to be in a hurry to rush him on the field. How often is it that talented rookie quarterbacks are able to pick the brain of a former league MVP before they take their first snap?
With the Falcons, Fields will not have the pressure of carrying a franchise the day he lands in Atlanta. Many will likely be angry with this selection but personally, I understand the vision and reasoning behind it. This would be about wanting to make sure that the inevitable transition from starter Matt Ryan to the next in line (possibly in 2022) is seamless in the best way possible, and that they get the right man to lead the franchise for (hopefully) the next decade or more. If the Falcons are forced to stay at four, I think it comes down to a quarterback or tight end Kyle Pitts. In this scenario, the quarterback wins by a hair.
Round 2, 46th overall - Joseph Ossai, Edge, Texas
Trade w/ NE: ATL receives - 46th overall, 2021 3rd/97th overall, 2021 4th/123rd overall, 2022 2nd rounder
NE receives - 35th overall
If you recall, I slotted Ossai here in the second round for the Falcons in my previous mock, which also came as the result of a trade. Ossai is impressive as a prospect thanks to superior athleticism and length that can’t be taught. This is a make-or-break season for veteran edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr.
Behind him, there are really no long term answers at the position, and the overall depth is really in question. Ossai has powerful hands and uses them very well in his pass rushing arsenal. He has also shown the ability to drop in coverage and be effective, which is a key responsibility in a Dean Pees defense.
Round 3, 68th overall - Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State
It’s no secret that I really like this kid. A lot. Because he offers the same value that defenders such as Chiefs defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and Steelers defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick offer to their respective teams. They are multifaceted and do not have a position necessarily attached to them. Just put them on the field and allow them to win various matchups.
Nasirildeen is a long, athletic defender who saw time as an in-the-box safety, split zone safety, slot corner, and as a hybrid safety/linebacker at the second level of the defense. He has physicality and traits that are often used effectively as a 6’3 defender with 34 inch arm length. The Falcons have added versatile safeties this offseason in veterans Erik Harris and Duron Harmon, and it makes sense to continue that theme with another chess piece to the flexible defensive scheme.
Round 3, 97th overall (via NE) - Aaron Banks, G, Notre Dame
The left guard position for the Falcons has been an inconsistent spot on the offensive line every since the retirement of former starter Andy Levitre. What is needed is youthful talent to help build the interior along with right guard Chris Lindstrom.
Banks should be a quality starter at the next level thanks to his 335 pound frame, which he’s able to use to get physical at the point of attack and anchor in the passing game in part thanks to a strong lower frame. Banks will need to clean up his technique as a pass blocker, but he’ll enter the league not far away from being a multi-year starter with Pro Bowl potential.
Round 4, 108th overall - Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
Bringing in veteran Mike Davis at running back this offseason was a nice addition to Atlanta’s backfield, one that adds a physical nature to the run game. The thought of adding another talented thumper alongside Davis would be a combination that can enhance the Falcons offense as a whole.
Sermon’s performance during Ohio State’s postseason run this past season was incredible. In his lone season at Ohio State, Sermon posted 870 yards and four touchdowns in an offense that needed a balanced run element to offset their passing attack. What also catches my attention is that he has only 455 carries during a four-year span. That equates to Sermon having low mileage as a runner. Imagine defenses trying to endure a physical run game of Davis & Sermon for four quarters over the next couple of seasons.
Round 4, 123rd overall (via NE) - Jordan Smith, Edge, UAB
If there is one pass rusher in the upcoming draft who is not discussed enough, it is Smith. The one-time Florida Gator has been productive for the UAB defense the past two seasons, with 12.5 total sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss.
Standing at 6’7 with a 255-pound frame, Smith is an imposing presence with long arms and impressive athleticism for a prospect with his size. Smith’s short area burst is equally impressive. While he needs some time to develop his technique, Smith is still capable of beating blocks because of his bend and long limbs able to eat up grass quickly. The combination of Ossai and Smith can be a very dangerous tandem for the long haul in Atlanta, and the Falcons badly need the help.
Round 5, 148th overall - Tre McKitty, TE, Georgia
I know that a good portion of the fanbase would rather have another SEC tight end in the red and black, but McKitty can bring his fair share of intrigue to the Falcons offense as well. He is an athletic tight end who can be pretty effective at the intermediate level of the passing game, a nice fit for this offense.
McKitty is a natural hands catcher and when given the opportunity, he is able to gain plenty of yards after catch to extend plays. His overall blocking is solid and room for improvement is evident, but he is not a liability in that aspect. McKitty can complement tight end Hayden Hurst and be another dangerous weapon in the passing game, and he’d be able to carve out a long-term role as the only tight end under contract beyond this year.
Round 5, 182nd overall - Dazz Newsome, WR, North Carolina
The Falcons added some punch to their kick return game with the free agent signing of veteran Cordarrelle Patterson. His presence will also add another layer to their offense. The selection of Newsome will take care of the punt return duties possibly, and the crafty route runner will add more depth the wide receiver room.
In the past two seasons in Chapel Hill, Newsome totaled 126 receptions along with 16 touchdowns. The Tar Heels did a great job scheming Newsome open on many occasions and he took advantage of playing in the slot in most games, where he could be dangerous in Atlanta.
Round 5, 183rd overall - Darren Hall, CB , San Diego State
Continuing to add more talent and depth to the defense, the Falcons grab a solid corner with experience and instincts in coverage that are hard to ignore on tape. Hall was a playmaker for the San Diego State defense the past two seasons with 22 pass breakups and four interceptions during that span.
Hall has the ability to play in man and zone, but at this stage of his career, his ability to read and anticipate while in zone is a significant plus.
Round 6, 187th overall - Monty Rice, LB, Georgia
Linebacker depth is hurting at the moment for the Falcons, with a need for long-term options behind Deion Jones, Foye Oluokun and Mykal Walker. So shoring up depth is vital.
Rice’s athleticism and his ability to cover tight ends and running backs allows him to be a fit in the Falcons scheme. At the very least, the Falcons add an athletic ball player to their special teams as he learns the ropes a bit from Jones and Oluokun.
Round 6, 219th overall - Brenden Jaimes, OL, Nebraska
Offensive line depth is the focal point here, and just like a number of players within this mock, Jaimes has the ability to be a versatile asset going forward. Jaimes saw plenty of action as a left tackle while at Nebraska and at the Senior Bowl, he was seen showing solid reps at left guard as well as right tackle. Jaimes is not blessed with ideal length, but his toughness and physicality in run blocking may make him worth an addition as a reserve.