Mock drafts are a weird part of our shared NFL culture. At their best, they are informed and entertaining conversation starters. At their worst, they are a culmination of groupthink that warps how fans view certain prospects or decisions.
But they are fun, so I’m going to do one.
I really want to frame the approach to this particular mock draft. Some mocks are done from the perspective of what teams should do. Others are created with insider information about what they are hearing teams will do. There are those with a specific theme such as trades or scheme fit, but this isn’t that complicated. It’s actually pretty simple, these are the players I would pick if I were general manager.
Using PFF’s mock draft simulator, which allows for trades, I’ll simulate one draft and make the picks for Atlanta. I’ll explore trades with each pick to see if there’s a value I like more than the players on the board, and I’ll make notes for any trades that occur.
Let’s get going!
Round 1, Pick 7: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
The first two picks in the draft went as expected, but then San Francisco threw a curveball and went with Justin Fields at No. 3. There are a number of prospects I’d like at No. 4, so I figured I’d try to move back a few spots, net a couple more picks and still have a shot at someone I’d want. I was able to make that trade happen with Detroit, which sent me the 101st pick and 153rd pick to swap spots in the first round. Kyle Pitts went off the board with the sixth pick, but I’m perfectly happy to grab Trey Lance.
It’s unfortunate that this isn’t a great defensive draft, because the Falcons do need a game-changing defender, but they should absolutely use this opportunity to set themselves up at quarterback long-term. I think Trey Lance’s ceiling is as high as anybody’s in this draft, but more importantly, I think the nitpicks I have with him can all be ironed out. He did a good job running the offense at NDSU, and he has everything you’d want, physically. Give him a little bit of time to learn in Atlanta (and as many practice reps as possible), and I think the Falcons will have a true successor for Matt Ryan.
Round 2, Pick 35: OL Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
I’m a big proponent of drafting offensive linemen frequently. Depth is nearly as important as starting quality when it comes to the offensive line, and the Falcons do have a couple of spots up for grabs at left guard and center. There should be good competition for those jobs in training camp, and I’d love to throw Teven Jenkins into that mix.
Although he played right tackle in college, I’d kick him inside at guard, where I think his strength will really shine. He has an absolutely nasty demeanor, something the Falcons could use in the trenches a bit more, and should open up some huge holes at the second level. There are a few areas in which Jenkins needs to improve, but the pass protection concerns against speed rushers should be minimized on the interior. Arthur Smith knows the importance of good offensive line play, and this would be a strong way to invest in that unit for both now and in the future.
Round 3, Pick 68: DB Elijah Molden, Washington
I really took a good look at the defensive line options available to me with this pick, but I just couldn’t find one that made sense. It’s just not a great draft for the Falcons’ biggest needs. Still, I wanted to go defense, and I’m trying to stick to the notion of adding good players who I really like, and Elijah Molden fits that bill.
Washington has had a good track record with defensive backs in the NFL, and Molden brings a lot of attitude and versatility. He played slot corner and safety at times in college, and the Falcons could give him a look at a few spots to figure out exactly how best to use him. He’s an eager run defender and a smooth player in coverage. He reminds me a little of the Antoine Winfield Jr./Jeremy Chinn type of defensive back, and I like that a lot.
Round 3, Pick 101: LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky
Winning draft trades is all about how you use those extra picks, and I am extremely excited to draft Jamin Davis with one of the extra slots I took from Detroit. In his first year of action with Kentucky, Davis jumped off the screen. He has all of the athleticism you look for in a linebacker and the length to be an effective 3-4 outside player.
The knocks against him are basically tied to a lack of experience and not fully utilizing his natural athleticism to be a dangerous playmaker. But in his first year with the Falcons, he won’t be more than a rotational player and can certainly develop around a lot of other good, young linebackers. This is further strengthening the best part of the defense.
Round 4, Pick 115: RB Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech
This was the second trade of the draft, and I’m once again happy with it. Khalil Herbert was someone I had thought about taking with the 108th pick (the original pick), but I thought I’d be able to get him a little bit later and wanted to see if I could get another pick out of it. That’s exactly what I did, moving back to pick 115 and netting pick No. 192. Good, more young depth.
As for Herbert, I think he’s a little underrated as a player. I’ve seen a lot of football in my life, and running backs like him can absolutely have success in the NFL. He has great balance, vision and enough juice to break off big plays. There were some other running backs I liked better who went off the board, but I think this is strong value for a good player who will immediately plug into this Atlanta backfield and find touches.
Round 5, Pick 148: S Jamar Johnson, Indiana
I fully expect Jamar Johnson to be off the board well before the fifth round. He slipped in this draft simulation, though, and his fall ends here. Welcome to Atlanta, Jamar! The Falcons’ safety group was depleted this offseason, and they could use a rookie like Johnson in the mix. He’s a very fluid deep safety who can flip his hips and make some great breaks on the ball.
He’s also a pretty good blitzer, which should be put to use in Dean Pees’s defense. Teams like to fill out the roster with players like safeties, receivers, corners, etc. because of the value they provide on special teams. We’re in the “fill out the roster” part of the draft, but Johnson can absolutely be a big part of Atlanta’s defense.
Round 5, Pick 153: DT Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M
This is the first pick I’m not absolutely sold on, but I’ve got my reasons. Bobby Brown III is different than any player the Falcons have on their roster. At 6’4” and 325 pounds, Brown has the potential to play nose tackle in this defense. It’s still unclear exactly how much of a 3-4 front Dean Pees will utilize, but Brown would have an immediate role in that front. He’s long and strong, which will help him handle two-gap responsibilities.
He’s also got some good burst to knife into gaps and get in the backfield. This could be a high ceiling, medium floor type of pick.
Round 5, Pick 182: WR Dax Milne, BYU
In my mind, Dax Milne is operating in a Cooper Kupp/Anthony Miller type of role, which would make sense with Dave Ragone and Arthur Smith running the offense. Milne isn’t a physical specimen, but he’s a very savvy and technical player who will find a way to get open at the next level.
He won’t have to handle a big load early on, but could be the type of player who takes on significant work should the receiver hierarchy in Atlanta shift in the coming years.
Round 5, Pick 183: DT Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech
FOUR FIFTH-ROUND PICKS! That’s the type of value I want to see as the Falcons flesh out the roster. Honestly, this is the pick I’m least jazzed about, but I feel like I can take a flyer at this point in the draft on someone who slipped a bit.
Milton Williams was a very late bloomer, but he has gotten better each year in college and the Falcons need defensive linemen. He’s got some nice athleticism for his size and can fight off blocks. I’m open to giving him a shot and seeing how he’ll develop.
Round 6, Pick 187: OL D’Ante Smith, East Carolina
This is the Matt Gono pick, but I’m a big fan of having a project offensive lineman on the roster to invest in. It’s maybe the position where coaching varies the most, and D’Ante Smith has all of the physical qualities you look for in an offensive tackle.
Whether or not he plays there in the NFL or moves inside is up to whatever team drafts him, but he’s absolutely someone I’d like to stash and develop.
Round 6, Pick 192: CB Shakur Brown, Michigan State
This is another draft pick I snagged during the draft. I really like having many different options in the fifth and sixth rounds, because it’s one of the best times to take a flier. Foye Oluokun, sixth-round pick. Grady Jarrett, fifth-round pick. Russell Gage, sixth-round pick. I love this part of the draft, and Shakur Brown is an example why.
He had only 12 career starts in college, but he played really well in those games and has the athletic traits of a corner who would go much higher. I’m willing to roll the dice here.
Round 6, Pick 219: TE John Bates, Boise State
I’m a big fan of taking tight ends late in the draft, because there are so many variables with that position. With my last pick, I’m taking John Bates, who has everything you’d look for in a tight end. He’s definitely more of the Zach Ertz/Kyle Rudolph type than the Travis Kelce type, but he would be great in a traditional in-line tight end role.
I think better coaching could really make Bates a more polished player, especially as a route runner. Still, he’s an immediate asset on special teams and a good third tight end from the jump, and the Falcons don’t have any sure bets on the roster in 2022 and beyond. He could grow into a real role.
All told, I came out of this draft with 12 new Atlanta Falcons. I think something like that is in play for Atlanta, which should be able to free up cap space to sign these rookies and definitely needs an infusion of cheap, young talent. I intended on going heavy on the defense, but I ended up with six picks for each side of the ball. I’m okay with that, because it’s basically a full draft’s worth of picks for the offense and defense, and the Falcons are focused on adding talent.
Big picture: Atlanta grabs its quarterback of the future and then snags 11 players who should help this team immediately get back into contention.