We’re coming up on less than one month to go until the 2021 NFL Draft! The Falcons have filled a few of their many roster holes in free agency. Players like safety Erik Harris and running back Mike Davis aren’t necessarily world-beaters at their respective positions, but give the team some flexibility to take the best players available in the draft instead of reaching for need.
We’ve also seen a series of massive trades, with the San Francisco 49ers moving up to 3 with the Dolphins. The Dolphins then made another move, swapping with the Eagles at 6. The top 10 picks look a lot different now, and the 4th overall pick is perhaps even more valuable than it used to be. As a result, the buzz around the Falcons potentially trading down has gotten louder and louder over the past week.
With three quarterbacks now virtually guaranteed to go in the first three picks, just how much would QB-needy teams give up to secure their choice at 4? It’s unclear which of the top prospects will still be available, but whether it’s Trey Lance or Justin Fields, at least a few teams will be interested.
Interested in my previous mock drafts? You can check them out below:
For this mock draft scenario, we’re going to assume the Falcons are putting the 4th overall pick up for sale. We’ll try to maximize the value we can get for the pick by considering offers from several teams, including Detroit at 7, Denver at 9, New England at 15, Washington at 19, and Chicago at 20. Who will provide the most compelling compensation, and how far does Atlanta really want to drop?
As always, I’ll be using The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to complete this simulation.
TRADE — Round 1, Pick 19: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Falcons trade pick 4 and pick 183 (5th) to Washington for picks 19, 51 (2nd), 74 (3rd), 124 (4th), and a 2022 1st.
After a massive trade-down with Washington—who makes an ultra-aggressive move for Justin Fields at 4—the Falcons suddenly find themselves armed with a huge war chest of picks, including an additional 1st in 2022. This move signals Atlanta wants to win now, and the best way to do that is to take the best players available. After a bit of a medical scare, Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley has begun to fall slightly in drafts—and this offers a perfect opportunity for the Falcons.
Farley is my top CB prospect in the class. He’s a rare athlete with tremendous size who plays the position very well. As a former wide receiver, he’s a terrific ballhawk with great instincts for the position. Farley is versatile and can play in just about any coverage scheme. He’s got elite CB1 upside and still has room to grow—he’s only played the position for a few years. Farley recently underwent a non-invasive procedure on his back and has dealt with back spasms in the past, which is why some teams have cooled on him as a top-10 prospect. However, I believe he’s a risk worth taking: Farley could be the best defensive player in the class when the dust clears.
Round 2, Pick 35: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
The depth of the 2021 NFL Draft class is from the late-first round into Day 2, and that means some top talents are going to fall out of Round 1. In this scenario, Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins was one of the players who dropped into the second round—and the Falcons pounce on the opportunity to add the versatile defender. Collins is built like an EDGE at 6’4, 260, but has the movement skills of an off-ball linebacker.
There’s very little that Collins can’t do, but he’ll require a creative defensive mind to make full use of his skillset. He can play all over the formation, stuff the run, rush the passer, and drop into coverage if needed. I can’t think of a better match for him than someone like Dean Pees, who loves to move his players around and create chaos for the offense. Collins would immediately bolster the depth at EDGE and LB, and should be an impact player from Day 1.
Round 2, Pick 51: C/G Landon Dickerson, Alabama
Pick acquired from Washington.
With the Falcons reportedly interested in Patriots center David Andrews during the first wave of free agency, it seems clear that the team wants to invest heavily in the offensive line. They missed out on Andrews, but luckily there are a number of intriguing interior offensive lineman on Day 2. Alabama C/G Landon Dickerson could be the solution the team needs at left guard in 2021.
Dickerson has tremendous size (6’5, 333) and is a dominant blocker at the point of attack. He overwhelms opponents with strength and length, and if that should fail, he can lean on exceptional technique and hand usage. Dickerson is a natural leader with a nasty disposition on the line, and his versatility at center is another plus should Matt Hennessy struggle. The concerns with Dickerson are injury-related: he’s missed a ton of time over the past few seasons, with multiple ankle and knee issues. He’ll need to clear medical checks for Atlanta to consider him, but it’s rare to find an offensive lineman this talented on Day 2.
Round 3, Pick 68: RB Michael Carter, North Carolina
The offensive retooling continues with the selection of North Carolina running back Michael Carter. Atlanta added a starting-caliber player in Mike Davis, but he needs a complement—a lightning to his thunder. Carter can be that for the Falcons. While he’s not as electric an athlete as someone like Kenneth Gainwell, he’s a much better RB at this point in his career.
Carter has excellent vision and elusiveness to go along with quality size for the position (5’8, 202). While he’s nothing more than an average athlete in terms of long speed and explosiveness, Carter is exceptionally agile and slippery with the ball in his hands. He’s also an accomplished receiver with plenty of third down pass blocking experience. Carter may not have the sky-high upside of Najee Harris or Travis Etienne, but he’s a perfectly good NFL starter who can be the engine of an offense if needed. He actually reminds me quite a bit of Devonta Freeman, and I think he could have a similar impact in Atlanta.
Round 3, Pick 74: S Andre Cisco, Syracuse
Pick acquired from Washington.
One of my favorite fits for the Falcons on Day 2, Syracuse’s Andre Cisco could have the highest upside of any safety in the class. With 13 interceptions in just 24 games played, he’s an elite ballhawk with a phenomenal nose for the ball. Cisco has also demonstrated impressive range and overall athleticism along with plus size at 6’0, 203. He was a walking playmaker in college who was capable of completely taking over games with his incredible turnover production.
That being said, Cisco is far from a perfect prospect. His ultra-aggressive style led to a number of coverage lapses and big plays allowed. He’s also not a particularly reliable player in man coverage, and his play against the run leaves a lot of be desired. Cisco will need to be coached up and taught to keep his play in check, but you simply can’t teach his ballhawking instincts. At pick 74, Cisco could wind up the best safety in the class—or he could wind up an unreliable starter. He’s a risk, particularly when combined with the season-ending injury he suffered in 2020, but a risk worth taking.
Round 4, Pick 108: EDGE Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
The Falcons got at least a part time edge rusher in the versatile Zaven Collins, but still need high-upside depth. I’m not sure why, but Oregon State EDGE Hamilcar Rashed Jr. seems to be tumbling down draft boards a bit as we approach the draft. He’s firmly in the Day 2 conversation for me, so getting him in Round 4 is an absolute bargain.
Rashed Jr. has good size at 6’3, 254 and is a natural fit as a 3-4 OLB in a Dean Pees defense. He’s capable of lining up and rushing from multiple spots, including as a stand-up rusher and with his hand in the dirt. Rashed Jr. has excellent athletic upside and explosiveness—he’s a pass rusher who can win with both speed and power. He needs a lot of technical refinement and doesn’t have many moves in his repertoire, but his “hair-on-fire” style of play could make him an early contributor as a pass rushing specialist.
Round 4, Pick 124: S James Wiggins, Cincinnati
Pick acquired from Washington.
The Falcons already took a high-upside safety in Andre Cisco, but the position still needs a lot of work. With Cincinnati’s James Wiggins falling this far, the value was simply too good to pass up. Wiggins is a versatile safety prospect with the ability to play deep, in split zones, or in the box. He’s got solid size at 5’11, 210 and put up incredible numbers at his Pro Day: a 4.41 40-yard dash, 38’ vertical jump, and a 10”, 7’ broad jump.
Wiggins is a physical player who can bring the boom as a tackler. He’s also strong in coverage and is an excellent ballhawk, with 5 INTs and 11 PD over the past two seasons. His ability to line up anywhere in the secondary adds to his value, although he still needs work in zone coverage. The issues with Wiggins have primarily been injury-related, as he tore his ACL prior to the 2019 season and had a setback prior to 2020. His athleticism has clearly not been affected, as his testing shows, but it’s worth mentioning and he’ll need to clear medical checks. Still, Wiggins is an absolute bargain at this spot who could thrive as a hybrid safety in Dean Pees’ scheme.
Round 5, Pick 148: DT Khyiris Tonga, BYU
While the Falcons reworked Tyeler Davison’s contract to solve their immediate need for a nose tackle, they’d be wise to save money at the position in future years by going after a young, developmental player. Khyiris Tonga is one of my favorite NT prospects in this class due to his impressive traits and size. He’s begun to creep up draft boards a bit—I have been taking him in the sixth round in recent drafts—but Tonga is still a good value at this point in the draft. Here’s how I described his skillset in a previous mock:
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.
Round 5, Pick 182: QB Jamie Newman, Georgia
The Falcons passed on QB at the top of the draft, which means they’re likely to add a veteran to be Matt Ryan’s immediate backup. However, they could still opt to add a developmental prospect late on Day 3 to see if they can unearth something in the next few years. Georgia’s Jamie Newman is arguably the best of the Day 3 options: he opted out of 2020, which hurt his stock, but he’s got the tools and potential to play in the NFL.
Newman has the physical traits you look for at the NFL level: at 6’3, 235, he’s built like a brick house. He’s got excellent arm strength and is a mobile player in the pocket—there is some dual-threat potential to his game. Technically, Newman is very much a work in progress. His accuracy can be scattershot and his decision making is quite suspect at this point. Newman is not ready to be a starter—or really even a dependable backup—in his rookie season, but has impressive upside if he develops over the next few years. This is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Falcons.
Round 6, Pick 187: CB Kary Vincent Jr., LSU
With a high-impact starter added at the top of the draft, the Falcons are actually in decent shape at cornerback. However, the value on LSU CB Kary Vincent Jr. this late in the draft was simply too good to pass up. Vincent Jr. lacks ideal size at 5’10, 189, but is an impressive athlete with high-end speed—he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at his Pro Day.
Vincent Jr. is a fluid player in coverage with great long speed and agility. He’s also a quality ballhawk with an aggressive style. However, his lack of length likely forces him into a role in the slot at the NFL level. He’s also quite raw in terms of his technique and needs a lot of work, particularly in zone coverage. I wouldn’t expect Vincent Jr. to make an impact in his rookie year, but he’s got the traits to develop into a quality starter at the nickel by his third season.
Round 6, Pick 217: WR Simi Fehoko, Stanford
The Falcons don’t have a tremendous need at wide receiver, but they’d be foolish to leave the draft without taking one in what is an incredibly deep class. There will be early Day 3 talents available late into the sixth and even seventh round, and Atlanta pounces on a falling player to bolster the depth in their receiving corps. Stanford WR Simi Fehoko has tremendous size at 6’3, 222 and pairs it with incredible speed and agility (4.44 40-yard dash and a 6.78 3-cone).
Fehoko, as you might expect from his athletic profile, is a dangerous deep threat. His combination of long speed and size makes him difficult to cover downfield. He needs more experience as a route runner in the short-to-intermediate area, and he’s had some issues with drops throughout his college career. Atlanta has time to coach Sehoko up and get him ready to take on a larger role, and his size profile would be a perfect complement to the players already on the roster.
What are your thoughts on this mock draft scenario for the Falcons? Share your comments and your own mock drafts below!