The 2021 regular season has come to a close, and things went about as well as possible for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 18 if you were rooting for a higher draft pick. With Seattle and Washington winning and Atlanta falling to 7-10 with a loss to the Saints, the Falcons jumped up to the 8th overall pick. While that might not matter much in terms of the players available to the team, it could matter a whole lot if the team is considering a trade down.
There’s still a lot we’ve let to learn this offseason. Potential trades of players like Calvin Ridley and Deion Jones could create roster holes and cap space, but could also net additional draft assets for the team. Free agency is still yet to arrive, where Atlanta is likely to have room to make a handful of mid-range signings. All of these factors will have big impacts on Atlanta’s draft strategy. But for now, we’ll continue doing mock drafts with things more or less up in the air.
I once again used The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to conduct this mock. Now that the top half of the draft order has been set, I’ll once again consider trades. Let’s see how the board falls for the Falcons.
TRADE — Round 1, Pick 11: OL Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
Falcons trade pick 8 to Washington for picks 11 and 42 (2nd).
With the Panthers electing to pass on Kenny Pickett at 6, a cavalcade of offers came in for the 8th overall pick. If Atlanta wants to trade down, this would be the best case scenario. After entertaining offers from Denver (very minimal return), Washington, and Pittsburgh (good return but a drop all the way to 20), I elected to take Washington’s offer of a high second-round pick to move back just three spots to 11.
With the usual suspects off the board here, the Falcons take the best player available in Texas A&M offensive lineman Kenyon Green. Green is a massive (6’4, 325) lineman with absurd strength, a nasty temperament, and standout athleticism for his size. He is an absolute mauler in the run game and a stone wall in pass protection on the interior. However, Green does offer a great deal of versatility: he’s played LG, RG, LT, and RT during his time at Texas A&M.
While I think Green projects best as a guard—where he has an All-Pro ceiling—he can potentially start at right tackle if needed. His lack of elite mobility and length on the outside does limit his upside there, but he’s more than capable of manning the position. For the Falcons, I’d stick Green at left guard as a rookie and consider a move to right tackle if the need arises. He’s a high-floor, high-ceiling prospect that would give Atlanta a massive boost in both run blocking and pass protection.
Round 2, Pick 42: QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Pick received from WFT.
Armed with an additional second-round pick, the Falcons have the opportunity to take a player or position that they may not have otherwise considered. While this pick is certain to inflame some, please try to hear me out. At the top of the second round, Atlanta decides to take a shot on a toolsy quarterback prospect in Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. At 6’4, 215, Ridder has excellent size, a strong arm, and offers legitimate dual-threat ability.
Ridder is a four-year starter for Cincinnati and improved every year as a passer, culminating in a fantastic 2021 season that saw him complete 64.9% of his passes for 3334 yards (8.6 YPA), 30 TDs, and 8 INTs. He also demonstrated quality rushing ability, averaging 4.4 YPC over his career and piling up 28 TDs on the ground. Ridder is a team leader and fierce competitor, and led his team to an impressive 13-1 record and CFP appearance this season. Even though Cincy was taken down by Alabama, Ridder deserves credit for getting them that far—something no G5 quarterback had ever done.
Ridder’s traits and steady year-over-year improvement make him a very intriguing QB prospect, especially if he’s able to sit for a year behind Matt Ryan. The Falcons will need to find their quarterback of the future soon, and taking a shot here with an extra second-round pick makes a ton of sense. Smith and Fontenot will have a year to evaluate Ridder before deciding on going after a franchise QB high in 2023. If Ridder looks promising, the Falcons can move Ryan next year and use those picks to continue to build up the roster. If not, they’re only out an extra second-round pick that they netted from a small trade-down and should still have a quality long-term backup. The chance that Ridder can hit is worth the risk—and his skillset is an ideal fit for Smith’s offense.
Round 2, Pick 43: EDGE Logan Hall, Houston
With the second of their back-to-back second-rounders, Atlanta needs to address the biggest hole on the roster: EDGE. Luckily, this class is chock full of quality players, and a late riser in Houston’s Logan Hall is still on the board. Hall is a prototypical scheme-versatile edge defender for the NFL game, with an insanely long and muscular 6’6, 275 frame. He pairs that size with incredible explosiveness and power, and he made significant strides in terms of technique in 2021.
Hall was deployed all over the defensive line for Houston and showcased exceptional versatility. At the NFL level, he’s likely best served as a 3-down edge rusher who can also provide pass rushing ability from the interior in nickel situations. Hall is athletic enough to rush from a stand-up position but might be best at the 5T in 3-4 alignments. He’s shown ways to win with athleticism, strength, and technique as both a pass rusher and run defender, and shouldn’t have any issues translating that to the NFL. Hall put up 13.0 TFL and 6.0 sacks in 12 games in 2021, and I think his best football is still ahead of him.
Round 2, Pick 63: WR Alec Pierce, Cincinnati
Pick received from Titans.
The Falcons have tackled several of their biggest needs thus far, which gives them a little more flexibility to take a bit of a luxury pick here. With a young QB in Desmond Ridder coming in, it’s always nice to make him feel comfortable by bringing in a familiar weapon. It just so happens that Cincinnati WR Alec Pierce is a good value here and is exactly the type of receiver Arthur Smith covets: big, athletic, and with excellent hands.
At 6’3, 213, Pierce has a big frame, long arms, and the strength to make an impact as a blocker in both the run and screen game. Pierce is a very good athlete for his size, with quality long speed and surprising agility. His route running is advanced and nuanced, which could give him an immediate role in the offense. Pierce’s best traits are his hands and catch radius, and his tape is littered with circus catches. I think Pierce is an ideal WR2 at the NFL level who can win in any way you need, whether that’s short, intermediate, or deep.
Round 3, Pick 74: CB Mario Goodrich, Clemson
The Falcons have a lot of decisions to make at cornerback heading into 2022. As a whole, the unit was solid—A.J. Terrell was one of the best CB1s in the NFL, Fabian Moreau was a serviceable if unspectacular CB2, and Isaiah Oliver was playing great in the slot before his injury. There’s a chance Moreau and Oliver return on affordable contracts, but even so, the team would do well to continue adding talent to the position. Finding a long-term CB2 (on a rookie contract) who’s an upgrade over Moreau would be nice, and that’s what the team is hoping for in Clemson’s Mario Goodrich.
A late bloomer, Goodrich played a rotational role for much of his college career before seizing a starting spot in 2021. Across from an elite talent in Andrew Booth, Goodrich was targeted a lot—and he came through with a strong season. Goodrich has good size at 6’0, 190 and pairs it with quality athleticism. He played particularly well in zone coverage, where his instincts and closing speed helped him generate 9 PBUs and 2 INTs this year. As a run defender and tackler, Goodrich stands out. He’s physical, aggressive, and takes good angles to the ball. As just a one-year starter, there’s a lot of potential for Goodrich to continue to grow—particularly in man coverage. I like Goodrich as quality CB2 and a long-term running mate for A.J. Terrell.
Round 4, Pick 111: RB Hassan Haskins, Michigan
I’m going to work under the assumption that the Falcons re-sign Cordarrelle Patterson and Qadree Ollison while cutting Mike Davis—which is a virtual certainty for cap reasons. With those two returning, Atlanta has a dynamic backfield weapon and a solid rotational option. What the team is lacking is a true rushing threat—someone who can take the bulk of the carries while freeing up Patterson for a matchup-based role. Michigan’s Hassan Haskins would be perfect for that role, and could be available early on Day 3.
Haskins was a quality part of a backfield rotation for Michigan up until 2021, where he seized control of the workhorse role. He took advantage of the added volume, piling up 1327 yards on 270 carries (4.9 YPC) along with 20 rushing TDs. Arthur Smith clearly has a preference for big physical backs, and Haskins fits the bill at 6’1, 220. Haskins is a bruising, decisive runner who excels between the tackles. While he’s not a dynamic athlete, he’s got enough speed and agility to pick up extra yards when available.
While Haskins isn’t much of a passing game threat, he is a good pass protector and offers reliable hands as a dump-off option. As a short-yardage and early down volume runner, Haskins can take over an important part of the rotation for Atlanta and provide an upgrade over Mike Davis for a fraction of the salary.
Round 5, Pick 149: EDGE Boye Mafe, Minnesota
The Falcons added an impact edge rusher in Logan Hall earlier in the draft, but they’d be wise to invest in another developmental prospect in this deep class. Minnesota’s Boye Mafe is a player I’ve already mocked to the Falcons, and for good reason: he’s got great size at 6’4, 265 and outstanding athletic traits to succeed as a 3-4 OLB. Here’s how I described his game in a previous mock:
Mafe is mostly traits at this point—although he had his most productive season in 2021 with 10.0 TFL and 7.0 sacks—but those traits are enticing. His athleticism is exceptional, with the ability to turn the corner, explode off the ball, and chase down plays from the backside. You also have to love his non-stop motor and relentless style of play. Mafe is still very raw in most facets: he can have trouble diagnosing plays and biting on play-action, and lacks an arsenal of counters and block-shedding moves. It’s going to take time for him to find his footing in the NFL, but the ceiling of a starter is clearly there for Mafe.
Round 6, Pick 190: S Bryan Cook, Cincinnati
Atlanta’s safety room could potentially look very different in 2022, with starters Erik Harris and Duron Harmon slated to hit free agency this offseason. It wouldn’t shock me if one or both returned to the team on cheap contracts, but Atlanta is probably hoping for Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins to take over the starting jobs this season. It’s wise to continue acquiring quality depth, however, and that’s exactly what Cincinnati’s Bryan Cook offers.
Cook is a versatile safety prospect with good size at 6’1, 200. He aligned pretty much everywhere in the secondary, making him a valuable depth piece who can back up any spot. Cook is a good athlete with the range to play deep, but also the physicality to drop down into the box. Some of his best work comes against the run, as he doesn’t shy away from contact and takes smart angles to the play. Cook spent most of his time in a depth role for Cincinnati and only got to start in 2021. As a result, he’s got room to grow—particularly in coverage. Cook can provide valuable, affordable depth and special teams ability as a rookie, and I think he’s got the potential to develop into a solid starter in time.
What are your thoughts on this mock draft class for the Falcons? Post your own way-too-early mock drafts in the comments below!