The Atlanta Falcons have officially been eliminated from playoff contention after their loss to the Bills, and are now sitting at 7-9 with one game remaining. A final matchup against the hated Saints awaits, and it could legitimately go either way. Depending on what happens with the Falcons and other teams, Atlanta could end up as high as 7th or as low as 13th in the 2022 NFL Draft order.
With the dreams of a possible 7th seed ending unceremoniously, it’s time to officially turn our eyes towards the draft. We have a very clear idea of the biggest needs on the team: OL, EDGE, offensive weapons, LB. Some of these needs will have to be addressed in free agency, where the Falcons will have a little space. Most will have to be settled in the draft.
I once again used The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to conduct this mock. I’m going to go without trades once again this week and will return to considering trades once the draft order has been finalized. That means Atlanta has eight selections—let’s see what we can do with them.
Round 1, Pick 10: EDGE George Karlaftis, Purdue
The top-10 was a little different this time around, with two teams (Carolina, Washington) selecting QBs and two CBs going off the board as well. That led to a player falling to the Falcons that we’ve rarely seen—but if he’s available, Fontenot should absolutely sprint to the podium. Purdue EDGE George Karlaftis is the most technically refined pass rusher in this year’s class, which makes him very dangerous when combined with his explosiveness and raw power off the snap.
At 6’4, 275, Karlaftis is a big-bodied edge rusher who is more than capable of holding his own against OTs in the run game. However, he’s athletic enough to play as either a stand-up or hand-in-the dirt rusher and has plenty of experience in both roles. Karlaftis is primarily a power rusher, and his strength and burst off the snap are capable of immediately dominating opponents. Combine that with his hand usage, impressive arsenal of moves, and tremendous football IQ and you’ve got a Day 1 impact starter on your hands. His ceiling isn’t as sky-high as the top two prospects in Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson, but his floor might be the highest in the class.
Round 2, Pick 45: WR John Metchie III, Alabama
With a run on offensive linemen just before Atlanta’s second pick, I had to consider other positions to bolster the offense. While the OL is undoubtedly the biggest issue, the Falcons definitely need to add more weapons for Ryan. Luckily, one of the top receivers in this year’s class is still available: Alabama WR John Metchie III. Metchie would probably have been a first-round pick if he played anywhere other than Alabama. Instead, he’s had to split reps with other first-round talents in basically every year of his career.
Metchie has good size at 6’0, 195, and his thicker stature allows him to play a versatile role in the offense. Outside, in the slot, in the backfield on gadget plays, screens—Metchie can do it all at a high level. He’s likely to test out as an elite athlete, and that combined with his advanced technical skills and route tree will make him an instant-impact starter in the NFL. Metchie’s one big area of improvement is his hands: while not bad in this area, he has some drops on tape and didn’t always track the ball well downfield. The Falcons need a dynamic short-yardage outlet for Ryan, and Metchie can immediately fill that void.
Round 2, Pick 63: EDGE Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina
Pick received from Titans.
In a very deep EDGE class, I think it’s entirely possible that the Falcons elect to double-dip at EDGE. This was arguably the weakest position on the entire depth chart in 2021, and it needs a massive infusion of talent. With limited cap space, the best option is likely adding multiple players via the draft. If someone like South Carolina’s Kingsley Enagbare is still available this late, Atlanta should pounce on the opportunity to completely remake their depth chart at edge.
Enagbare is a big-bodied and versatile EDGE with a long 6’4, 265 pound frame. Much like Karlaftis, Enagbare carries the weight extremely well and has thrived in a hybrid role, taking snaps as both a hand-in-the-dirt and stand-up player. Enagbare is explosive and strong, and has shown flashes of dominance to overwhelm opposing tackles. Unlike Karlaftis, Enagbare is more raw technically and doesn’t make as many plus plays against the run. However, it’s not a strength or length issue, so I think he can be coached up to become a true 3-down player. Enagbare is a great value pick here and could potentially form a very good duo with Karlaftis for the next four seasons.
Round 3, Pick 79: RB Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
I’m hopeful that the Falcons will re-sign RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson this offseason to give the offense some stability and a reliable playmaker. Even if they do, they need to add another impact player at running back to take some of the load off Patterson. Mike Davis is a possible cut candidate due to his cap savings, so the depth chart may be even more bare by the time the draft rolls around.
UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet definitely fits the mold of what Arthur Smith likes: big, physical, decisive, and nasty. Charbonnet is 6’1, 220 and he plays like it—he’s a bruising runner with excellent contact balance and is capable of running straight through weaker defenders. His vision and instincts with the football are very good, making him a trustworthy short-yardage and red zone weapon. Athletically, his long speed and elusiveness are merely average—but for a player of his size, that’s more than sufficient. Charbonnet may get overlooked because he’s not a flashy runner and his receiving ability isn’t overly special, but he’s got the potential to be a long-term plus starter who handles the bulk of the work on the ground.
Round 4, Pick 114: LB Quay Walker, Georgia
The Falcons will almost certainly be moving on from linebacker Deion Jones this offseason via trade—though with how the second half of Jones’ season has gone, they might get very little compensation in return. In that case, Foye Oluokun is likely to get a sizable extension and Mykal Walker will slot into the starting job next to him. However, the team needs to continue adding depth and upside, and Georgia LB Quay Walker is the perfect candidate early on Day 3.
Walker has excellent size at 6’3, 240 and looks like an elite athlete on tape. He’s long and strong, and is capable of taking on blocks and stonewalling opposing runners in space. In coverage, he has all the tools to be a difference-maker and has the ability to play man coverage against TEs. The questions with Walker come from his limited experience and production: he became a starter in 2020 and didn’t really take off until this season. Walker is a high-upside prospect and a tremendous value this late in the draft.
Round 5, Pick 152: G Emil Ekiyor, Alabama
The Falcons missed out on adding offensive line help earlier in the draft, so they’ll likely be looking hard at available free agents. However, there’s still opportunity to add depth and potential, and Alabama’s Emil Ekiyor has potential starting upside at the NFL level. At 6’2, 324, Ekiyor lacks length but makes up for it with a strong lower half. He uses his shorter stature to his advantage, playing with good leverage and an impressive anchor in pass protection.
Ekiyor isn’t particularly flashy and lacks elite mobility. However, he’s more than sufficient and has enough ability in space to succeed on the interior. His biggest strengths are his advanced hand usage and football IQ—he’s a very smart player who understands his assignment and picks up blitzes well. His lack of length and average athletic ability won’t help him stand out, but Ekiyor is a high-floor player who should be able to provide reliable snaps at right or left guard.
Round 6, Pick 188: TE Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
The Falcons still need to add weapons, and the need for another TE could be significant if Hayden Hurst departs in free agency. While the impact, TE1-types all went much earlier in the draft, there’s still a quality TE2 candidate in Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar. A big-bodied traditional tight end, Kolar is 6’6, 260 with excellent length. He’s an aggressive player who brings a nasty attitude to his work as a blocker and receiver.
Kolar’s best attribute is his ability to catch the football. He’s got strong hands, a massive catch radius, and a very competitive demeanor at the catch point. Kolar is an expert at bodying smaller defenders and winning contested-catch situations, and is fearless over the middle. Which is good, because he’s nothing special as an athlete and doesn’t separate particularly well. He’s also fairly average as a blocker and absolutely must get stronger to make an impact there at the NFL level. Kolar is a complementary piece who can provide quality receiving ability in short yardage and in the red zone—he piled up 23 TDs over the previous 3 seasons.
Round 6, Pick 212: WR Jaquarii Roberson, Wake Forest
This late in the draft, you’re looking to find the best contributors and depth pieces available. Luckily, one of my favorite late-round receivers is still on the board: Wake Forest’s Jaquarii Roberson. I previously mocked him to the Falcons, and here’s how I described his skillset:
Roberson has come on strong over the final two seasons of his career, acting as one of the primary threats for Wake Forest. He’s piled up 71 receptions for 1078 yards (15.2 YPR) and 8 TDs in 2021, showcasing his ability to consistently produce. Roberson isn’t elite in terms of long speed, but he’s quick and slippery with the ball in his hands. He’s a dynamic YAC threat and runs crisp routes to all levels of the field. Roberson doesn’t have great size (6’1, 180) and can struggle in contested-catch situations as a result, but he offers a skillset that the Falcons are currently lacking. I love his upside as a potential WR3/4 this late in the draft.
What are your thoughts on this mock draft class for the Falcons? Post your own way-too-early mock drafts in the comments below!