We’re heading into Week 13 of the 2022 NFL season, and the Atlanta Falcons are sitting at 5-7. Normally, this is the time of year when most teams with that record would be admitting that the playoffs are out of reach. The focus would start to shift towards 2023, especially in terms of coverage. For a multitude of reasons, that’s really not the case for the 2022 Falcons. The NFC South is a disastrous division, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers leading the pack with a 5-6 record.
Atlanta is just a half-game out of first place at this juncture. Clearly, the Bucs aren’t going to run away with this thing. But with the end of the college football season approaching and prospects beginning to declare their intentions for the 2023 NFL Draft, it’s a logical time to start looking at the upcoming offseason.
I promised you all that I would conduct a 2023 mock draft for the Falcons after their next loss, and I’m honoring it after Week 12’s loss to the Washington Commanders. This will be just a four-round mock, as I honestly don’t know much about any of the late-Day 3 prospects at this juncture. However, this mock still features five picks and plenty of intrigue for Atlanta. The team is currently picking 15th, but even that could change fairly drastically based on the outcome of the final five games.
So, please enjoy my inaugural mock draft for 2023, but also understand that this year—perhaps more than any other in recent memory—offers the widest range of outcomes for Atlanta’s season and draft projection. With all that in mind, here’s an early look into a potential draft class for the Falcons!
This is the written version, but you can also find the mock draft in two alternate forms as well. On our YouTube channel:
The mock is also available on all your favorite podcast platforms! You can listen to it directly here:
Round 1, Pick 15: EDGE Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame
The Falcons added a number of intriguing pieces to their EDGE group last season with veteran Lorenzo Carter and Day 2 rookies Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. All three have shown promise and are the beginnings of what could be a quality rotation, but something is still missing: a premier talent. Picking at 15, there’s no “slam dunk” player like Will Anderson. But there is an exceptional one still on the board in Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey.
Foskey has played four seasons for the Fighting Irish, with three as a significant contributor. The senior recently broke Justin Tuck’s all-time sack record at Notre Dame with 25 in his career. Obviously, Foskey is a terrific, consistent pass rusher—he’s got back-to-back seasons with 10 or more sacks. Foskey is an elite athlete with a terrific frame at 6’5, 260, and he’s got the speed and bend to truly threaten the edge. His skillset is versatile, as Foskey can line up all over the formation and can make plays as a run defender. The Falcons benefit from a deep defensive line class and come away with a high-end starter in the middle of the first round.
Round 2, Pick 46: C John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
While Atlanta’s offensive line has made significant strides this season—particularly in the run game—there’s a very notable weak point: center. Whether it’s lapses in pass protection, poor protection calls, or snap issues, Drew Dalman has simply not been able to put it all together this year and looks more like a primary backup. With a weak free agent class, the Falcons might be best served by dipping into the draft for a center once again.
This time, Atlanta takes the top center prospect in the class in Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz. A more perfect offensive line name does not exist. Schmitz is a dominating blocker with a ton of experience, including 23 starts at center. His run blocking is exceptional, with plus strength for power plays and sufficient athleticism for a zone scheme attack. His anchor and ability to identify and set protections make him a consistent and reliable pass protector, as well. Schmitz is a bigger center at 6’4, 320, which could also give him guard flexibility. The one concern here is a lack of high-end athleticism, though I believe he’s got more than enough to execute the concepts Atlanta likes to run.
Round 3, Pick 78: DT Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
The Falcons missed out on the top DT prospects at 15, and I don’t like the value on the interior in the second round. I expect Atlanta to address the defensive interior in free agency with at least one premium signing, but they need multiple contributors there. I’m all-in on rising nose tackle prospect Keeanu Benton from Wisconsin, and wonder if he could end up going even higher than this with a strong Senior Bowl and Combine.
Benton is listed at 6’4, 317, but he looks like he’s in the 320s at least. He carries the weight extremely well and is an explosive mover off the snap. Benton has been incredibly disruptive in 2022, both as a run defender and pass rusher. He’s the rare nose tackle who creates penetration and production on his own: Benton has 10.0 TFL and 4.5 sacks already this season. I love this fit in the third round, as Benton fits Atlanta’s defense and needs perfectly.
Round 4, Pick 114: LB Mohamoud Diabate, Utah
The Falcons invested a significant pick in Troy Andersen in 2022, and you have to believe he’s expected to start going into 2023. Atlanta also still has Mykal Walker under contract for one more year and could easily bring back Rashaan Evans for relatively little cap. While this could be a potential free agency target, I’m always a fan of adding linebackers early on Day 3. This is a position where teams frequently find starters and good rotational players in the middle rounds of the draft.
Utah linebacker Mohamoud Diabate clearly fits the Falcons preferences at linebacker under Dean Pees. He’s got solid size at 6’3, 221 to go along with terrific athleticism and range in coverage. Diabate is an effective blitzer with a background as an edge rusher, and is capable of lining up there on occasion. While he’s a bit light in terms of weight, he’s a physical tackler and run defender who has shown some ability to stack-and-shed. I think upping his weight to around 230 could be a good move to prepare him for the NFL, but Diabate has all the traits along with some impressive production.
Round 4, Pick 124: S Quindell Johnson, Memphis
I like Atlanta’s young safety duo of Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins, but the team has been struggling to find a quality third safety all season. Dean Marlowe was serviceable while here, while Erik Harris has been on-and-off the injury report all season. Finding another young safety to add to the mix has to be up the list—and I wouldn’t rule out Atlanta making a big addition in free agency, either.
Quindell Johnson is an intriguing safety prospect out of Memphis who would seem to check all the boxes for the Falcons. His versatility is exceptional, as he’s spent time in virtually every safety alignment and at slot cornerback and possess good size at 6’1, 195. I also love his physicality and temperament as a run defender, and he’s an extremely reliable tackler. I don’t believe he’s an elite athlete, but he’s above-average and makes up for any deficiencies with his high-level processing and football IQ. Oh, and he’s a ballhawk, with 10 INTs and 24 PD in his career.
What do you think about this potential draft class for the Falcons? Leave some of your own draft takes in the comments below.