With the Atlanta Falcons fully thrust into rebuild mode, it’s plausible that any position besides tight end or a specialist could be the pick at eight.
Mel Kiper, ESPN’s longtime draft stalwart, has unveiled his latest mock draft, which focuses on Atlanta adding to its nearly barren wide receivers room with Ohio State wideout Garrett Wilson.
So long, Matt Ryan. That means the Falcons will go with a quarterback here, right? Not necessarily. They have one of the league’s worst rosters and could try to get by with Marcus Mariota for a season before going all-in for a passer in the 2023 draft. There’s no guarantee they love Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett enough to take one of them with a top-10 pick. And based on where they are in my rankings — Nos. 19 and 20 — I wouldn’t, either. This is a team that is a long ways from competing, so it shouldn’t force the pick.
Atlanta could go with the best prospect available and fill a need position with Wilson, a field-stretcher who had 113 catches and 18 touchdowns for the Buckeyes over the past two seasons. He ran a speedy 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the combine. With Calvin Ridley suspended for the season, the Falcons don’t have any starting-caliber receivers on their roster to catch Mariota’s passes.
Wilson would certainly fit the bill for a glaring need filled on the Falcons’ roster, though some argue that players like USC’s Drake London, Wilson’s Buckeye teammate Chris Olave or Arkansas’s Treylon Burks will supplant Wilson as the draft’s top target. It’s almost impossible to know in a class like this without a true lock to be taken first like last year’s Ja’Marr Chase, and it may depend on the preference of the teams lining up to draft them.
Our Kevin Knights offered some thoughts on Wilson ahead of the combine.
Even though I prefer Olave—particularly for the Falcons—I still think Garrett Wilson is a very good receiver with clear WR1 upside. Primarily playing out of the slot, Wilson has a solid frame (6’0, 190) and a dynamic athletic profile that enables him to dominate with his run-after-catch and route-running ability. Unlike Olave, who excelled in the intermediate-to-deep area, Wilson is a short-to-intermediate specialist who thrives on manufactured touches and quick-hitting plays. That area of the field is a specific need for the Falcons, but I’m not sure how well Wilson profiles on the outside. Slot receiver is typically not an area of emphasis for Arthur Smith’s offense, but Wilson is a talented enough player that you should probably find some sort of multiple role for him.
Picking Wilson would obviously make the Falcons feel a little bit better about the receivers room, with more picks to supplant depth there possible and affordable free agents almost a necessity right now to get veteran presences in a room that lacks them.
Obviously, mock drafts have as much impact on actual drafts as fan fiction does on movie scripts, so take this all as a hypothetical and not gospel.
The Falcons really could go any way here in about a month with its top pick, and it’d be hard to knock any selection, though this class certainly doesn’t lend itself to taking another tight end and punter at No. 8 is a bit rich. Keep fiddling with your own mock drafts and let us know below what you think about the possibility of Wilson landing in Atlanta.