The 2022 NFL Draft approaches, as we’re now just a few weeks away from the festivities in Las Vegas. You’ve seen me conduct a number of mock drafts for the Atlanta Falcons using The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to simulate the other picks, but we’re going to go in a bit of a different direction with this one. That’s right, it’s time for our yearly SB Nation community mock draft, where writers for each of our team sites make the first-round picks.
I always enjoy these, as it tends to produce different—and often very entertaining—results compared to the simulators. It’s also a good way to see which players and positions fans of the other teams are hoping to select. With the Falcons picking at 8, there’s a bit more intrigue involved in the process compared to last season.
Before we get to my pick, let’s run down the first seven selections.
Pick 1, Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
Pick 2, Detroit Lions: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
Pick 3, Houston Texans: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Pick 4, New York Jets: OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
Pick 5, New York Giants: OT Evan Neal, Alabama
Pick 6, Carolina Panthers: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Pick 7, New York Giants: CB Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati
If you read the headline, you know who I’m taking for the Falcons:
Pick 8, Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State
The way the board fell made this pick pretty easy. My other top targets at this spot—Kyle Hamilton, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Ikem Ekwonu, and Malik Willis—were all off the board. That left Jermaine Johnson comfortably at the top, with Travon Walker, Charles Cross, and Jordan Davis the other players in consideration.
I went with Johnson because I believe he’s a really, really good player who will make an immediate impact for the Falcons. He’s the first piece in what is likely a multi-year retooling of the edge group. While Johnson lacks the sky-high pass rushing ceiling of the top players in the class, he’s an elite run defender with a very good floor at the position. I don’t think we’ll ever see Johnson pushing 12-15 sacks in a season, but if he gets 10 reliably and adds a ton of production against the run? That’s still a great player and a worthy eighth overall pick.
Johnson wins with a combination of power, explosiveness, and technique that makes him scheme-versatile and one of the most pro-ready players in the class. He continued to improve every week at FSU, and capped his season with an incredibly dominant Senior Bowl performance. Johnson was legitimately the best player in Mobile, and it wasn’t close.
This is the first step in the new direction of the Falcons—a direction that I believe is going to rely more on defense and a balanced offensive attack. Gone are the days of the high-volume passing game with Matt Ryan and the ability of this team to win shootouts with a porous defense. If the Falcons want to compete in the near future, they’ll need a much-improved defense to keep the score manageable. Johnson helps get that ball rolling immediately.
What do you think of the selection of Jermaine Johnson at 8 for the Falcons?
Best players remaining:
- Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
- Charles Cross, T, Mississippi State
- Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
- George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
- Drake London, WR, USC