We’re hours away from learning who the Falcons will choose at No. 8, assuming they stay at the pick. Months of speculation will be obliterated in moments, and we’ll finally know who the team is adding at the top of what’s expected to be—honestly, what needs to be—an impactful class.
Uncertainty has been a feature of this pre-draft cycle. Where last year the Falcons appeared to be locked into either Kyle Pitts or a quarterback with weeks to go until the draft, this year we’ve gotten no concrete indication of who this team is after. Terry Fontenot said himself that uncertainty in the top seven picks in front of them means the Falcons aren’t sure who they’ll wind up with, even if their board is set.
Here are our final predictions for the pick. We welcome yours, so don’t be shy about your boldest picks!
EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
I will not apologize for putting this into the universe, even if it’s far from a lock that Thibodeaux will be available at No. 8.
The Falcons have needed a difference-making edge rusher for years, and Thibodeaux can be that player. Atlanta has talked about their coaching staff and their confidence in their ability to get the most out of players, and in Thibodeaux they’d be getting a powerful, instinctual pass rusher who is already a good defender against the run and just needs refinement and time to unlock his full potential. I think fears of “the next Vic Beasley” and some barely-there questions about Thibodeaux’s drive have caused people to overthink the best pass rusher in this class, and if he makes it to No. 8, I’m not thinking twice about adding him to the roster and giving this team their best edge rusher since John Abraham. —Dave Choate
S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
It’s hard to really get a gauge on what exactly is going through the minds of Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith right now with where they’re going to go with the eighth pick. The easy answer is that it’s wide open, and it obviously is. They really can’t make a “bad” decision, unless they draft a tight end or punter. I’m going to very shakily guess the player ultimately picked is Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.
Hamilton is the exact kind of player that this team seems to value the most. He’s a bona fide building block you know, most likely, you can count on as you, whether you want to admit it or not, rebuild the roster. The team passed on quarterback Justin Fields last year for unicorn Kyle Pitts, and it’d track for the team to hold its cards, at least for this pick, to invest in a QB with a “safe” player like Hamilton on the board. They know that he’s going to fill a definite need, comes as highly regarded as any player in the draft and will be the exact kind of player they’ll want to have when the days do get better and the team is more competitive. If I had to give you two alternatives, I’d say Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett or Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux. My answer might change in an hour. — Cory Woodroof
WR Drake London, USC
It’s not going to be a widely popular decision, yet the Falcons’ front office hasn’t been hesitant to make unpopular decisions over the past year. How do you think they traded two of the most beloved players in franchise history in the past ten months? As much as Kyle Pitts can line up on the outside, he is best utilized as a tight end, where he can line up in different areas across various formations instead of being purely an outside wide receiver. The Falcons desperately need a wide receiver. With a few of the top edge-rushing prospects already taken, they make the move to take the most intriguing wide receiver in the class.
London has the size, length, catch radius, and explosiveness after the catch to be a true number one wide receiver. How he uses his frame to gain leverage against opposing defensive backs is hugely beneficial for a player with his traits. Arthur Smith’s offense seems best suited for big wide receivers. A.J. Brown developed into one of the most terrifying wide receivers in the league, while Corey Davis had a career year and earned a major payday with the New York Jets during Smith’s tenure as offensive coordinator. London is the type of big-bodied wide receiver that Smith could work wonders with. Between his overall capabilities to how he fits in the offense, this is the move the Falcons will make. Selecting a wide receiver with a top-ten pick is going to frustrate many fans, but it can pay off in the long haul with how special London can be. —Allen Strk
EDGE Jermaine Johnson, FSU
There’s been a ton of smoke that FSU’s Jermaine Johnson won’t make it to 8—and that we could see as many as four EDGE players taken before the Falcons are on the clock. I think that’s a possibility, along with a lot of other possibilities, but the odds-on favorite for Atlanta’s first pick should still be Johnson. The combination of need, value, and fit simply make too much sense.
Johnson is a high-floor, instant impact starter and one of the smartest players I’ve scouted in this class. He’s an incredible run defender and a high-motor pass rusher who demonstrated his athletic gifts with some elite testing at the NFL Combine. Johnson also dominated some of the best competition in college football at the Senior Bowl, where he was far-and-away the best player on the field. If he’s still on the board, Johnson should be the pick for Atlanta. If not, some other good options could be Kyle Hamilton, Jordan Davis, or Malik Willis. —Kevin Knight
DT Jordan Davis, UGA
I planted my flag on this island long ago, and there’s no way I’m leaving now. Spare me your positional value arguments; the goal of the draft is to add good football players to your team, and Jordan Davis is among the very best in this class. He was, in my opinion, the pre-eminent force on the best defense in the country last season, and he can become that for the Falcons as well. Atlanta doesn’t just need to add talent on the defensive side of the ball, they need an identity. Having a player who commands attention every time he’s on the field gives the Falcons a great foundation to then build around.
Davis’s ability as a run stopper will immediately upgrade a unit in need of some area of competency. It should also keep a player like Deion Jones free, hopefully allowing him to return to his early-career form. The pass-rush upside is legitimate, but I honestly think that’s gravy. If Davis can develop into even a reasonable pass rusher, he could be one of the most valuable defensive pieces in the league. Not only because of what he, himself, brings to the table but also because of how he can potentially unlock the other 10 players around him. — Will McFadden