The day has finally come. The 2022 NFL Draft officially starts tonight, and it’s time for my final Atlanta Falcons mock draft. All of our time and energy covering the draft has come down to this simulation. This one is for all the marbles, folks.
OK, not really. The truth is, we don’t really know any more now that we did weeks ago. I’m just going to do the best I can to lay out a possible scenario for the Falcons. At the end of the day, I think we all hope they come away from this weekend with some excellent young players to build this team around.
On that note, make sure you join us tonight for Day 1 of our Falcons Draft Party 2022!
If you missed any of my previous mock drafts, you can find them below:
I once again used The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to conduct this mock. In today’s simulation, I was open to trades, but elected to only consider trades presented to me. I think the chances of a trade actually occurring are low—especially this year, where it seems like everyone is trying to trade down—but in the realm of possibility. Let’s see how the board shakes out for Atlanta in this final mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 8: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
The board fell in a disadvantageous way for the Falcons here, and I fear it could do the same on draft night. Four EDGE players and both top OTs went before pick 8, along with CB Sauce Gardner. That left Atlanta with a difficult choice between QB Malik Willis, DT Jordan Davis, S Kyle Hamilton, or reaching for a wide receiver. I think any of the first three options make sense for this team and could be justified, but I’m going to lean Hamilton here.
Anyone who has followed my draft coverage this offseason should understand why. I view Hamilton as a top-3 talent in this draft class and a true blue-chip player. He is the type of safety that allows you to completely change your defense. Hamilton’s size gives you the flexibility to play more “big nickel” looks, if that’s your preference, and he’s the rare safety who can match up with tight ends in man coverage. Sure, his 4.59s 40 isn’t exactly eye-popping (though it should be noted that he’s still an elite athlete with a 9.33 RAS), and it might be cause for a little concern if the instincts were in question. The instincts are not in question—Hamilton is one of the most instinctual players I’ve ever scouted.
Hamilton won’t ever be an elite single-high safety, but the Falcons don’t play much Cover 1 anyway. He’ll excel in Cover 2, split-zone, and interchangeable looks and can play an enforcer role in the box. Hamilton is a playmaker, plain and simple, and he’d give Atlanta’s defense the elite talent that they’re sorely lacking.
Round 2, Pick 43: WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State
The Falcons elect to pass on receiver at 8 in the hopes that a high-level talent will remain on the board at 43. It’s a bit of a risky proposition, but it pays off in this simulation with North Dakota State’s Christian Watson remaining on the board. He’ll be somewhat limited in his route tree as a rookie, but Watson has ridiculous long-term upside that fits in nicely with Atlanta’s competitive timeline. Here’s how I described Watson in my positional rankings:
The biggest winner among the receivers at the Senior Bowl, Christian Watson cemented himself as a potential WR1 prospect by demonstrating his incredible long speed and measuring in at a legit 6’4, 215. This is an elite athlete with a WR1 frame. Watson has extremely high upside and looks tailor-made for Arthur Smith’s offense. NDSU ran the ball a ton this season, and Watson is an accomplished and willing blocker. He can potentially help you all over the field—both outside and in the slot. The primary issue is Watson’s undeveloped route tree: he’ll be a deep ball specialist early in his career. Patience will be needed as Watson grows his game, but he’s got a sky-high ceiling in the NFL.
Round 2, Pick 58: DT DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
Pick received from Titans.
While the Falcons got an impact defender at the top of the draft, they still need a lot of defensive line help. The value at EDGE isn’t quite as good as on the interior here, so this selection goes to sliding DT DeMarvin Leal from Texas A&M. His stock has cooled significantly over the pre-draft process, but I still see him as an high-end interior pass rusher and potential inside/outside contributor. Here’s how I described Leal in my positional rankings:
Leal is not your typical DT or EDGE. At 6’4, 283, he’s firmly in the middle—and Texas A&M used him that way. In any given game, you’ll see Leal lined up at 3T, 1T, 5T, EDGE, you name it. Leal is a good athlete with plus strength and speed for his size. On base downs, he can overwhelm tackles as a run-stuffing 5T and still provide better pass rush juice than run specialists. In passing situations, he should be used as an explosive, penetrating 3T that can push the pocket and win with both speed and power. There are limitations to his game, and Leal didn’t test out quite as well as expected. He’ll need a versatile, inside/outside role at the NFL level, but I think Leal can be an impact player if deployed properly.
Round 3, Pick 74: EDGE Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma
The Falcons can’t afford to wait on EDGE any longer, but luckily a terrific prospect is still on the board at 74 in Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto. He’s an ideal fit in Atlanta’s scheme and offers a ton of pass rushing upside to a defense that lacks an impact speed rusher. Here’s how I described Bonitto in my positional rankings:
Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto isn’t your typical EDGE—at 6’3, 248, he’s a 3-4 OLB only and is best rushing from a stand-up position. But Bonitto also offers more than a traditional hand-in-the-dirt player, as he’s an asset in zone coverage and even offers ability as an off-ball linebacker. Bonitto is a dynamic athlete who also plays well above his weight as a run defender. He sets the edge very well and has impressive strength and tackling ability. As a pass rusher, Bonitto has excellent bend and explosiveness off the snap. He has a variety of pass rush moves and is technically advanced with his hands and football IQ.
Round 3, Pick 82: G Ed Ingram, LSU
I’ve generally shied away from taking an interior offensive lineman in my mock drafts because the Falcons have already sunk three picks into the position over the past two drafts. However, based on how things have gone in free agency—no meaningful veteran additions at guard, but two at tackle—it seems like I may have been wrong in that assumption. Let’s correct that by taking a swing on a rock-solid Day 1 starter in LSU’s Ed Ingram. Here’s how I described Ingram in my positional rankings:
A versatile, pro-ready guard prospect, LSU’s Ed Ingram should be high on Atlanta’s list. Ingram checks a lot of boxes: he’s got good size (over 6’3, 307), possesses sufficient athleticism for the wide-zone blocking scheme, and has experience at both left and right guard. Ingram is strong and physical at the point of attack, making him a plus run blocker. He uses that strength well in pass protection, too, and couples it with a lot of experience and a controlled style of play. Ingram doesn’t have the ceiling of some of the players drafted ahead of him, but he’s a high-floor prospect who can be relied upon to start in his rookie season.
Round 4, Pick 114: RB Dameon Pierce, Florida
The early-Day 3 range seems to be the sweet spot for running back in this class, and I think the Falcons have their sights set on adding someone who can bolster the rushing attack in what should be a more balanced offense in 2022. In my mind, Florida’s Dameon Pierce is perfect for the role—though I know some prefer a bigger bruiser like Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr. Here’s how I described Pierce in my positional rankings:
Truthfully, I hadn’t paid much attention to Florida’s Dameon Pierce before the Senior Bowl. But the show he put on in Mobile demanded a film study, and I came away very impressed by Pierce and puzzled by his lack of usage in college. Pierce is a well-rounded runner and pass catcher with a compact, thick frame (5’9, 220) perfect for the position. He was the biggest standout at the Senior Bowl, showing off a versatile skillset as both a physical, elusive runner and as a quality pass-catcher. He runs with an aggressive style that is a joy to watch, and his effort on each and every carry is unmatched. I think Pierce can be a RB1 at the NFL level, but he’s a quality RB2 at worst and can fill any role in a committee.
Round 5, Pick 151: TE Daniel Bellinger, San Diego State
The Falcons have addressed a lot of needs thus far, so let’s keep going on that trend. While Atlanta added a quality receiving complement to Kyle Pitts in former Titan Anthony Firkser, there’s a distinct lack of blocking chops in the TE corps. Parker Hesse is solid and probably deserves a look, but his receiving upside is very limited. The best way forward is a dual-threat TE2 who offers good receiving and blocking ability, and that’s exactly what you can get from San Diego State’s Daniel Bellinger. Here’s how I described Bellinger in my positional rankings:
One of the best blocking tight ends in the class, San Diego State’s Daniel Bellinger wasn’t expected to be a standout at the Senior Bowl in the receiving department. But that’s exactly what happened, as Bellinger had one of the best weeks of any TE. He was peppered with targets from all the QBs and looked like a better athlete and more polished pass-catcher than his tape suggested. Bellinger can be an immediate contributor as a blocking specialist, but his upside as a receiver and elite athletic testing at the Combine gives him the profile of a productive dual-threat TE2 at the NFL level.
Round 6, Pick 190: LB Micah McFadden, Indiana
While linebacker was originally anticipated to be a much bigger need after the departure of Foyesade Oluokun, it’s been adequately addressed for 2022 with the addition of veteran Rashaan Evans. Obviously, things could change if there’s a post-June 1st trade involving Deion Jones, but even then the team still has Mykal Walker to lean on. Atlanta could use more depth and long-term potential at the position, and that’s where one of my favorite Day 3 targets comes in: Indiana LB Micah McFadden. Here’s how I described McFadden in my positional rankings:
Indiana’s Micah McFadden has long been one of my targets due to his tremendous production as a blitzer. McFadden was an elite disruptor, with 6.5 sacks and 15.5 TFL along with 77 total tackles (49 solo) in 2021. He’s also got solid ball production in zone coverage, with 4 career INTs. McFadden is a good tackler and plays with excellent effort. He also showcases strong instincts and quick read-and-react ability as a run defender. However, despite McFadden’s testing, he looks a little stiff in terms of his lateral mobility on tape. McFadden also has trouble shedding blocks due to below-average arm length, and needs to be covered up by a quality defensive front. Even with these limitations to his game, McFadden should be no worse than a special teams demon and quality rotational linebacker.
Round 6, Pick 213: WR Michael Woods II, Oklahoma
Compensatory pick from Alex Mack.
Another repeat pick from a previous mock draft, I just think the fit and need line up nicely with Oklahoma’s Michael Woods II. Atlanta will undoubtedly be scouring the UDFA market for talent, but they might as well use this pick to get a top choice in the building. Woods has potential and looks the part of an early impact player on special teams. Here’s how I described him in that mock draft:
Oklahoma’s Michael Woods II is intriguing, with an NFL-ready 6’1, 200 frame that gives him the flexibility to play both on the outside and in the slot. Woods had a down year at Oklahoma after transferring from Arkansas, but has shown flashes of dominance as a deep threat and is physical in contested-catch situations. Woods plays hard and is nasty as a run blocker, and I think he could wind up having a much better NFL career than expected. This late in the draft, his upside as a potential WR3 and special teamer is enticing.
What are your thoughts on this mock draft class for the Falcons? Post your own mock drafts in the comments below!