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Falcons 2023 mock draft: January Edition

The 2023 offseason is officially underway for the Falcons, who wound up with the 8th overall pick in the draft. It’s time for our next mock draft, as we take you through a potential four-round scenario for Atlanta.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Louisville at Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a long 2022 season filled with ups and downs, we’ve reached the 2023 NFL offseason at last. The Atlanta Falcons absorbed a league-high (and NFL record) $83.6M in dead cap this season in an effort to clean up the financial mess left by the previous regime. As a result, the team will go into 2023 with up to $73.65M in salary cap space—second-most in the NFL—and a full complement of draft picks.

Speaking of those draft picks, it’s time for my second mock draft of the 2023 cycle and first with the Falcons’ final draft position. Atlanta will be picking eighth overall, which is a very familiar spot for this team. I’m still early in my scouting for this class, but at this stage, it’s likely the Falcons will have a lot of quality players to choose from at that spot.

This will be my final four-round mock draft before transitioning into full seven-round mocks. I’m hoping to have access to a more advanced mock draft simulator in the next week or so, which will enable much more realistic mocks—particularly on Day 3. So stay tuned!

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 8: EDGE Myles Murphy, Clemson

Without a doubt, the biggest weakness on the Falcons roster remains the defensive line. Atlanta needs impact players at every single spot, and if one of the top prospects in the class falls to eight, they’d be foolish to pass. That’s exactly what happened in this scenario, as Clemson’s Myles Murphy remained on the board for the Falcons’ pick.

While some fans might panic at the thought of another Clemson edge rusher with the eighth overall pick, Myles Murphy and Vic Beasley couldn’t be more different as prospects. For starters, Murphy is more prototypically-sized and scheme-versatile at a rumored 6’5, 275. That makes him a significantly bigger, more physical presence on the edge than Beasley was. His athletic traits and build actually call to mind 2021 #1 overall pick Travon Walker, although I doubt Murphy matches the athletic thresholds that Walker put up at the Combine.

Even so, Murphy is a fantastic athlete with elite explosiveness and surprising agility for his size. He’s fairly advanced in terms of his pass rush plan and moves at this stage, and has had success rushing from a number of positions and alignments. He’s also an impact run defender who can win on all three downs. Murphy is a potentially top-tier EDGE and would immediately boost the Falcons defensive line.

Round 2, Pick 44: WR Rashee Rice, SMU

While the defense needs the majority of the investment this offseason, there are still a few spots on offense in need of bolstering. One of the biggest is at wide receiver, where the Falcons found their WR1 in Drake London in 2022 but are lacking a dynamic second receiver. Olamide Zaccheaus is likely to return as the WR3, and the presence of Kyle Pitts obviously helps, but Atlanta needs an upgrade to both the starters and the depth.

SMU wide receiver Rashee Rice has been rocketing up draft boards after an exceptional 2022 season, and is in contention to be a late first-round selection. Rice has good size at 6’2, 205 and looks the part of an elite athlete. His plus contact balance and explosiveness make him a threat any time he catches the ball. Plus, Arthur Smith will love the physicality he brings to his blocking assignments. Rice ran a limited route tree at SMU and will take some time to acclimate to the NFL, but he’s a dynamic playmaker who can perfectly complement the skills of Drake London and Kyle Pitts. If Rice falls out of Round 1, Atlanta shouldn’t hesitate to add him here.

Round 3, Pick 75: DT Mazi Smith, Michigan

I expect the Falcons to add multiple defensive linemen in free agency, but one spot where I think they’d be wise to wait until the draft is at nose tackle. This class features a number of good players with high upside, and due to positional value, many will be available in the latter portion of Day 2. Last time, I took a swing on Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton a bit later. This week, we’re going with Michigan’s Mazi Smith.

Smith is a traditional nose tackle with excellent size and overwhelming power at the point of attack. He’s one of the best run defenders in the class and is downright dominant at disrupting run plays. While he’s not an overly impactful pass rusher, Smith is an impressive athlete with impressive burst and lateral mobility for a player of his stature. If the Falcons are looking for someone to control multiple gaps on the interior to free up their linebackers, Smith can get it done. He’ll be an early-down specialist early in his career, but I think there’s upside for him as a pass rusher with continued work on hand technique and pass rush moves.

Round 4, Pick 107: C Luke Wypler, Ohio State

I’ve generally favored targeting a center early in the draft, as I view an upgrade at the pivot as a priority this offseason. In this scenario, both John Michael Schmitz and Sedrick Van Pran (if he declares) were gone before pick 44. Luckily, this is a deep center class, and a very good (and underrated) center is still on the board early on Day 3: Ohio State’s Luke Wypler.

At first glance, Wypler might remind you a bit of Drew Dalman. They have a very similar size profile at 6’3, 300, and both are standout athletes for the position. Wypler is an excellent run blocker who excels when using his athleticism to achieve superior angles and positioning in a zone blocking scheme. He’s an experienced starter with highly-developed technique as both a run blocker and pass protector. I believe Wypler offers better overall pass protection and ability to pick up blitzes compared to Dalman, which is why I’d take a swing at him here. With a weak center class in free agency, taking another early-Day 3 shot at center might be the best option for Atlanta.

Round 4, Pick 110: RB Devon Achane, Texas A&M

I don’t believe running back is a primary need for the Falcons this offseason. However, adding dynamic playmakers to the offense is absolutely a need, and that’s exactly what Texas A&M’s Devon Achane brings to the offense. A former track standout, Achane could be one of the fastest and most explosive athletes in the 2023 class. I wouldn’t be shocked if he times in the low 4.3s, or potentially even high 4.2s.

It’s not just speed, though. Achane is an effective and experienced runner who possesses good vision and surprising patience for a player with so much athleticism. He’s elusive, with quality footwork and balance to stay upright when making his cuts. If he hits the second level, Achane is a home run threat. His burst is special, and you can see the track background when he gets to full speed. Achane isn’t going to be a primary runner—at 5’9, 185, he’s simply not big enough to handle 15+ carries in the NFL. As a complementary back to a bruiser like Tyler Allgeier, however, I think Achane would be absolutely perfect. He’s got some development to do as a receiver, and I’m not sure he’ll ever be a plus pass blocker at his size, but Achane would provide an explosive element to Atlanta’s run game that is currently missing.

What do you think about this potential draft class for the Falcons? Leave some of your own draft takes in the comments below.