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Daniel Jeremiah’s first 2023 NFL mock draft: Falcons draft an EDGE

The Falcons pass on C.J. Stroud to select a pass rusher.

2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Falcons are facing the big question faced every offseason: What should the team do at the top of the draft? Each year we wonder if Atlanta finally goes quarterback. For the last two seasons, Terry Fontenot has grabbed the top offensive weapons at their respective positions in Kyle Pitts and Drake London.

This year, there are seemingly countless directions to go with some young building blocks in place. The Falcons could go in a number of directions but aren’t forced to go anywhere. To even further support that, Fontenot’s M.O. should be to use the gobs of cap space to fill any remaining roster holes as best as possible.

For instance, the Falcons could use a quarterback. They don’t need a quarterback — Ridder seems to have enough juice to give him the 2023 season. But if there is an opportunity to land a franchise passer, Fontenot can certainly go best-player available and snag one. It is the drafting flexibility Atlanta can finally utilize.

What’s the plan for the 2023 NFL Draft? The NFL’s Daniel Jeremiah thinks the Falcons go with an EDGE.

Lukas Van Ness, Edge

Van Ness is extremely explosive and has the versatility to play up and down the line. He is a finisher as a pass rusher and he can overpower blockers in the run game. He should test very well in the spring.

First, Jeremiah has the Falcons making a few surprising moves. That includes passing on Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, who falls to the Carolina Panthers at 9. A few other players make a whole lot of sense, like UGA OT Broderick Jones, Penn CB Joey Porter, Jr., Florida IOL O’Cyrus Torrence, and other EDGE players like UGA’s Nolan Smith and Clemson’s Myles Murphy.

For Van Ness, he’s got everything you really want at an elite level: size, speed, explosiveness, length and flexibility. It is like you built him on Madden at (an expected) 6-foot-5, 275-pounds with (also expected) elite athleticism. The downside is Van Ness is less experienced and less polished, with the dreaded lack of pass rush moves. He’ll need to overcome that in Atlanta.

The Falcons have yet to sign a defensive coordinator, meaning how Atlanta will ultimately build this defense still remains a question. Either way, Ness would likely start across from Arnold Ebiketie or a top free agent, with guys like DeAngelo Malone and Adetokunbo Ogundeji filling out the rotation. Imagine adding Ness along with Yannick Ngakoue or Marcus Davenport to the existing group and the Falcons may finally have a pass rush.