The offseason is here for the Atlanta Falcons, and that means it’s time to go full-throttle into free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft. With my colleagues taking the lead on the free agency front, I’m going to be focusing my efforts over the next few weeks on the draft. Atlanta secured the 8th overall pick for 2023, the second year in a row that the team will hold that selection.
The next event on the Draft Season calendar is the Reese’s Senior Bowl—a showcase of the top draft-eligible seniors (or players who graduated early) that takes place in Mobile right around the first week of February. To get everyone ready for the week to come, I’ll be breaking down the top players to watch for the Falcons and the league at large.
As you might expect, we’ll kick things off with arguably the most important position group for Atlanta: the defensive line.
The strongest position group in the entire 2022 NFL Draft might be EDGE, where The Draft Network has a whopping 15 prospects in the top 100. There will once again be good representation from this class at the Senior Bowl, where two projected first-rounders and a number of potential Day 2 selections are in attendance. Here are some of the biggest names to watch.
Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern
Adebawore is a unique prospect. At first glance, he looks a little like Arnold Ebiketie, but he’s carrying about 15 more pounds on his frame. Adebawore is listed at 6’2, 265 and plays the run extremely well. He’s a high-effort player who plays with good leverage and possesses a lot of strength at the point of attack, and pairs it with excellent burst. However, Adebawore lacks flexibility on the outside and is actually at his best rushing from the interior. It’ll take a creative coaching staff willing to move Adebawore around depending on the situation, but I think he’s got a path to playing on all three downs and should look good in one-on-ones in Mobile.
Andre Carter II, Army
One of the more polarizing players in the 2023 NFL Draft class, Andre Carter II is a bit of an enigma. For starters, he offers elite size at 6’7, 270 and pairs it with exceptional burst and overall athleticism. He also had a year of absolutely insane production in 2021, putting up 14.5 sacks and 17.0 TFL. Carter couldn’t replicate that amazing year in 2022, and the down year revealed some flaws in his game. He’s a very raw pass rusher and there are some limitations to his lateral mobility, along with a natural struggle with leverage due to his size. Carter II has special physical traits that will be very tempting for NFL GMs, and his performance against a high level of competition in Mobile could be significant for his draft stock.
Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame
Foskey has a chance to solidify himself as one of the top edge rushers in the class, particularly after Jared Verse’s decision to return to school, with a strong week at the Senior Bowl. Here’s a snippet on his game from my Week 13 Mock Draft:
Foskey has played four seasons for the Fighting Irish, with three as a significant contributor. The senior recently broke Justin Tuck’s all-time sack record at Notre Dame with 25 in his career. Obviously, Foskey is a terrific, consistent pass rusher—he’s got back-to-back seasons with 10 or more sacks. Foskey is an elite athlete with a terrific frame at 6’5, 260, and he’s got the speed and bend to truly threaten the edge. His skillset is versatile, as Foskey can line up all over the formation and can make plays as a run defender.
Derick Hall, Auburn
One of two projected first-round edge rushers still coming to the Senior Bowl (Tyree Wilson withdrew due to injury), Auburn’s Derick Hall certainly has an enticing package of traits. His athleticism at 6’3, 250 pops off the tape. Hall has an elite first step that can immediately put pressure on offensive tackles, and he pairs it with excellent lateral mobility. He’s also a strong player who can make impact plays against the run and threaten with his bull rush. Hall needs to develop his pass rush counters and improve his hand placement as both a pass rusher and run defender, but the talent is clearly there for Hall to become an impact player in the NFL.
K.J. Henry, Clemson
While most of this preview focused on the speed rushers, Clemson’s K.J. Henry is here to represent the power side of the equation. Henry has a strong frame for the position at 6’4, 260 and showcases exceptional length and power at the point of attack. Henry is a dangerous bull rusher who creates a lot of movement at the line of scrimmage. He’s also a polished block-shedder and high-end run defender who can start on early downs immediately. Henry’s overall athleticism is the limiting factor, as it’s unclear if he possesses more than average burst or lateral movement skills. With more opportunities to rush the passer at the Senior Bowl, Henry could see his stock rise.
Other players to watch:
Eku Leota, Auburn
Ali Gaye, LSU
Will McDonald IV, Iowa State
Byron Young, Tennesee
Nick Hampton, Appalachian State
Thomas Incoom, Central Michigan
I hope you enjoyed the first of our Senior Bowl preview series. I’ll be in Mobile to cover the Senior Bowl for The Falcoholic from Tuesday, January 31 through Thursday, February 2. Stay tuned tomorrow for our next position preview: interior defensive line.