The biggest event of Draft Season, the NFL Combine, has officially come and gone. With it, we’ve finally got the athletic testing needed for the vast majority of draft prospects—along with a healthy dose of buzz and rumors regarding potential team interest. There are still plenty of official team visits and Pro Days to get to before the draft starts in earnest next month, but we’re coming into the final stretch of evaluation.
2023 MOCK DRAFTS: Week 13 | January | Pre-Senior Bowl | Post-Senior Bowl | Post-Combine
The Combine has shifted the draft stock of many prospects, as it does every year. That has led to a few players moving up and down the board in this mock draft scenario, which is using the beta version of The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine. We’ve also seen the first moves of the Atlanta Falcons’ offseason, including the re-signing of Lorenzo Carter and the decision to not place the franchise tag on Kaleb McGary.
That means it’s the perfect time for my next full seven-round mock draft for the Falcons. Read on for my picks and explanation, and note that this was completed before the Houston Texans forfeited their fifth-round pick. So going forward, Atlanta’s picks in the fifth-seventh round will be one spot higher (160 in the fifth, 225 and 246 in the seventh).
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Round 1, Pick 8: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia
The Falcons need to draft a blue-chip prospect at 8, whether that’s on the defensive line, at cornerback, offensive tackle, whatever. This is not a spot to reach for need. So with Will Anderson, Tyree Wilson, and Christian Gonzalez all off the board, the next spot to target is the offensive line. Atlanta did not place the franchise tag on Kaleb McGary, leaving the door open for him to potentially hit the market. That leaves the team with a significant hole at right tackle.
While I suspect the Falcons will add some kind of veteran to the mix, this a very talented OT class at the top. I already sent Paris Johnson Jr. to Atlanta in a previous mock, so we’ll go in a different direction this time with Georgia’s Broderick Jones. Jones turned in an outstanding Combine workout, finishing with the fastest 40 at 4.97s and coming in sixth in overall RAS. He would immediately provide high-level run blocking with a very high ceiling in pass protection thanks to his length (34.75” arms) and athleticism. Here’s how I described Jones in my Combine preview:
Even though I’m probably going to settle on Paris Johnson Jr. as OT1, I won’t argue with anyone who has Georgia’s Broderick Jones ahead of him. Jones also looks the part of a top tackle prospect, with a well-proportioned 6’5, 310 frame and what is likely to be the most athletic profile in the entire class. Jones is a mauling run blocker who excels on the move, and he’s an easy projection into an offense like Atlanta’s. The potential here is ridiculous, but Jones is a bit rougher around the edges in pass protection and has a lot less experience than the other top tackles.
Round 2, Pick 44: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland
The Falcons need to add a lot of pieces to the defense. Some will come in free agency, but more will be needed in the draft. One position where there will be good value on Day 2 is at cornerback, where the best overall athlete in the class wound up falling to 44: Maryland’s Deonte Banks. Banks finished with an incredible 9.99u RAS thanks to his good size (6’0, 197), elite speed (4.35s 40), and explosiveness (42” vert, 11’04” broad, 1.49s 10-yard split).
Banks also happens to have some of the most consistent tape in the class and is comfortable playing in any coverage scheme. He’s a sticky, physical player capable of matching up with anyone thanks to his elite athletic profile and fluid movement skills. Banks dealt with a season-ending injury in 2021, but bounced back and had his best year in 2022. The biggest concern is a lack of ball production: Banks breaks up plenty of passes, but has just two career interceptions. Together with A.J. Terrell, Banks could form a potentially elite duo.
Round 3, Pick 75: DT Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
This one is going to be a common pick, as the need and the value match up very well for the Falcons. While Keeanu Benton could go earlier in the draft, there’s also a fair chance he’s still around at this point. Benton had a good day of testing at the Combine (8.65u RAS) but he didn’t blow the doors off like some where expecting. Atlanta has a big need on the interior and Benton can play anywhere. Here’s my blurb on Benton from the Combine preview:
The biggest riser from the interior defensive line group at the Senior Bowl, Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton proved himself as more than just a nose tackle. Lining up everywhere on the interior, Benton consistently won with his unique combination of size and athleticism. He’s far more than just a 1T/OT and can help a defense on all three downs.
Round 4, Pick 110: C/G Steve Avila, TCU
Sticking with the trenches, the Falcons double-dip on the offensive line by bringing in TCU’s Steve Avila. Avila acquitted himself well at the Senior Bowl, playing both center and guard. At the Combine, he had an opportunity to address the biggest issue with his game: is he athletic enough for the zone blocking scheme? With a 7.67u RAS and above average speed and agility testing across the board, the answer is clearly “yes”. Avila might benefit from dropping a little weight, but he’d be a steal at this point in the draft. Here’s my notes on Avila from the Combine preview:
I had watched a little of Steve Avila before the Senior Bowl, but what I saw during the week of practice impressed me. Avila is a big-bodied center (6’3, 330) who wins with overwhelming power at the point of attack. This is a man who is extremely difficult to move, and he’s got arguably the strongest anchor in the class. I do have concerns about his overall athleticism and his fit in a zone scheme attack, but he moved better than expected in Mobile.
Round 4, Pick 113: WR Tyler Scott, Cincinnati
While Tyler Scott—who was rumored to be in contention for the fastest player at the Combine—didn’t quite live up to expectations with a 4.44s 40, he still had a strong day of testing overall with an 8.30u RAS. The Falcons need a deep threat to take the top off the defense across from Drake London, and Scott can absolutely fill that role. It’s possible he goes late on Day 2, but I’d jump at the opportunity to add him at this point in the draft. Here’s my writeup on Scott from the Combine preview:
Tyler Scott is a prospect who is commonly linked to the Falcons in mocks due to his connection with Desmond Ridder: he was Ridder’s WR2 during the 2021 season at Cincinnati. That connection is valuable, especially early on, but Scott is an intriguing prospect in his own right. While he’s on the smaller side at 5’11, 177, Scott is an absolute burner with high-end overall athleticism. He’s a dangerous deep threat with plus ball-tracking ability, but that’s not all. Scott also has exceptional lateral mobility and quickness, making him a yards-after-catch threat on crossers and screens. He’s also worked extensively as a “Z” receiver on the outside and has an advanced release package there.
Round 5, Pick 161: EDGE Tavius Robinson, Ole Miss
While the Falcons passed on edge rushers early in this mock, this is an extremely deep class and Atlanta should really find a way to come away with one of these prospects. Luckily, Ole Miss’ Tavius Robinson remained on the board in the fifth round. A big-bodied prospect with outstanding size (6’6, 257) and terrific athleticism (8.76u RAS), Robinson has the build of a more traditional 4-3 end that the Falcons currently lack.
Robinson has a high ceiling as a pass rusher thanks to his explosiveness and surprising lateral mobility. His length is a big plus, enabling him to win early in the rep and set the edge effectively as a run defender when he gets his hands in the right place. Robinson is a bit of a tweener and work in progress, and could probably stand to add another 10 pounds to his frame. His play strength is inconsistent and he’s not as reliable as a run defender as he should be. Still, the traits are there of a potential future starter for a team who can develop him. Hopefully with Ryan Nielsen in the building, the Falcons actually can!
Round 7, Pick 226: LB Yasir Abdullah, Louisville
I haven’t watched much of Louisville’s Yasir Abdullah, but this is the point in the draft where you start taking swings at upside. While Abdullah came in on the small side for a linebacker (over 6’0, 237), he tested out extremely well thanks to a blazing 4.47s 40 and some elite jumps. Overall, Abdullah finished with an outstanding 9.47u RAS, making him one of the most athletic linebackers in the class.
First things first: Abdullah actually played primarily as an edge rusher. Obviously, that’s not going to work at the NFL level, but his pass rush ability is terrific and is definitely a plus in his game. He’ll need to convert to an off-ball role, and that will take time and patience. He doesn’t have much experience in coverage and has traditionally struggled when taking on blockers in the run game. Abdullah is a high-upside project who needs time, but should be able to make an immediate impact on special teams. For the price of pick 226, sign me up.
Round 7, Pick 249: TE Josh Whyle, Cincinnati
Sticking with the theme of adding good athletes who also have a connection to Desmond Ridder, why not throw a late pick towards securing a familiar face at tight end? Cincinnati’s Josh Whyle hasn’t seen his stock rise meaningfully over the pre-draft process, as he’s simply been outshined by what is quite possibly the most athletic TE class in recent memory. He’s no slouch in that area, either, coming in with an impressive 8.86u RAS. No matter, I’ll happily add him as quality competition in a Falcons tight end room that certainly has room for another versatile contributor. Here’s my writeup on Whyle from the Senior Bowl preview:
Whyle has a good NFL frame at over 6’6, 245 and has continued to add good weight every year. Obviously, he’s got three years of experience with Desmond Ridder, and that’s a big boost to his potential future in Atlanta. Whyle was a better player than I expected overall, considering his mid-to-late Day 3 projection. He’s got good hands, above-average overall athleticism, and his blocking improved significantly in 2022.
What do you think about this potential draft class for the Falcons? Leave some of your own draft takes in the comments below.