Mock drafts are getting “fine tuned” thanks to rumors and reading the tea leaves, as there’s excitement around one prospect while another struggles with workouts and interviews. This is the part of the offseason where those prospects start getting slotted, player X is a top-10 pick, player Y is primarily seeing interest from teams in the back end of the 1st round, etc. It all means we start seeing a lot more consistency in mock drafts vs. those from three or four months back.
Picks have aligned for the Atlanta Falcons. While there are still a few sending Atlanta an EDGE like Tyree Wilson or Lukas Van Ness, and a rare pick of OL Peter Skoronski and even RB Bijan Robinson, the mock draft favorite is far and away CB Christian Gonzalez from Oregon.
Who has Gonazlez going to Atlanta?
- ESPN’s Jordan Reid, who believes Gonzalez would be best player available
- CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson who has Gonzalez as the third best prospect in the draft
- NFL’s Lance Zierlein who loves the corner’s athletic abilities
- The Falcoholic’s Kevin Knight who first tabbed Gonalez to Atlanta after the Senior Bowl
- Jeff Risdon of USA Today
That is a surprising level of alignment for a player not at the top of Atlanta’s needs. Under the prior regime that may have raised eyebrows. Indeed, Thomas Dimitroff was perhaps too eager to use the draft to address the team’s top need, even trading valuable draft capital to secure his player. It worked out well when the Falcons traded up for Desmond Trufant, but Dimitroff ran into problems when those players didn’t work out (Takkarist McKinley, to a lesser extent Kaleb McGary). You can’t miss on those trade targets as you give up valuable draft picks to grab your guy. At the very least, you need better success in late round selections than Dimitroff had.
For Terry Fontenot, drafting Gonzalez it is a no-brainer. He’s used free agency to fill roster holes, meaning he’s not entering the draft needing to draft any one position. He can allow the board to develop and grab a top player who falls into his lap. If Gonzalez is one of the top players in this draft class, snagging him at 8 is great value at an important position.
Taking a step back from the players available here, the idea with best player available is you focus on talent vs. need. If you are trying to fill a need, you may be stuck reaching for a guy not worth that spot. There may not be a whole lot differentiating EDGE 2 and EDGE 5 from a talent perspective, but EDGE 5 could be picked up a whole round later. But if you’re filling a need, you are using your top pick for your top need. You could go way back to 2007 where the Falcons took the top EDGE to fill a need, passing on unquestioned talents in Patrick Willis and Darrelle Revis for Jamaal Anderson.
Gonzalez, beyond simply being a great value, would give Atlanta a very interesting, young secondary with AJ Terrell and new safety Jessie Bates. Corner is a tough position to find above-average talent in free agency or later in the draft. Assuming some good development, and some pass rush help at some point, the defense could be on its way to relevance.