Time flies in this part of the offseason, and the 2023 NFL Draft is officially less than two weeks away. We’ve continued to get a steady trickle of reports, rumors, and even a few interesting moves from the Atlanta Falcons since my last mock draft at the beginning of April. It’s safe to say that his has been the most entertaining and interesting Falcons offseason in recent memory, and it’s far from over.
Last week, we saw the team trade a fifth-round pick for cornerback Jeff Okudah and sign veteran edge rusher Bud Dupree to a one-year deal. Those moves have significantly bolstered Atlanta’s depth—and potentially impacted the starting lineup—but have they had a major affect on the Falcons’ draft plans?
Today’s mock draft takes a look at how things have or haven’t changed with the addition of those two players. Full disclosure: this mock was completed just before the Dupree signing, so it isn’t mentioned in the picks below. However, I don’t think that signing—especially considering Dupree’s recent injury issues and the fact that it’s just a one-year deal—will prevent Atlanta from targeting an edge rusher early in the draft.
Before we get to the selections, here are the Falcons’ current draft picks after the Okudah trade (which sent a fifth-rounder to the Lions):
Atlanta Falcons 2023 NFL Draft picks
- Round 1, Pick 8
- Round 2, Pick 44
- Round 3, Pick 75
- Round 4, Pick 110 from Titans (Julio Jones trade)
- Round 4, Pick 113
- Round 7, Pick 224 from Raiders (Bryan Edwards trade)
- Round 7, Pick 225
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First seven picks
In the interest of presenting different scenarios and informing fans about my thought process behind these mocks, I’m going to start adding the picks in front of the Falcons for context. This is how the The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine started the draft:
Pick 1, Carolina Panthers: QB Bryce Young, Alabama
Pick 2, Houston Texans: QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Pick 3, Arizona Cardinals: EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
Pick 4, Indianapolis Colts: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
Pick 5, Seattle Seahawks: DT Jalen Carter, Georgia
Pick 6, Detroit Lions: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Pick 7, Las Vegas Raiders: QB Will Levis, Kentucky
Round 1, Pick 8: EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
In this scenario, the Falcons saw a much more favorable opening to the draft with four quarterbacks coming off the board ahead of pick 8. The Lions, after dealing Jeff Okudah to Atlanta, elected to go with a cornerback. That left a player on the board who doesn’t typically fall this far: Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson.
Wilson is a polarizing prospect, but also one who is very highly regarded by some analysts (and teams, if the reports are to be trusted). Pop on one play of Wilson’s tape and it’s obvious why: there simply aren’t many prospects who possess Wilson’s unique blend of size (6’6, 270), length (35.375” arms), and athleticism. This is a player who frequently rushed standing up at his size. He was also a consistently productive run defender and pass rusher in college, with back-to-back seasons of at least 13.5 TFL and 7.0 sacks in 2021 and 2022.
Put simply, Wilson is a rare prospect who offers inside/outside versatility and immediate starting ability on early downs. In Atlanta, he could potentially grow into the Cam Jordan role—and would get to spend his rookie season learning under Calais Campbell. I can’t think of a better mentor for Wilson’s unique build and skillset. Wilson’s addition would immediately give the Falcons a pair of elite run defenders on the outside while he continues to develop his pass rush repertoire and hand technique. He’s one of the only players I’d consider over Bijan Robinson at 8.
TRADE — Round 2, Pick 53: IOL Joe Tippmann, Wisconsin
Falcons trade pick 44 and pick 225 (7th) to the Bears for pick 53 (2nd) and pick 133 (4th).
The Falcons have been active traders in the second round under Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot. In both of this regime’s drafts thus far, Atlanta has moved off their second rounder—down in 2021 (from 35 to 40) and up in 2022 (from 43 to 38). Pick 44 in the 2023 NFL Draft is another spot where the team could receive plenty of interest in a trade-down, particularly from a team like the Chicago Bears who have a lot of assets and need a lot of talent. This isn’t a big move, but it allows Atlanta to add another early-Day 3 selection to replace the pick that was just traded for Jeff Okudah (pick 159).
Now at pick 53, the team targets the trenches once again. This time it’s on the offensive side of the ball, as the Falcons go with Wisconsin interior offensive lineman Joe Tippmann. A big riser this season, Tippmann is a big-bodied center (6’6, 313) who possesses very good strength and athleticism. He’s a natural fit for Atlanta’s offense and provides significantly more upside than the existing players on the roster at center. Tippmann’s size also makes him an obvious option to convert to left guard if the Falcons want to stick with Drew Dalman at the pivot. With this selection, Atlanta could potentially secure a long-term offensive line starter on an affordable rookie contract.
Round 3, Pick 75: WR Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss
Jonathan Mingo is back in the mock draft, though his stock (and the pick he’s taken at) continues to rise. This is a player who simply makes too much sense for the Falcons, and I think there’s a strong chance he’s in consideration here at pick 75. For starters, Mingo had a very good Senior Bowl—and we know how much Atlanta values that event. He also put on a show at the NFL Combine, proving that he’s one of the most athletic receivers in the class with a 9.86 RAS.
While Mingo has spent a fair amount of time in the slot, he’s definitely got a future as an outside receiver in the NFL thanks to his size and physicality at 6’2, 220. Mingo is a nuanced route runner and a dangerous yards-after-catch threat, which is where his athleticism really shines. I think there’s a lot of potential for Mingo to have a significantly better NFL career than his college one, and he checks the most important box of all for Arthur Smith: he’s one of the best run blockers in the class. He’s likely in contention for WR3 in 2023, but I think Mingo has WR2 upside in Atlanta’s offense.
Round 4, Pick 110: RB Israel Abanikanda, Pitt
The Falcons still need to add a long-term partner for Tyler Allgeier in this draft. Cordarrelle Patterson is entering the final year of his contract at age 32, and Caleb Huntley is injured and may not play in 2023. Atlanta doesn’t need to target the spot early with Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs, or Zach Charbonnet—there are also a number of interesting options in the early-Day 3 range.
One of the best fits is Pitt’s Israel Abanikanda. A big-bodied back (5’10, 216) with outstanding athleticism, Abanikanda could be an ideal complement to the bruising, yards-after-contact style of Allgeier. Abanikanda tested out with an elite 9.62 RAS, including a 4.45s 40 and 41” vertical jump. He’s explosive and has excellent long speed to break off long runs. Abanikanda isn’t as physical as you’d expect for a back his size, his third down value is minimal, and his vision and decisiveness are both in need of additional development. He’s not someone I’d expect to lead a backfield in his rookie season, but has enormous potential as an RB2 in a committee. Abanikanda would slot in to the rotation with Allgeier and Patterson, giving Atlanta a significantly deeper and more versatile backfield.
Round 4, Pick 113: CB Tyrique Stevenson, Miami
Pick acquired from the Titans.
The Falcons recently acquired cornerback Jeff Okudah via trade, which gives the team a little more flexibility to address the position later in the draft. That’s a good thing, particularly in a class as deep as this one, and some really intriguing prospects are still available here in the early-Day 3 range. With Atlanta expected to switch to a more man-heavy coverage approach, adding a cornerback like Miami’s Tyrique Stevenson makes a lot of sense.
Stevenson is a big (6’0, 198), physical press-man cornerback with excellent length. He never quite lived up to the hype after transferring from Georgia to Miami, but has had an excellent pre-draft process starting with a strong Senior Bowl performance and followed up with a terrific Combine (8.93 RAS). Stevenson is a bit of a man-coverage specialist, as his instincts and change-of-direction skills aren’t as suited for zone. He’s also got work to do as a run defender, although his size should give him a leg up in this area. In Atlanta’s new coverage scheme, Stevenson makes a lot of sense as a developmental outside player behind Terrell, Okudah, and Hayward.
Round 4, Pick 133: LB Mohamoud Diabate, Utah
Pick acquired from the Bears.
Mohamoud Diabate was in my first mock draft of the 2023 cycle, and he returns for the penultimate addition. One of the biggest Combine snubs after an outstanding 5.0 sack, 13.5 TFL season at Utah, Diabate is fresh off a very good Shrine Bowl and an impressive Pro Day performance (9.11 RAS). This is a linebacker prospect with excellent length (6’3.5, 32.5” arms), athleticism, and an early-Day 3 draft projection. I honestly still can’t believe he wasn’t invited to Indianapolis.
All that being said, Diabate is a great fit for the Falcons with this additional fourth-rounder. He’s a versatile linebacker prospect with sideline-to-sideline range and a nose for the ball, both as a run defender and pass rusher. Diabate is on the lighter side at 225, and probably needs to bulk up into the 230s in the NFL. Even so, he’s never going to be a MIKE or block-shedder on the inside, and is best suited to a run-and-chase WILL role. Diabate must improve his awareness in zone coverage, but he’s got a high ceiling in man. He’s a good value at this point in the draft, and should be able to carve out a significant special teams role in his rookie season.
Round 7, Pick 224: FB Hunter Luepke, North Dakota State
After the Okudah trade, there’s now a significant gulf in picks on Day 3 between the early 100s and Atlanta’s two seventh-rounders. In this mock, I was able to trade away one—and thus far, the Falcons have managed to get rid of all their 7s under Smith and Fontenot. So we’ll see if the team actually ends up making these late picks. If they do, there are a few positions where you can still get potential starters this late in the draft: specialists (kickers and punters) and fullbacks.
Atlanta re-signed Keith Smith this offseason, and the 31-year old is still a good blocker and very good special teams player. He doesn’t offer much as a runner or receiver, however, and the team may be trying to incorporate the FB in more creative ways going forward. The team has brought in competition for Smith once again in perennial camp/practice squad favorite John Raine and futures addition Clint Ratkovich. But why not take a swing on one of the most interesting fullback prospects in years: North Dakota State’s Hunter Luepke?
Luepke is a unique fullback, as he’s actually more of a chess-piece in the run and receiving game than a pure lead blocker. He does bring a lot to the table in those areas and is able to function more as an extension of the offense. The one thing Luepke must improve is his blocking, which is solid but unspectacular at this point. If he can get that aspect improved, Luepke could become one of the best and most versatile fullbacks in the NFL. I’ll gladly take a shot on that with pick 224.
What do you think about this potential draft class for the Falcons? Leave some of your own draft takes in the comments below.