We’re finally here, folks. The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft kicks off tonight at 8 PM ET, and all of us here at The Falcoholic are positively bursting with excitement. On that note, we hope you’ll join our Falcoholic Live crew for our livestreamed Falcons NFL Draft Party starting at 7:30 PM ET!
With only hours to go until the Atlanta Falcons make their first pick, our staff has assembled for one final draft roundtable. Today’s topic is a two-parter:
- Who do you think the Falcons will select in the first round?
- Who do you want the Falcons to select in the first round?
Read on for our personal predictions for Atlanta in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
My heart says Bijan Robinson, but my head says Tyree Wilson
I’ve spent a great deal of time talking about Bijan Robinson to the Falcons. It’s a pick that makes a lot of sense from multiple angles. He’s likely to be the “best player available” in terms of talent, especially on offense. The Arthur Smith/Terry Fontenot regime has prioritized adding top offensive weapons early in the draft, positional value be damned. In Atlanta’s run heavy offense—that’s also willing to use RBs creatively in different formations and as receivers—Bijan would bring a ton of value as a potentially elite chess piece.
My heart wants Bijan, because I think he’d be a tremendous addition to the team and would be so fun to watch and cover on a weekly basis. I’m not claiming that he’d be the best pick, because there are plenty of compelling team and roster building arguments out there to the contrary. But I think he’s a potentially elite player and one of the safest picks in the class, so I’m willing to overlook those things to add him.
From a more rational and objective angle, I expect the Falcons to pick edge rusher Tyree Wilson. There’s no guarantee he falls to 8—Lance Zierlein had him going at 2 to the Texans in his most recent mock draft—but with the Lions much more likely to target a cornerback at 6 after the Okudah trade, I’d say there’s about a 50% chance. If Wilson is on the board, he just makes so much sense for Atlanta’s new-look defense under Ryan Nielsen. He’s an ideal “Cam Jordan” player who can provide elite run defense on the outside while honing his skills as a pass rusher, potentially even kicking inside. Wilson also has the perfect mentor in Calais Campbell to show him the ropes this season. —Kevin Knight
I think Falcons go Peter Skoronski but I sure do want Jalen Carter
Let’s start off by saying the talent at the top of this draft isn’t ideal for the Falcons. This is not a top heavy draft, with the slew of likely available prospects at 8 full of risk. I don’t think the Jeff Odukah trade should change Atlanta’s draft plans and I really want to plug in Christian Gonzalez. Wilson, like Kevin suggests above, or Lukas Van Ness make sense from a needs perspective, but 8th overall seems rich for their college performances.
What sounds like an Arthur Smith pick? Big, versatile OL Peter Skoronski. Skoronski has a higher floor over the EDGE prospects, and could start immediately at left guard. The Falcons could let him grow into a few different roles, such as being the eventual left tackle (or right tackle) of the future. He turns into a nice building block providing so much flexibility for the offensive line. It isn’t great positional value but neither was Kyle Pitts at 4.
With all that said, I want Jalen Carter. I’ve seen the quiet critiques about his motivation and work ethic — two very, very important factors for interior defensive linemen — and I don’t care. A properly coached Carter would be so much fun on any defense. No one questions his athleticism or ability to play at this level but admittedly that reasoning has gotten a lot of general managers fired. — Matt Chambers
I think they take Devon Witherspoon but Bijan would be nice
It feels much harder to narrow the list of Atlanta’s potential first-round picks this year than in years past. Many of the names bandied about could be taken before the Falcons’ turn arrives, and there’s no obvious match or value pick. Of course, that’s just public consensus. There’s no telling how the front office feels, and it certainly feels like they’ve attacked this offseason with a clear-cut plan in place.
Atlanta has made a lot of moves in the secondary this offseason, and it’s clearly a priority. Initially, I’d believed the Jeff Okudah trade would, at the very least, boost the team’s depth at corner. Now, after Casey Hayward’s release, it looks like the team may have had an inkling that they’d need to grab a new starter opposite of AJ Terrell. But that shouldn’t prevent them from doing another—and bolstering that depth along the way.
Devon Witherspoon is a fiery addition to the secondary. He reminds me of the type of player the Saints have had in their secondary in recent years—guys who talk and celebrate so much that you can’t stand them. I think the Falcons need a little bit of that. He’s a very physical player, which Atlanta lacked in the secondary last year, and he also has the versatility to potentially get a look at nickel in some packages. By adding Witherspoon, Atlanta’s secondary would be solidified as one of the most talented on paper. That’s a great way to improve the defense.
Now, a word about Bijan Robinson. My heart doesn’t care about your positional value charts, nerds. Adding Robinson, a guy who wore No. 5 because he liked REGGIE-FREAKING-BUSH, would give the Falcons a truly dynamic player on offense. I think he has the overall athleticism and football skills to be a positionless player at the next level. Arthur Smith’s scheme can absolutely support Robinson and Tyler Allgeier on the field at the same time, and it would be all the better for it. — Will McFadden
Tyree Wilson would be my pick, but I think they’ll wind up with a corner
It will be pretty difficult to make me unhappy tonight. The Falcons land Bijan Robinson, giving them a potential generational running back for Arthur Smith’s run-first offense? That’s fun as hell. They land Peter Skoronski, solidifying the last true positional weakness along the offensive line? Solid, meat and potatoes move. They draft Nolan Smith, taking a chance on an intriguing pass rusher with real upside? Not my favorite move, but one that could pay off and will be an excellent test of Ryan Nielsen’s ability to develop talent. And so on.
The flip side of that is that I’ve done a lot of waffling on who I want between Tyree Wilson and Christian Gonzalez in the past few weeks.
With time running out, I’ve decided that I’d love to have the team wind up with Wilson, who might fall a little bit thanks to lingering injury concerns that should be short-term ones. Big, powerful, and possessing upside the Falcons and Nielsen seem likely to covet, Wilson will require a little time and effort to reach his potential, but could turn into this team’s version of Cam Jordan. The potential to have a game-wrecking pass rusher who fits exactly what Nielsen is looking for is intriguing to me, and if you know anything about me after nearly 17 years of writing this blog, it’s that I get starry-eyed over nabbing that kind of player in the draft.
Ultimately, though, I’m afraid Wilson won’t make it to Atlanta, though I like Kevin’s faith that he might. If they can’t find their way into trading back, I do love Christian Gonzalez and think the Falcons wouldn’t be able to pass up on him. Devon Witherspoon should also be an option if he’s available, with Nolan Smith also in play. The team imported Jeff Okudah and have plenty of bodies at corner, including a young player I really like in Dee Alford, but over the long haul and the short term they could really use a high-end corner to round up a rebuilt secondary featuring A.J. Terrell, Jessie Bates, and Richie Grant. I expect the opportunity to snag that player and the way the first several picks unfold to mean cornerback for the Falcons. —Dave Choate