We’re less than a month away from the 2023 NFL Draft. With the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine behind us, there are only a handful of Pro Days and team visits remaining before we reach the main event. The Atlanta Falcons have been busy over the past several weeks, adding a number of starters and depth pieces in free agency. It sure is nice to have salary cap space!
With all those additions and free agency starting to slow down, it’s time to start taking a closer look at how the Falcons will attack this year’s draft. I’ve covered a number of possible scenarios already, which you can find below.
Today’s Falcons mock draft takes a look a look at a scenario featuring one of the most controversial picks for Atlanta at 8th overall: running back Bijan Robinson. Opinions are, naturally, quite divided on whether or not Robinson makes sense for the Falcons. But seeing as this team has shown little to no care for positional value, and Bijan is likely to be the “best player available” based on pure talent at 8, I felt I needed to conduct at least one mock featuring the electric prospect.
Before we get to the selections, here are Atlanta’s current draft picks:
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 5, Pick 159 from Jaguars (Calvin Ridley trade)
- 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 Texas: 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: EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Pick 7, Las Vegas Raiders: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
TRADE — Round 1, Pick 11: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
The Falcons trade picks 8 and 225 (7th) to the Titans for picks 11, 72 (3rd), and 186 (6th).
In this scenario, the Falcons saw their top picks at both cornerback and edge rusher go off the board just ahead of their selection. With that happening, another opportunity presented itself: one of the top-4 quarterbacks, Will Levis, remained on the board. That could entice quarterback-needy teams to put in a call to Terry Fontenot, who has shown a willingness to trade down in the past. Atlanta has an established relationship with the Tennessee Titans, and a small trade-down like this could be ideal for both sides to get what they want.
Atlanta takes a very fair offer from Tennessee, swapping picks 8 and 225 for 11, 72, and 186. That allows the Falcons an opportunity to add another top-100 prospect while only dropping three spots and still having an excellent shot at the player they would have drafted at 8. I’m on record as saying that a trade down is unlikely—it always is unless you’re picking in the top-5—but this is one of the more likely scenarios that could present itself.
Now picking at 11, the Falcons still have one of their top potential targets on the board: running back Bijan Robinson. While many in the NFL would scoff at taking a RB at the top of the draft, Fontenot and Smith have repeatedly shown that they do not care about positional value. What they do care about is talent, and Bijan has it. This is the most gifted runner to come into the NFL since Saquon Barkley, with otherworldly movement skills, outstanding hands and receiving game ability, and some of the best vision and footwork in the class. Bijan is not just a runner: he’s an offensive weapon capable of affecting the game on all three downs and from a variety of alignments.
It’s not Atlanta’s biggest need, that much is obvious. Concerns about “value” and “team impact” are valid, if extremely subjective. Bijan is undoubtedly one of the most talented players in this draft and would instantly transform the Falcons offense into something far more dangerous. Alongside a very good partner in Tyler Allgeier—who will continue to get a significant workload—Bijan gives Atlanta the best 1-2 punch in the league and a true dynamic playmaker to complement Kyle Pitts and Drake London. In terms of ability to “move the needle” for Atlanta’s offense, no single player is likely to have a bigger impact in 2023 than Bijan Robinson.
Round 2, Pick 44: DL Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
The Falcons just added veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell to round out what is looking like the best defensive line Atlanta has had in years. Campbell is likely to play a significant role as a base end against the run, and will kick inside on passing downs. There’s still work to be done, however, and it’s important to note that Campbell is only here on a one-year deal. Atlanta could use another versatile inside/outside player who can potentially grow into the “Cam Jordan” role. One of my favorite prospects for that is still on the board in USC’s Tuli Tuipulotu.
Tuipulotu is a versatile defensive lineman who has played extensively on the outside and inside. After playing much of his career at 6’3, 290, Tuipulotu slimmed down closer to 270 in 2022 and played a more prominent role as an edge rusher. He’s explosive off the snap and moves very well for his build, combining his athleticism with exceptional strength at the point of attack. Tuipulotu is an impact player against the run and finishes in the backfield extremely well, as his 13.5 sacks and 17.0 TFL can attest. His motor runs hot and he’s a relentless player in pursuit, too. Tuipulotu’s “tweener” size and average length may lead to him falling to this range, but he’d be a perfect fit in Ryan Nielsen’s defense as an eventual successor to Calais Campbell.
Round 3, Pick 72: WR Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
Pick acquired from the Titans.
The Falcons added veteran help at wide receiver with Mack Hollins and recent addition Scotty Miller, but this is still a depth chart in desperate need of a WR2 alongside Drake London. Coming off an injury-plagued 2022 season, Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman could last into the early part of Round 3 depending on how the draft plays out. If he does, Atlanta should absolutely sprint to the podium to add him to this passing attack.
Tillman absolutely looks the part of an Arthur Smith receiver at over 6’3, 213. He also ran a very respectable 4.54s 40 along with a 1.57s 10-YS, both above-average times. Where Tillman really stands out athletically is with his explosiveness and physicality, as he’s dominant at the catch point thanks to terrific hands and overall body control. Coming from Tennessee’s offense, Tillman ran a pretty limited route tree and had a very specific role. It’ll take time to build out his repertoire in the NFL, and he’ll likely have a tough initial transition to the league. That being said, all the traits are there for a high-level WR2 who would be an ideal complement to Kyle Pitts and Drake London in Atlanta’s passing game.
Round 3, Pick 75: CB D.J. Turner, Michigan
Quite honestly, I was flabbergasted to see Michigan’s D.J. Turner on the board at pick 75, to the point where I considered not taking him because it wouldn’t be “realistic”. But the fact is...it’s definitely possible in a cornerback class this deep. Jordan Reid—one of the most plugged-in draft analysts in the industry—had Turner going 69 to the Rams in his recent mock draft. So it’s certainly possible that he sticks around this long, and in that case, the Falcons should not hesitate.
The reason Turner could fall is because of his size at just over 5’11, 178—and it’s true, that’s definitely on the smaller side for the NFL. However, Turner’s tape is outstanding and he tested out as one of the best athletes at the NFL Combine with a 9.60 RAS. Turner ran the fastest 40 of any player (4.26s), hit an absurd 1.42s 10-YS, and set a new Combine record with a 2.32s 20-YS. Turner can absolutely fly and would give Atlanta an option to match up with the fastest receivers the NFL can muster. He checks the box as a tackler but isn’t special in this area, and his biggest struggles tend to come against physical, big-bodied receivers. In coverage, I have absolutely no complaints about Turner, and that’s what matters most. With a prototypical CB1 in A.J. Terrell already on the roster, Turner could slot in right away as a high-end CB2.
Round 4, Pick 110: LB DeMarvion Overshown, Texas
The Falcons added veteran Kaden Elliss of the Saints to start alongside promising second-year linebacker Troy Andersen, and Terry Fontenot has said that Atlanta is still working to re-sign Rashaan Evans. That’s a pretty stout group of run defenders and blitzers, but it leaves something to be desired in coverage. That’s where a coverage specialist like Texas’ DeMarvion Overshown comes in, and he’d be a great value early on Day 3.
Overshown is a converted safety who gradually made the transition to linebacker. As a result, he’s a little on the lighter side for the position at just 229, but does possess good length at nearly 6’3 and with 32.25” arms. Overshown is a rangy, athletic linebacker who brings over strong coverage ability from his time in the secondary. He tested out with an excellent 8.13 RAS, including an elite 4.56s 40 and 10’4” broad jump. Overshown is a physical hitter and a explosive blitzer, with 4 sacks and 10 TFL during his senior season. He is not, however, a traditional inside linebacker who can be expected to take on blocks. Overshown needs to be kept clean as a WILL, where he can use his range and instincts to impact both the run and pass game. I think he’d slot in perfectly alongside the more traditionally-sized linebackers that the Falcons currently possess.
Round 4, Pick 113: OL Andrew Vorhees, USC
Pick acquired from the Titans.
It simply didn’t work out for the Falcons to pick up an interior offensive lineman earlier in this draft. At this point, you’re looking at developmental players or potentially solid starters with limited ceilings. You could also be looking at USC’s Andrew Vorhees, who was among the top interior prospects in the class before tearing his ACL during on-field workouts at the NFL Combine. That injury will almost certainly keep him out for most, if not all, of his rookie season and cause him to tumble down draft boards.
I have no idea where the NFL will value Vorhees at this point, but I think he’d be a steal at this point in the draft. Vorhees played a versatile role in college, including both guard spots and at tackle. His lack of length probably limits him to an interior role in the NFL, but he’s got a terrific build for the position at 6’6, 310 and still logged a Combine-leading 38 reps on the bench press after tearing his ACL. Vorhees is a dominant run defender and an aggressive pass protector who will immediately endear himself to fans with his physicality and attitude. He’s not the cleanest in pass pro and isn’t necessarily an elite athlete, but he’s plenty quick to execute the zone blocking scheme. This would be a “wait and see” pick, but could pay off in a big way with Atlanta getting a potential long-term starter at left guard when he returns to the field in 2024.
Round 5, Pick 159: S Ronnie Hickman, Ohio State
Pick acquired from the Jaguars.
With the Falcons adding an impact single-high and deep safety in Jessie Bates III alongside two versatile players in Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins, there’s still room on the depth chart for a box-focused strong safety. That’s where Ohio State’s Ronnie Hickman comes in as a player with solid size (6’0.5”, 203) and a physical mentality.
Hickman is an aggressive run defender who thrives closer to the line of scrimmage. He’s got very good instincts for finding the ball and pairs them with explosiveness and impressive lateral mobility. In coverage, Hickman is an asset working against tight ends thanks to really good length (33” arms) and can hold his own against shiftier running backs as well. Hickman’s weaknesses come when asked to play deep, as he lacks plus ball skills and his range isn’t overly impressive. He can hold his own in Cover 2 assignments and isn’t a liability on the back end, but will be best served playing most of his snaps in the box. Hickman is a role player at the NFL level, but I think he can be a pretty good one—and should be a plus on special teams as well.
Round 6, Pick 186: WR Tre Tucker, Cincinnati
Pick acquired from the Titans.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time telling readers about Arthur Smith’s preferences on offense, and how the slot receiver is not a primary component of the offense. Only only used a slot receiver on roughly 25% of offensive snaps—one of the lowest rates in the NFL. It’s why I don’t believe the Falcons will be interested in slot receivers early in the draft, like Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Josh Downs. They simply won’t get enough snaps to justify such a high investment.
However, at this point in the draft, it’s a much more reasonable proposition—especially when you can add a former teammate of Desmond Ridder. Here’s what I had to say about Cincinnati’s Tre Tucker in a previous mock:
Tucker is an undersized (5’9, 182) slot-only receiver, which is why he’s still around this late in the draft. Other than that, however, Tucker offers a lot of plus traits. He’s a high-end athlete with deep speed, explosiveness, and very good short-area quickness. Tucker may be small, but he doesn’t shy away from contact and is fearless when running routes over the middle. His catch radius is limited, but his hands are strong and very reliable. The existing chemistry with Ridder should help Tucker hit the ground running and give him a very good chance to make the roster and contribute early in his career.
Round 7, Pick 224: DT Robert Cooper, Florida State
The interior defensive line is pretty settled at this point after the additions of David Onyemata and Calais Campbell, plus the surprising return of Eddie Goldman. Atlanta also added a versatile inside/outside player earlier in this mock in Tuli Tuipulotu. Even so, the team may not want to count too much on Goldman playing, as the only other nose tackle on the roster is 2022 UDFA Timmy Horne. Adding another option to compete with Horne in camp could be wise for multiple reasons, which is where Florida State’s Robert Cooper comes in.
Cooper (6’2, 335) has the traditional build of a nose tackle and plays like it. His strength is his best asset, and he’s very difficult to move in the middle of the defensive line. He’s capable of handling double-teams and can be an instant contributor against the run. Athletically, he’s better than expected, with a nice first step and surprisingly good lateral mobility. All that being said, Cooper’s production took a step back in 2022 and he’s failed to develop as a pass rusher. There’s still potential there, and I like Cooper a lot as a late-round depth addition.
What do you think about this potential draft class for the Falcons? Leave some of your own draft takes in the comments below.