The 2023 NFL Draft is less than a month away! That means it’s time for one of my favorite traditions here at SB Nation: the annual writer’s mock draft. In this exercise, a writer from each one of SBN’s team sites takes control of their team in a full first-round and second-round mock draft. It’s a fun and sometimes wild exploration of what each site and fanbase is hoping for when they’re on the clock, and it often doesn’t line up with the more traditional projections.
That being said, the first seven picks before the Atlanta Falcons were on the clock were...pretty chalky. Here are those picks:
- Carolina Panthers (Cat Scratch Reader): QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
- Houston Texas (Battle Red Blog): QB Bryce Young, Alabama
- Arizona Cardinals (Revenge of the Birds): EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama
- Indianapolis Colts (Stampede Blue): QB Anthony Richardson, Florida
- Seattle Seahawks (Field Gulls): EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
- Detroit Lions (Pride of Detroit): DT Jalen Carter, Georgia
- Las Vegas Raiders (Silver & Black Pride): CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Falcons select RB Bijan Robinson
This is a tough way for the board to fall. Atlanta would love to come away with one of Tyree Wilson, Jalen Carter, or Christian Gonzalez at eight. That would be the most ideal scenario, and is very likely to happen if four quarterbacks go ahead of the Falcons. In this mock, Will Levis remained on the board with the Raiders electing to pass.
If this happened on draft night, I’d expect to see the Falcons working the phones to see if a team is interested in coming up for Levis: the Titans, Commanders, or perhaps even the Patriots if the recent Mac Jones trade rumors are true. However, for the purposes of this writers’ mock draft, there are no trades available. So Atlanta has to make a pick here at eight.
There are a number of players I’d consider here. The Falcons are reportedly very high on EDGE Nolan Smith out of Georgia. I really like CB Devon Witherspoon out of Illinois and would have him right behind Gonzalez on my board. The offensive line is also a strong contender, as the Falcons have their pick of Paris Johnson Jr., Peter Skoronski, or Broderick Jones. One player in particular stands out to me from a talent perspective, however, and that’s Texas running back Bijan Robinson.
I could wax poetic about Bijan’s unique skillset and blue-chip talent, but I already did that in a mock draft earlier this week:
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.
Adding Bijan to Atlanta’s offense would give the Falcons three potential stars: Kyle Pitts at tight end, Drake London at wide receiver, and Bijan Robinson at running back. He wouldn’t have to carry a massive workload as a runner thanks to the presence of Tyler Allgeier—who should still receive a good portion of the snaps. That should help extend his career as opposed to the traditional “run him into the ground” method employed by most teams. Bijan would bring so much dynamic athleticism to the backfield and the receiving game. Given Arthur Smith’s creative usage of Cordarrelle Patterson, I have no doubt that Bijan would get plenty of opportunities in the passing game.
It’s not the biggest need for the Falcons, and it’s not the best “value” on the board in a traditional sense. But Bijan is, objectively, the most talented player available and would slot right into an offense that would take full advantage of his talents. No other offensive player would “move the needle” for the Falcons offense more than Bijan Robinson in 2023, and I can’t think of a better way to take pressure off of Desmond Ridder than to give him the NFL’s best RB tandem.
DraftKings Sportsbook has odds available for picks No. 1 through 5. Robinson has +20000 odds to go first overall, +10000 to go second, third, or fourth overall, and +5000 odds to go fifth overall. So clearly oddsmakers think there’s a decent chance Robinson is on the board for the Falcons at No. 8.
It’s a spicy, controversial pick. Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot have shown a proclivity for those in the past. It also makes a lot of sense for a team nearing their winning window. The Falcons need star power all over the roster, and Bijan Robinson presents the best opportunity to add that at pick No. 8.