Draft week is finally here, with only a few days to go until the Atlanta Falcons are on the clock in the 2023 NFL Draft. There is plenty of buzz going into the week, with a number of mock drafts linking running back Bijan Robinson to the Falcons and a lot of chatter about Atlanta’s interest in trading down. I wonder where they got that idea?
Speaking of the draft, you should join us on The Falcoholic Live for our live Draft Party 2023 on all three nights. We go live at 7:30 PM ET on Thursday, 7:00 PM ET Friday, and 12:00 PM ET Saturday. Look for our official announcement post with guests and more in the next few days!
Today, I take one final swing at predicting the Falcons’ draft plans. Instead of chasing the most recent buzz, I decided to go with my gut and select some different players for Atlanta based on some of the things I’ve been hearing throughout the process. I will also not be conducting any trades in this simulation, as they’re just too hard to predict.
Before we get to the selections, here are the Falcons’ 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 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: EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Pick 7, Las Vegas Raiders: CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Round 1, Pick 8: OL Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
Based on the way the first seven picks fell—and my decision not to make any trades in this final mock draft—I was left with three players who I believe the Falcons will strongly consider at 8: Bijan Robinson, Nolan Smith...and Peter Skoronski. Skoronski is a new addition to the mock draft, but I think he’s a compelling option in this spot for a few reasons. Atlanta has kept their draft intentions pretty quiet thus far, casting a wide net with their visits and not allowing the buzz to build too much for any single prospect. The buzziest player right now is probably Nolan Smith...but it just feels a little too obvious at this point.
After a thorough review of the roster, there’s one spot that stands out above all others: left guard. The Falcons allowed 2022 starter Elijah Wilkinson to walk to Cardinals for a vet minimum contract, and only brought in a few futures/UDFA types to compete with the trio of Matt Hennessy, Justin Shaffer, and Jalen Mayfield. That means one of two things. Either Atlanta is confident in the Hennessy/Shaffer/Mayfield battle to produce a competent starter, or they’re very confident in their chances of adding an impact player in the draft. We’ve discussed the former quite a bit, so for this final mock, we’ll go in a different direction with Peter Skoronski.
Widely considered the best offensive lineman in the draft, Skoronski is a polished technician who also possesses a rare blend of strength and athleticism. The one concern, and the reason why he isn’t a top-10 lock, is his arm length: at 32.25”, it’s well below most teams’ thresholds for an offensive tackle and is in the 4th percentile overall. That’s why Skoronski—who was originally recruited to Northwestern as an interior offensive lineman—is almost certainly headed to guard in the NFL, but there’s also potential for a future conversion to center.
Skoronski’s potential flexibility to play anywhere on the offensive line in a pinch is an enormous asset, and there are very few flaws to nitpick on film. He’s a smart, hard-nosed lineman who has a clear Pro Bowl ceiling and should be expected to start in his rookie season. In Atlanta, Skoronski would immediately slot in at left guard, giving the Falcons a potentially elite guard tandem alongside what already looks to be a very good tackle pairing. If Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot want to give Desmond Ridder the best chance to succeed, investing in a strong offensive line to protect him and bolster the rushing attack is one of the best ways to do that.
Round 2, Pick 44: S Sydney Brown, Illinois
There’s been steady buzz building around the Falcons targeting a safety early in the draft. While I’ve been somewhat skeptical of the idea given the signing of Jessie Bates, I think the chances have increased drastically after the trade for Jeff Okudah. Looking at the depth chart, it should probably be more obvious: Atlanta only has five safeties on the team and just waived one of their depth players from 2022 (Jovante Moffatt). Bates and Richie Grant are roster locks, with Jaylinn Hawkins also likely to stick around, but behind them? It’s wide open.
I think Atlanta is targeting a “big nickel” safety in the second round. If Brian Branch somehow falls out of the first round, I believe he’s an obvious trade-up target. This is also a spot where the Falcons could trade down to pick up an extra mid-Day 3 pick and still come away with one of the top prospects.
Either way, if Branch is gone, I think the next target is Illinois safety Sydney Brown. It’s taken far too long to get Brown into one of these mock drafts, but better late than never. Brown is a physical, instinctive safety with a lot of versatility to his game. He played a lot in the slot in a star-studded secondary, and that’s a trait that Atlanta seems to covet. Brown was one of the most impressive players at the Senior Bowl, thriving in one-on-one drills against receivers and running backs. He also turned in a fantastic Combine, finishing with an elite 9.68 RAS.
Brown is a little on the shorter side (5’10, 210), but he’s got enough length (31.5” arms, 46th percentile) that it doesn’t concern you too much. He needs to improve his tackling consistency, but I think this is something that can be corrected with coaching. Brown is not lacking for physicality, and his athleticism and versatility in coverage give him a lot of value to a creative defensive coordinator.
Round 3, Pick 75: WR Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss
This one is too easy, in my opinion. If Jonathan Mingo is still on the board at pick 75, I think he’s headed to Atlanta. There’s been significant buzz around the Falcons targeting a receiver on Day 2, and this is a perfect spot to do it. Here’s how I described Mingo in a previous mock draft:
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 Tyjae Spears, Tulane
I’ve sent a lot of running backs to the Falcons in the fourth round. It’s a spot where the value and need line up pretty perfectly for Atlanta—assuming they don’t target Bijan Robinson at the top. One player I’ve been hoping to send to the Falcons after watching him at the Senior Bowl is Tyjae Spears, who might have the most fun tape of any player in this class.
Spears is an explosive runner with outstanding elusiveness in the open field. He’s capable of lightning-quick cuts and often leaves defenders grasping for air. Spears is a smaller back but checked a significant box by weighing in over 200 pounds at the NFL Combine (5’9.5, 201). He was never heavily utilized as a receiver at Tulane, but looked comfortable and dangerous in the role at the Senior Bowl. Spears isn’t a power back, and needs to continue to hone his vision and decisiveness at the line of scrimmage. Behind a good offensive line that can spring him to the second level, Spears can be absolutely lethal. Given the investment in Skoronski early in this draft class and presence of Tyler Allgeier for between-the-tackles work, Spears would fit in very nicely in Atlanta.
Round 4, Pick 113: EDGE YaYa Diaby, Louisville
Will the Falcons really wait this long to add to the defensive line? The recent signing of Bud Dupree suggests that it’s possible. Atlanta’s current rotation of Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone, Lorenzo Carter, and Dupree (along with Calais Campbell for early-down work) isn’t exactly star-studded, but it is deep. The Falcons don’t need to add an immediate contributor—what they need is a high-upside player, whether that’s early in the draft or on Day 3.
Louisville’s YaYa Diaby (6’3.5, 263) would make a lot of sense as a developmental edge rusher who can contribute against the run early on while honing his pass rush repertoire and plan. Diaby was a standout at the Senior Bowl—which is very important to this regime—and continued to improve his draft stock with an outstanding Combine performance (9.86 RAS). He’s got a long way to go as a pass rusher, but Diaby’s physicality and athleticism make him a worthy investment early on Day 3.
Round 7, Pick 224: CB Darrell Luter Jr., South Alabama
I’ve had Atlanta taking corners in the first four rounds all offseason. Now that we come to the end, it seems like they may wait until late or even pass on the position entirely. Why? Look no further than the current depth chart: the Falcons have 10 corners on the roster, including A.J. Terrell, Jeff Okudah, Mike Hughes, Darren Hall, and Dee Alford. Casey Hayward was just released, which creates an opportunity for someone else to step up and claim a roster spot.
Instead of prioritizing the position early, Atlanta takes a shot at an intriguing cornerback with upside in South Alabama’s Darrell Luter Jr. Luter, similarly to many guys on this list, was a Senior Bowl standout who carried that momentum into a strong performance at the NFL Combine (8.46 RAS). He’s got high-end length and excelled in press-man coverage, which I suspect we’ll see more of from Atlanta’s new-look secondary. Obviously, Luter will have to adjust to a much higher level of competition, but I like his potential to develop into a quality depth option on the outside.
Round 7, Pick 225: WR Jadon Haselwood, Arkansas
You know Arthur Smith can’t help himself when it comes to big-bodied wide receivers, and the Falcons have shown significant interest in Jadon Haselwood. A former five-star recruit and Atlanta native, Haselwood never quite met those sky-high expectations and bounced around quite a bit across his college career. He finally received a featured role in 2022 with Arkansas, leading the team with 702 receiving yards and 3 TDs.
Haselwood is a big (6’2, 215), strong possession receiver who has had most of his success as a “big slot”. That’s not a spot that Atlanta has featured heavily or sunk significant resources into, but a seventh-round pick is an ideal place to take a shot. His overall Combine workout was good (7.79 RAS), but Haselwood is definitely not a burner or deep threat. While his physicality in the receiving game pops off the screen, his run blocking isn’t as dominant as you’d expect. If he can improve in that area and take on more of a special teams role, Haselwood could have a good shot at the end of the roster and/or practice squad.
What do you think about this potential draft class for the Falcons? Leave some of your own draft takes in the comments below.