The Falcons just had to go and win that final game of the season, huh? If Matt Bryant didn’t make that final field goal in Tampa Bay as time expired in the last week of the season, the Falcons would be picking in the Top 10 of this year’s draft. But because we all know he did, in fact, make the kick, we also know that the Falcons are selecting No. 14 instead.
This draft actually shapes up pretty well for Atlanta’s needs. After a down year, some due to coaching blunders and lack of execution but more so just bad luck and injuries overall, the Falcons are likely going to look in the trenches to kick this draft off. They also have some needs at linebacker and maybe in the secondary as well. With Tevin Coleman likely not returning, they could have their eyes on some sort of offensive weapon, too.
So to give a little simulation of what a Falcons draft weekend might look like, I used The Draft Network’s new Mock Draft Machine, which debuts to you all February 25th.
Round 1, Pick 14: Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida
We’re a long time removed from when Vic Beasley recorded 15.5 sacks in 2016. Since then he’s recorded just five sacks per season. That’s fine, and I think Beasley is suitable as a defensive end, but you need more sack production than that from your main edge — period.
Polite took one of the biggest jumps in production this season at Florida, and his pass rushing tape is as good as just about any edge player in this draft at its peak. Polite is only about 6-foot-2, 245 pounds, so you likely won’t want to draft him as a three-down defensive end. But as a speed rusher, he has an extremely high ceiling to produce.
Round 2, Pick 45: Jerry Tillery, iDL, Notre Dame
I decided to go with Polite over guys like Ed Oliver and Christian Wilkins who were still on the board in the first round because I knew that this draft was rich with interior defensive line help and you could get one in the second round if you scooped up edge help in the first.
Tillery has some spotty tape and production, but when he was on, he was one of the best interior defensive linemen in the country this season. Lack of consistency is why he isn’t regarded as a sure-fire first round pick, but getting him in the second round, especially into this Falcons defensive line rotation with Jarrett, Senat and Crwaford, would work well.
Round 3, Pick 80: Ben Powers, iOL, Oklahoma
The Falcons really need some help on the interior with their offensive line. They could stand to get more than one offensive lineman when this draft is all said and done, but if you don’t pick an offensive tackle in the first round then your pickings might get slim real quick.
That’s why I have them taking better value and potential production in year one with Powers at guard. Powers was a mauler at the Senior Bowl, and his tape shows much of the same. If the Falcons go defense-heavy early, which makes sense, I could see them scooping up a guy like Powers here and being happy with their draft haul two days into draft weekend.
Round 4, Pick 111: Elijah Holyfield, RB, Georgia
With Tevin Coleman likely on the out in Atlanta, they’re going to need to invest some sort of draft capital in keeping that running back room playable at all depths. They have Ito Smith, but I don’t think he’s a consistent No. 2 in the NFL. Freeman is obviously great, but he was hurt for most of last year. Holyfield could be an instant No. 2 for them.
Round 5, Pick 142: Blace Brown, CB, Troy
The Falcons recently released Robert Alford, so I think they’ll look to bring in another cornerback, but after drafting Isaiah Oliver in the second round last year, I can’t see them investing too high of a pick on cornerback. Blace Brown in the fifth round seems like a perfect addition of addressing a potential depth need while picking a guy with starter upside.
Round 6, Pick 173: Drue Tranquill, LB, Notre Dame
The Falcons could draft a linebacker a lot earlier than this, and depending on how much of a need they think that is, perhaps they will. But if they get all the way to the sixth round and haven’t scooped up at least a depth linebacker, I like Tranquill as a late round selection. Tranquill has a rough injury history with two torn ACL, but he’s a very smart and physical linebacker who can defend the run with good instincts.
Round 7, Pick 208: Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State
Williams is an interesting story. He received offers from Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Georgia out of high school due to how good of an athlete he is. He ended up signing with Tennessee. But after tearing his ACL, then serving a suspension for an off-season misdemeanor assault charge, he transferred from Tennessee to Colorado State, sitting out the 2017 season. Williams is a true high risk, high reward prospect who Atlanta can take a risk on late and perhaps have in the pipeline whenever they move on from Sanu down the road.
*REMINDER*: You can play general manager for your favorite team too when Mock Draft Machine releases to the public on February 25th!