In many ways, the Atlanta Falcons are a blank canvas. After moving on from their head coach Dan Quinn, as well as their long-time general manager Thomas Dimitroff, all of the tendencies and what we know about the Falcons’ team building is now up in the air.
The roster isn’t so blank, though. They still have the veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, whose contract and play likely warrant him being around for a few more years. As for their offensive weapons, Julio Jones is still a top receiver, and Calvin Ridley next to him remains one of the best young receivers in the game. On defense, they have their cornerstones in linebacker Deion Jones and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, but that side of the ball might look a lot different after free agency and the draft.
The Falcons won’t have much money to send in free agency, so their current team needs likely won’t change too much. Given those needs, here’s an early look at a Falcons seven-round 2021 mock draft.
Round 1 (No. 4 overall): Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
I am not so sure new head coach Arthur Smith takes a quarterback at No. 4 overall. There are two sides of the coin. On one, the Falcons don’t plan on picking this high again anytime soon, so having a strong quarterback class and knowing you’ll likely need one in a few years makes this a possibility. But on the other side, what if Ryan has plenty left in the tank as a veteran in a good system? Will Smith want to use his first top draft pick as a coach on a player who is a backup on the bench for a year, maybe two?
All of that to say, if Fields is still on the board when the Falcons come on the clock, I think they pull the trigger.
Round 2 (No. 35 overall): Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
The Falcons’ biggest need on the roster right now might just be their pass rush. After moving on from Takk McKinley, following a disappointing tenure in Atlanta, the Falcons need a young pass rusher to believe in. Ossai showed insane explosiveness with a 10-foot, 11-inch broad jump and a 41.5-inch vertical jump at his pro day. He’s raw in his pass-rush mechanics and experience, but that athleticism is alluring.
Round 3 (No. 68 overall): Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State
Werner has been playing very well for Ohio State these past two years. He’s been good at diagnosing his run fits, but most importantly has shown good instincts and athleticism for coverage responsibilities. Those are the kinds of linebackers you want to pick in the first two rounds. Werner next to Jones would be a very nice combo for base and nickel packages.
Round 4 (Pick No. 108): Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State
I guess I got a little carried away with the Ohio State connections here, huh?
It took a bit for Sermon to break out after his transfer from Oklahoma, but during the final few games of his season, he exploded with three straight 100-yard games, including a record-breaking 331 rushing yards in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Falcons need some new life in that running back room.
Round 5 (No. 148 overall): Joshuah Bledsoe, SAF, Missouri
The Falcons need help in their secondary, especially at safety. They've already released Ricardo Allen, and they are likely not going to bring Keanu Neal back, as he is a free agent.
Bledsoe is flying a bit under the radar right now. He’s likely not going to be a single-high deep safety, but his special awareness is good, and he’s a natural slot defender. This could be a nice depth pick for the Falcons.
Round 5 (No. 179 overall): Tre Norwood, CB, Oklahoma
We’re staying on the secondary train with this next selection out of Oklahoma. Norwood was well on his way to a fantastic career with the Sooners before a torn ACL prior to his 2019 season threw a wrench in those plans. Norwood did bounce back and recorded five interceptions as a starting corner one again for the Sooners in 2020.
For a team that was one of the worst-ranked pass defenses in the NFL last season, any new blood would be a welcomed sight.
Round 5 (No. 182 overall): Miller Forristall, TE, Alabama
During his time as offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, Smith was known for his heavy tight end usage. Atlanta already has Hayden Hurst on the roster, but adding more bodies to give them 12- and 13-personnel flexibility is likely in the cards.
Round 6 (No. 186 overall): Patrick Johnson, EDGE, Tulane
You can never have too many pass rushers, right? Over the last three seasons, Johnson has racked up 120 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, 11 pass breakups, and six forced fumbles. He’s a bit of a tweener for what the Falcons might be doing on defense—depending on what scheme they will ultimately base up front—but he can be a nice depth piece as a hybrid DE/OLB.
Round 6 (No. 218 overall): Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee
This one is just for fun. The Falcons already have a star-studded wide receiver room, especially at the top; and Russell Gage has had himself some nice production as well. But Palmer has a uniquely unknown ceiling due to the poor quarterback play at Tennessee. If he’s there this late, I like him going to Atlanta to have a better pro career than he did in college.