The Atlanta Falcons traded Matt Ryan earlier this week to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a third-round that will be spent in this April’s draft. The move brought a 14-year tenure to an end which was headlined by a 2016 MVP award and nearly 60,000-yards.
Atlanta zoned in on Deshaun Watson as they looked to bring him back home but ultimately missed out on the Gainesville native and another slew of free agents.
Dealing Matt Ryan to Indy likely doesn’t change the draft strategy much for Terry Fontenot but building up the talent and depth on this roster is remains priority number one and the addition of Marcus Mariota further proves the affirmation.
Mariota can be a bridge into the future while providing quality play with an above-average ceiling at the QB position which can allow the Falcons to focus on other parts of this roster. (This draft was mocked using the PFF draft simulator)
Round 1: #8 Overall: CB Derek Stingley, LSU
The Falcons have a big decision to make with their top 10 selection as Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett are really enticing but drafting an All-Pro skillset corner in Derek Stingley might be the better move.
Atlanta’s secondary has struggled immensely over the past few seasons and outside of AJ Terrell the rest of the unit has been less than desirable. Stingley is an elite athlete as his speed and fundamentals allow him to be more sticky than velcro in man coverage.
The 2019 National Champion has struggled with health the past two seasons but when he’s on the field his impact is surely felt as he’s rarely tested but when he is the top-notch ball skills make QBs pay.
Round 2: #43 Overall: DT Travis Jones, UConn
The Falcons could go a few different routes with this selection but the available prospects at QB and WR aren’t worth taking at 43 overall compared to a freak of a tackle in Travis Jones. UConn hasn’t been really good at football over the past few seasons but one guy certainly stood out if you had the patience to watch a Huskies football game and that was the 6’5, 333 pound Jones.
The New Haven, CT native has ridiculous strength mixed with violent hands and a tough motor that makes him a factor in every play. The Falcons’ run defense was toward the bottom of the league, as was its pass rush and playmaking needs to be added to the DL.
Round 2: #55 Overall: EDGE Cam Thomas, San Diego St
Atlanta’s aforementioned pass rush only put up 18.0 sacks a season ago and the Falcons have no current starts or even project players to feel good about at DE/OLB and trading up in the first round for a primer edge rusher isn’t something to be opposed to. Thomas has a variety of pass rush moves and flawlessly executes a spin move on occasion. The former Aztec plays with a high motor and can be an asset on second and third down early in his career.
Round 3: #74 Overall: QB Carson Strong, Nevada
Atlanta was destined to add a quarterback to its roster one way or another this off-season and the Matt Ryan trade makes that more of a priority. That might sound contradictory due to my selection of defense in the first three rounds, including passing on Malik Willis and others but they aren’t exactly desperate in the short term either which means attending to other needs is most important.
It’s highly possible that one of the top passers in this class fell to the third round and Carson Strong in this mock certainly did. Strong has one of the best arms in the class and throws with nice touch and accuracy. The Nevada product doesn’t possess much mobility but from a pocket passing standpoint, Strong has some high upside.
Round 3: #82 Overall: WR John Metchie, Alabama
The Falcons receiving core is yet another positional group that is honestly a laughingstock. Kyle Pitts is a rising star and put up over 1,000-yards during his rookie season. Calvin Ridley might not suit up for the Falcons ever again after missing the back half of 2021 and is set for reinstatement in 2023 after being suspended for one year for gambling.
John Metchie is going to slide due to a torn ACL but he is still a top WR talent and this would be a monumental value pick-up. Metchie has great speed that allows him to win from the slot and good route running that earns him ample playing time outside. The Canada native isn’t elite at anything but does a lot of things very well and when cleared for contact will make an immediate impact for ATL.
Round 4: #114 Overall: T Luke Goedeke, Central Michigan
Goedeke is a versatile offensive lineman to projects as a guard at the next level and has some impressive traits that give him the potential to develop into a quality starter. The 6’5, 312 pounder has nice balance, grit in his hands, and power that all give him great upside in the run game.
Goedeke doesn’t have great length and being late off the snap along with arriving at the second level a little late are concerns but this is a nice project player with the skills to be a starter.
Round 5: #151 Overall: T Zach Tom, Wake Forrest
Atlanta goes with back-to-back tackles in later rounds, as much like Luke Goedeke, Zach Tom projects as an interior lineman but can provide valuable depth at tackle. Tom has better technique and get-off than the CMU prospect, similar length, and moderate strength but possesses plenty of experience and could be a perfect fit for Arthur Smith’s zone running scheme.
Matt Hennessey had a pretty good season last year at Center meaning Tom will likely have to shift to Guard to be in the starting lineup but the gamble might just be worth it.
Round 6: #190 Overall: D’vonte Price, FIU
Atlanta would ideally like to upgrade its running back position earlier in the draft but late in Day 3 still provides ample opportunity to find a producer. The Falcons backfield, like many other groups on this roster, are just not glamorous one bit and a lot of work needs to be done to boost a ground game that ranked 31st in yards per game.
Price brings plenty of speed to the table clocking in a 4.38 forty in Indy and has the patience, vision, and burst to fit in this scheme and could be a slam dunk pick a few years down the line.
Round 6: #213 Overall: S Brad Hawkins, Michigan
The Falcons Safety group was a quite poor unit last season and needs some retooling but they have invested some draft selections the past few years into the back end. Jaylin Hawkins and Richie Grant are the notables, meaning they can shuffle the position down the priority list just a tad but that narrative has a great chance of changing come to the end of 2022.
Hawkins lacks the athleticism to be a long-term starter in the league but he is a high-end tackler and his 220-pound frame allows him to match up well with tight ends, meaning he might be inserted as a slot corner or box safety.