2023 Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft: Final One Before the Big Day
2023 Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft for all seven rounds
The 2023 NFL draft is almost here, and the Atlanta Falcons have seven selections to add more talent to their roster for the coming season and beyond. Terry Fontenot has proclaimed that he will go with a "Best Player Available" model for his draft strategy. While this is a great way to do it, the Falcons have shown that they care very heavily about what kind of people their prospects are off the field as much as the kind of players they are on the field.
Because of that, every pick in this mock draft is made on the basis of how the players will fit with the Falcons in the locker room and on the field. The best players available for the Falcons may look a bit different than the best players for other teams because of their emphasis on culture fits. With that in mind, there will be some needs they look into, but the vast majority of the picks will be done because of how the Falcons value their players.
Also Read: Full first-round mock draft.
The Falcons made a lot of signings in the offseason that were either to bring in leadership—like Jessie Bates, Calais Campbell, and Jonnu Smith—or to bring in guys who will compete for an opportunity to show that they are trying to earn a roster spot to have a career resurgence. Atlanta could continue to look into more leadership, competition on the roster, or even just good team players that happen to be excellent football players.
Round 1, No. 8 Overall: EDGE Nolan Smith, Georgia
Nolan Smith is an extremely likely first-round pick for the Falcons because of his abilities as a pass rusher and run defender. He's a great fit to add to an edge defender unit that already added Bud Dupree and brought back Lorenzo Carter to add to their unit of young players under contract in Adetekunbo Ogundeji, Arnold Ebiketie, and DeAngelo Malone. Smith has one thing that this unit is missing for the long term. Leadership.
With Carter and Dupree looking like one-year rentals, the Falcons need that long-term voice to guide the group. In college, Smith was the leader of Georgia's entire defense and was a captain for them during his time there. Even when he was injured, he would come back and help out as a de facto assistant coach. The Falcons would have a much better defensive unit as a whole with Smith being one of the leaders of it, and for that alone, he could be their pick at No. 8 overall.
Round 2, No. 44 Overall: OL Cody Mauch, North Dakota State
Cody Mauch fits right in with the captain's theme in this mock draft. While the Falcons have veteran leadership with Chris Lindstrom and Jake Matthews, Matthews is getting a bit long in the tooth at this point in his career. Mauch is a left tackle by trade and could eventually take Matthews' starting role as the left tackle for the long term. In the short term, Mauch would be a backup to Matthews and compete for the starting role at left guard.
One thing the Falcons love to emphasize on the offensive line is a competitive nature on every snap and great communication. Mauch would be able to provide both to the Falcons from day one, and could very easily start at left guard in 2023. The Falcons currently have just Matt Hennessy, draft bust Jalen Mayfield, and street-free agent Kyle Hinton competing for the role of left guard. Mauch would bring a starting caliber talent to the fold and allow Hennessy to resume duties as a gameday guard and center reserve.
Round 3, No. 75 Overall: WR Rashee Rice, Southern Methodist
With the Falcons investing in Desmond Ridder as the starting quarterback, he's going to need longer-term options at the wide receiver position. Only Drake London and Jared Bernhardt are under contract at wide receiver for the 2024 season at this point. The Falcons need to bring in someone who can be a perfect No. 2 to Drake London. NFL teams like to have their receiver groups look like a basketball team with the quarterback as the point guard distributing the ball. With Kyle Pitts as the center, London is a power forward and Bernhardt is a sixth man who will rotate in.
With that, the Falcons need that playmaking small forward, and that would be Rashee Rice. Rice was the captain for SMU's offense in 2022. He was also one of their best playmakers as a senior with 96 catches for 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns. Rice's playmaking abilities could vastly improve the Falcons by giving them a guy who can not just gain those intermediate yards, but someone who can attack the deep parts of the field. Rice compares favorably to retired Falcon Roddy White.
Round 4, No. 110 Overall: WR Tyler Scott, Cincinnati
Continuing with the basketball roster theme, the Falcons need that shooting guard who can slash and score. Tyler Scott can do the equivalent as a slot receiver, outside guy, or inside guy. He has great overall speed and is one of the best receivers with the ball in his hand. Scott averages 6.6 yards after catch per reception. This stat ranked seventh of all wide receivers in college football for all qualifying receivers who had more than 80 targets their way in the 2022 season.
By having a distributor like Desmond Ridder under center, the Falcons should be able to take advantage of Scott in the open spaces. He also has the ability to burn defenses deep, giving them a third option for 2023 that can do that from the outside. Add in Scott's history with Ridder and some built-in chemistry from the two of them, and the Falcons would have one of the best possible receiving corps to help Ridder take the next step for the 2023 season and beyond.
Round 4, No. 113 Overall: CB/S Riley Moss, Iowa
While the Falcons have a need for depth at the cornerback position, they could also use a potential safety for depth as well. Riley Moss would fit in with the Falcons' current group at cornerbacks when they are implementing zone-based concepts, but his better fit is at safety. He's excellent as a zone defender and is a hard hitter. His bigger impact will come on special teams, though. He's a great fit for the Falcons' needs there and has the leadership of being a team captain at Iowa as well.
Moss would be someone who could be a long-term special teamer and be the captain of the unit for a few years as a gunner and personal protector. Atlanta can always use more special teams depth and having Moss in the group will only help the Falcons continue to have a great unit there. He may eventually work his way into the fold on defense for big nickel and as a slot guy once he can clean up his man coverage. As an athlete, he's one of the best in the draft.
Round 7, No. 224 Overall: RB Eric Gray, Oklahoma
With seventh-round picks, leadership isn't as important as hunger for the game. Eric Gray is one of those players who continually try to gain every yard when he's got the ball in his hands. He fights through contact and even is a willing and able pass blocker. The thought of drafting a running back comes from the fact that Caleb Huntley suffered an Achilles injury towards the end of the 2022 season and may not be fully recovered during the 2023 season.
Gray is a solid special teams player as well and could turn into a sneakily good power back for the rotation for the Falcons. He's got enough vision and burst to be a similar runner to what Huntley was for the Falcons in 2022. With Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Allgeier, and Avery Williams returning as well, the Falcons could end up having a four-headed monster at running back yet again. Gray would be a great value add to the running back room.
Round 7, No. 225 Overall: LB Dee Winters, Texas Christian
Dee Winters is an undersized, but very fast linebacker from TCU who will be a terror on special teams for the Falcons. On top of that, Winters was the captain of the Horned Frogs' defense. The Falcons could use some depth at linebacker despite signing Kaden Elliss to be one of the starters and drafting Troy Andersen in 2022 to be the other starter moving forward. Mykal Walker and Winters would be a good pair of backups for the inside linebacker groups.
Winters has the ability to play the run, rush the passer and drop into zones effectively, but he's not refined in any aspect of his game yet. He'd be a pure project and special teams guy for the early part of his career. However, he is an extremely intelligent player who understands body positioning well and just needs to get better at reading offenses before and after the snap. The Falcons could help him in these aspects of his game with Frank Bush as a talented linebackers coach.
All advanced stats are courtesy Pro Football Focus or Football Outsiders. All traditional stats are courtesy of official team websites, NFLGSIS or CFB Stats. All RAS and athletic testing numbers are courtesy of DraftScout.com and Kent Lee Platte's RAS Football website.