Falcons 7-round NFL mock draft: 3 questions key to critical first-round decision

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Falcons 7-round NFL mock draft: 3 questions key to critical first-round decision

It’s NFL Draft week, and we’re taking our last crack at predicting what the Atlanta Falcons will do starting Thursday night in Detroit.

These exercises so far have come down to three questions: Trade down or stay put? Edge rusher or cornerback? And, what if one of the top three wide receivers falls to No. 8?

Let’s take them in reverse order. It’s very possible one of the top pass-catching prospects — Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze — will be available at eight. All it would take is four quarterbacks and Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt being picked in the top seven.

The most likely of the three to fall is Odunze, the No. 6 overall prospect in Dane Brugler’s rankings for The Athletic. (Harris is No. 2, and Nabers is No. 3). Here’s what Brugler says about Odunze: “He projects as a true X receiver and has the skill level to elevate his quarterback’s play (stylistically similar to Drake London).”

Two Drake Londons certainly would be enticing for Atlanta, but the Falcons already have added to the wide receivers room — signing Darnell Mooney and Ray-Ray McCloud and trading for Rondale Moore. Odunze is expected to be more impactful than any of those three immediately, but this decision may come down to opportunity.














From Jaguars













From Browns

The Sean McVay offense that Atlanta is installing uses three wide receivers on the field on almost every snap, and it likes to use the same three a lot. Last season, the Rams had only three receivers play more than 35 percent of their offensive snaps, and that was with Cooper Kupp missing multiple games because of injury. Given the additions the Falcons already have made at wide receiver plus the targets expected to go toward tight end Kyle Pitts, adding another pass catcher this early feels like too luxurious a pick.

The question of edge rusher versus cornerback is connected to the first question — whether or not the Falcons should attempt to trade down in the draft to acquire additional resources. If they have Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner, Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold and Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell graded as closely as Brugler does (Nos. 14, 10 and 11), there’s no reason not to listen to offers for the No. 8 pick that would bring back a good return for a small drop back in the first round.



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That’s the way we went with this mock draft completed with the help of Pro Football Network’s simulator:

Round 1 (No. 13 via Raiders): CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

Trade: Falcons trade first-round pick (No. 8) and fourth-round pick (No. 109) to the Raiders for No. 13 and their 2025 first-round pick.

I didn’t like giving up pick No. 109 in this deal, but I liked the idea of having Las Vegas’ first-round pick next year enough to get over it. The Raiders, who probably would be making this jump to get the fourth-best quarterback prospect in this draft, could be bad this year, meaning the Falcons might be getting a top-10 pick out of this trade.

Enough quarterback-needy teams are drafting behind Atlanta, including the Raiders, the Vikings at No. 11 and the Broncos at No. 12, that it’s not unrealistic to think they could get an offer as attractive as this one. And if they are OK with coming out of this draft with Turner, Arnold or Mitchell, there’s no reason not to take one of those offers.

This all comes down to how much the Falcons like Turner, who had 23 1/2 sacks in three seasons with the Crimson Tide. He might be the first defender selected in this draft, but NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said last week that not everyone in the NFL is sold on Turner.

“There’s some people around the league that aren’t as high on Turner in terms of him being the top (edge rusher) in this draft, and they’ve used the words, oh, he’s kind of soft, he’s not tough, he’s not physical,” Jeremiah said. “I don’t agree with that at all. I think there’s a difference between being a violent player, like a Jared Verse is a real violent, angry, physical player, while I think with Turner, he’s more of a firm player. He’s still doing a good job. He’s not getting blown back. He holds the point of attack. He’s just not going to get a ton of knockback from that standpoint, so I think he gets a little unfairly criticized with that. I think he’s a special player with his combination of length and bend and athleticism.”



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Round 2 (No. 43): Edge Adisa Isaac, Penn State

If the Falcons don’t get a pass rusher in the first round, then it becomes a priority in the second round. Isaac, who is Brugler’s No. 7 edge rusher, would join former Nittany Lions teammate Arnold Ebiketie on the edge for Atlanta. At 6-foot-4, 247 pounds, Isaac is a perfect physical fit at outside linebacker in the Falcons’ system.

He had 7 1/2 sacks last season at Penn State, where he played four seasons in five years, missing the 2021 season because of an Achilles tendon injury.

“Isaac needs to mature his approach to be more than a flash player, but with his length, energy and athletic tools, he can become an impactful edge presence for a defensive coordinator who continues to unlock his potential,” Brugler wrote of Isaac. “Though he projects best standing up in a 3-4, he has something to offer any NFL scheme as a role player with starting upside (similar in ways to the Philadelphia Eagles’ Josh Sweat).”



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Round 3 (No. 74): WR Ricky Pearsall, Florida

Brugler’s ninth-rated wide receiver is a former teammate of Jayden Daniels at Arizona State and, like Daniels, finished his career in the SEC. For Pearsall, it was Florida, where he caught 98 passes for nine touchdowns with only three drops in two seasons.

At 6-1, 191 pounds, he could compete for the starting slot receiver position right away because of his tenaciousness at the catch point. Pearsall ran a 4.41 40-yard dash and had a 42-inch vertical jump at the NFL combine.

“Pearsall wasn’t a home-run hitter on tape, but he is a reliable receiving option with the route quickness and ball skills to quickly become a favorite target for an NFL quarterback,” Brugler said. “He has the skill set and toughness to work inside or outside and return punts at the next level.”

Round 3 (No. 79 via Jaguars): DT Maason Smith, LSU

Atlanta needs a big man in the middle of the defensive line, so why not take the second-biggest player among Brugler’s top 15 defensive tackles? Smith, who is ranked sixth at his position, is 6-5, 306 pounds, and his 35-inch arms were the second-longest among defensive linemen at the combine.

“Smith is a traits-based prospect with his size, movement skills and pop at contact, but his inexperience is evident on tape with his inconsistent technique, block recognition and rush plan,” Brugler wrote. “NFL teams covet 6-5, 300-pound athletes on the defensive line and those types are in short supply in this draft class, which will only boost Smith’s draft projection.”



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Round 5 (No. 143): LB Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State

Troy Andersen is returning from a torn pectoral muscle and Nate Landman proved last season that he’s starter quality on the inside next to Kaden Elliss, but the depth runs out pretty quickly after that. Eichenberg, who is Brugler’s fifth-rated inside linebacker prospect, could provide it right away.

He started 27 games during a five-year career at Ohio State and is ready to play the run in the NFL. He might never have the pass coverage capability of Andersen or Elliss, but he’d be a value pick in the fifth round.

“Eichenberg isn’t a proven playmaker in coverage, but he understands pursuit angles and displays outstanding key/read/flow skills versus the run,” Brugler wrote. “He has the talent, football character and feel for the game to earn a starting job during his NFL rookie training camp.”

Round 6 (No. 187): OT Caedan Wallace, Penn State

At 6-5, 314 pounds, Wallace looks the part of an NFL tackle but could also play guard at some point in his career. He is Brugler’s 14th-rated offensive tackle prospect in a deep class of linemen and would be a steal in the sixth round.

“Wallace needs to continue to develop his consistency, but he is a smooth athlete with a wide base, punch-ready hands and improved physicality to finish. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him starting as an NFL rookie at right tackle or potentially inside at guard,” Brugler wrote.

The Falcons don’t need a starting offensive lineman, but they could use more depth and flexibility up front.

Round 6 (No. 197 via Browns): S Dominique Hampton, Washington

An Atlanta native, Hampton moved west as a child and played youth football in Arizona for Muhammad Oliver, the father of former Falcons safety Isaiah Oliver. A top-five state finisher in the 100 and 200 meters in high school, was at Washington for six seasons, including the pandemic season. As a super senior, he had 109 tackles, two interceptions and nine passes defended.

“Hampton is undisciplined with his man-coverage responsibilities, but he is an impressive size/speed athlete who diagnoses well from zone and is an explosive striker as a tackler,” Brugler wrote. “He projects as a team’s third safety who can impact all three levels of the field and contribute as a gunner/special teams standout.”

Mock draft summary



Quinyon Mitchell




Adisa Isaac


Penn State


Ricky Pearsall




Maason Smith




Tommy Eichenberg


Ohio State


Caedan Wallace


Penn State


Dominique Hampton



(Photo of Quinyon Mitchell: Kevin Sabitus / Getty Images)