The Atlanta Falcons roster looks a lot different than it did at the end of the 2021 season. Calvin Ridley is suspended for 2022 after being disciplined for betting on games. Russell Gage left to join Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then, Matt Ryan got traded to the Indianapolis Colts after the Falcons missed out on the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes.
So, the Falcons 2022 NFL Draft haul is as crucial as ever. Sure, they brought in Marcos Mariota and re-signed gadget-guy Cordarrelle Patterson. But they need help essentially everywhere and have five picks in the first three rounds, giving them plenty of opportunities to add playmakers to a depleted roster.
With that, let’s look at a three-round mock draft for the Falcons.
Round 1, No. 8 overall: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
The Falcons need a QB for the future. After dealing longtime starter Matt Ryan, they wasted no time and brought in former No. 2 overall choice Marcus Mariota in a reunion with Arthur Smith. Still, Mariota is a bridge QB, if that, and the Falcons can’t think too hard with this pick.
There is a possibility that Willis goes to the Detroit Lions at No. 2 or the Carolina Panthers at No. 6. The Falcons could bypass both teams by trading up to get their guy — if Willis is, in fact, their primary target.
At his Pro Day, Willis put on a show in front of all 32 NFL teams and the Falcons had a heavy presence on hand to watch him. The talent and ceiling are as high as anybody in this draft class, but he needs time to develop. Willis would be perfect for the Falcons and he could benefit from watching Mariota for the 2022 season — or at least the start of it.
Get Malik Willis to the Falcons right now.
Round 2, No. 43 overall: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
There is a reason Kenneth Walker III ended up right outside the list of Heisman Trophy finalists. He was electric at Michigan State and is one of the best running backs in this draft class. Breece Hall and Isaiah Spiller round out the top-3 for this group, and depending on what type you like, any of them can be the top guy.
Nonetheless, the Falcons need a running back. Patterson defied the odds in 2021 and is back with the Falcons, but he isn’t an every-down back. Walker is just that — a three-down back who can get goal-line carries and catch passes out of the backfield.
The Falcons’ run game in 2021 was terrible, as just Patterson and Mike Davis were the only two guys to rush for more than 110 yards. There is no secret that Arthur Smith likes to run the football (look at what he did with Derrick Henry), and Walker would help out immensely.
Round 2, No. 58 overall: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
The wide receiver class in 2022 is loaded from top to bottom. That is terrific news for the Falcons, who need some sort of talent in the WR room. Kyle Pitts has the tight end position locked down for years to come, but with the absence of Ridley and the departure of Gage, the WR group is razor-thin.
Currently, the only other options are Frank Darby, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Christian Blake. They need help.
Enter Pickens, who played at the University of Georgia and would instantly have many Bulldogs fans waiting to buy his NFL jersey. Plus, he’s a dynamic playmaker that would immediately become an NFL starter.
Pickens isn’t a lock to be there at 58, but there is a good shot he drops down that far. If so, the Falcons need to grab the Bulldogs star.
He played just two games in 2021 due to injury, but in his 2019 year, he had 37 grabs for 552 yards and seven scores. Then, in 2020 he had 29 catches for 378 yards and five scores, so clearly, Pickens has a knack for the endzone.
Round 3, No. 74 overall: Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
For now, the Falcons addressed the offense enough in the first two rounds. So, defense it is in the third round.
Phidarian Mathis is a monster upfront and would help solidify the Falcons’ defensive line. Mathis was a captain in 2021 for Alabama and earned several accolades in his senior campaign: second-team All-America, Reese’s Senior Bowl All-American, All-SEC Second Team recognition from the conference coaches, and much more.
He had nine sacks on the season and tended to get after the quarterback. On top of that, he can help stop the run and be a tough matchup for a number of offensive linemen in the league.
Oh, and you can’t go wrong with an Alabama defender.
Round 3, No. 82 overall: Drake Jackson, EDGE, USC
The Falcons once again address the defense with another third-round draft choice. This time, it is edge rusher Drake Jackson.
On the surface, this could end up as one of the biggest steals in the 2022 NFL Draft. Before the 2021 college football season, Jackson was highly regarded as a first-round talent.
But, he didn’t perform too well in his final season with the USC Trojans, although much of that can be due to Todd Orlando’s patchy defense.
Jackson compiled five sacks and an interception in his final college season and should be available in the third round, for some reason. The Falcons adding Mathis and Jackson this late in the draft is a home run.
Stats Courtesy of Sports Reference
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