Terry Fontenot has been adamant regarding the Falcons’ approach to the draft, taking the best player available. Atlanta’s strategy in free agency of signing veterans to round out the positions of need paves a path for that BPA strategy. It allows Fontenot to focus on the team’s big board without reaching for a position of need.
That isn’t to say the Falcons’ roster doesn’t have holes because it certainly does. Atlanta obviously needs a long-term answer at quarterback, pass rushers, and pass catchers. However, those positions are somewhat stable enough to enable Fontenot to be flexible come draft time. It doesn’t diminish the need; instead, it keeps the front office honest when it comes to their big board.
The fact is the roster requires upgrades up and down the depth chart, so whoever the Falcons select with their first-round pick, that prospect will likely fill a position of need. That’s just how depleted Atlanta’s personnel currently stands.
In Mel Kiper’s latest mock, ESPN’s top draft analyst has the Falcons selecting one of the best playmakers in the entire 2022 class.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
I’m going to stick with this prediction because … who is Marcus Mariota going to throw to next season? The Falcons just don’t have any starting-caliber receivers. Wilson can run every route and beat defenders after the catch. He could be the early favorite for Rookie of the Year if he lands here — he’d get a bunch of targets. Atlanta will likely be tracking the edge rushers closely, but there isn’t value at this point on my board.
Wilson is arguably the best receiver in this class. The Buckeyes product can beat defenders in various ways with his elite athleticism — straight-line speed and top-of-the-line agility. But being a wideout in the NFL is more than just beating your defender to the spot; it’s about catching contested balls because cornerback play in the league is miles ahead of what Wilson faced at Ohio State.
Wilson displays reliable hands, excellent body control and catch radius, impressive tracking ability, and the willingness to put his body on the line over the middle. Sure, his stature is cause for concern, but in today’s NFL, the best offensive coordinators can make any wideout into a true #1 — i.e., Justin Jefferson.
I haven’t even mentioned his greatest attribute — his run-after-catch ability. Wilson is lightning in a bottle. He can catch a five-yard slant and take it to the house. He’s that special. If Wilson can refine his route running, he’s got all the makings to have a successful career next to Kyle Pitts.
Below are the rest of Atlanta’s selections from Kiper’s mock draft:
43. Atlanta Falcons
Boye Mafe, OLB, Minnesota
The Falcons had just 18 sacks last season, which ranked last in the league. Outside of Grady Jarrett, who in their front seven will scare teams? Mafe had seven sacks last season and was really good during Senior Bowl practices. At 6-foot-3 and 261 pounds, he fits in Atlanta’s 3-4 scheme.
58. Atlanta Falcons (via TEN)
Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
Andersen played as an off-ball linebacker — and quarterback, running back — in college, racking up 150 tackles last season. He impressed at the combine, running a 4.42 40 at 6-foot-3 and 243 pounds. That’s an elite number. Atlanta just has to focus on replenishing its roster, so this is great value.
Photographer: Steven King/Icon Sportswire
— SportsTalkATL.com (@SportsTalkATL) April 4, 2022
The NFL Combine is underway this week in Indianapolis, and the Falcons are sure to be heavily represented at Lucas Oil Stadium. Atlanta holds four top picks in the first 75 selections, with an opportunity...