Thanks to the careful work of general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith over the last two years, the Atlanta Falcons were finally able to land some big-name free agents this offseason.
With the additions of Jessie Bates III, David Onyemata, Kaden Elliss and Taylor Heinicke, the team is in much better shape going into the 2023 NFL draft next month.
But how will these signings affect the team’s draft strategy? Check out our latest seven-round Falcons mock draft below.
Round 1, Pick 13: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Trade with Jets)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
TRADE: Atlanta opens our mock by trading back five spots with the New York Jets and picking up an additional second-round pick (No. 43) in 2023. Now slotted at pick No. 13, the Falcons took Ohio State wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Atlanta’s aggressive approach to free agency has excluded the wide receiver position so far, and as good as Drake London was last year, the team needs more talent surrounding him than Jared Bernhardt and Frank Darby. The Falcons have yet to bring back Olamide Zaccheaus or Damiere Byrd, and if the plan is to build around QB Desmond Ridder, they need to address the wide receiver position. Smith-Njigba had 95 catches, 1,595 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2021.
Round 2, Pick 43: CB Emmanuel Forbes – Mississippi State (from Jets)
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Forbes’ athleticism makes up for his lack of size, and the Falcons need help at cornerback after losing Isaiah Oliver in free agency. The Mississippi State standout has been a nuisance to opposing quarterbacks, racking up 14 interceptions over the last three seasons. Atlanta has two stars in the secondary with AJ Terrell and Jessie Bates III. Surrounding them with a versatile ball hawk like Forbes seems like a recipe for success.
Round 2, Pick 44: DE Tuli Tuipulotu – USC
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The Falcons addressed the defensive tackle position by signing David Onyemata, but a physical defensive end like Tuli Tuipulotu feels like a good fit for defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen at this spot. In 2022, Tuipulotu finished with 13 sacks and 37 hurries for the Trojans. Nielsen, who also played at USC once upon a time, could be looking to add his version of Cameron Jordan here with the team’s second consecutive pick in round two (acquired in our trade with the Jets).
Round 3, Pick 75: OC Luke Wypler – Ohio State
(Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch)
Atlanta locked up the right guard and right tackle positions early in free agency by extending Chris Lindstrom and re-signing Kaleb McGary, but the center position isn’t quite as solidified. Drew Dalman is still young enough to develop into a quality center, but adding some competition in the form of Ohio State’s Luke Wypler could be the best for the team going forward. Matt Hennessy would move to guard full-time in this scenario.
Round 4, Pick 110: WR Nathaniel Dell – Houston
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Dell is a player that a WR-needy team such as Atlanta would struggle to pass on in the fourth round. The Houston speedster could serve as another chess piece for the Falcons to move around on offense, along with Kyle Pitts, Drake London and the aforementioned Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Dell went over 1,300 receiving yards in each of his last two seasons for the Cougars, while adding 29 touchdown receptions.
Round 4, Pick 113: LB Dorian Williams – Tulane
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Dorian Williams is an intriguing LB prospect out of Tulane with good NFL upside. He’s someone that could help the Falcons in coverage and is another player that Ryan Nielsen could mold as he takes over for Dean Pees this season. Atlanta has not re-signed inside linebacker Rashaan Evans, but the team did re-sign OLB Lorenzo Carter and added Kaden Elliss from the Saints. So, while it’s not a huge need at the moment, Williams’ upside makes him tough to pass here in the fourth round.
Round 5, Pick 160: CB Jakorian Bennett – Maryland
“Relative Athletic Score” Image via (RAS.football)
Bennett showed some serious athleticism at the combine, and his physical traits warrant the selection at this point in the fifth round. The Maryland standout recorded five interceptions over his last two seasons. He could add depth in the slot and be a good developmental prospect for the Falcons going forward.
Round 7, Pick 225: QB Stetson Bennett – Georgia
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Falcons fans are familiar with Bennett, and he’s accomplished as much as any quarterback in this class. While the QB position isn’t exactly a need after signing Taylor Heinicke to a two-year, $20 million contract, Bennett is more than worthy of taking a flier on here, if he’s still available.
Round 7, Pick 226: RB Mohamed Ibrahim – Minnesota
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Ibrahim isn’t the most elusive back in this class, but he’s a steady force that rushed for 1,675 yards and 20 touchdowns last season for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Falcons have had some luck as of late with late-round running backs.
Round 7, Pick 246: FB Hunter Luepke – North Dakota State
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This is another Arthur Smith pick where the team just tries to add some competition at the fullback position. Atlanta did just re-sign Keith Smith last week, but he’s the only fullback on the roster.
Mock Draft Recap (Using PFF’s mock draft simulator)
Image Via PFF Mock Draft Simulator
Story originally appeared on Falcons Wire