Perfect Picks: Atlanta Falcons

With the NFL Draft approaching we will be looking at each team and evaluating where they need to improve. In this particular series we will run a seven round mock using the Draft Network Mock machine and find the ‘Perfect Picks’ for each franchise.

We will highlight four players that could help each team. This will feature picks 1 and 2, a mid round gem and a late round sleeper. 

The 2020 season was one of transition for the Atlanta Falcons. After 12 years under General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, an 0-5 opening to the year culminated in his and head coach Dan Quinn’s departure. Interim boss Raheem Morris initially boosted fortunes, only until the final five games mirrored the season’s beginnings.

They start this offseason under new leadership. Terry Fontenot switched allegiances from divisional foe the Saints, to land the GM job. While Arthur Smith, the man responsible for Ryan Tannehill’s career renaissance became Head Coach. The pair have a number of big decisions to make, the very biggest being their future at QB. The pressure is intensified by the fact they have the fourth overall pick.

Round 1 - Pick 4 - Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

It’s fair to consider the fourth pick of the draft as the first pressure point of the night. The Falcons are financially committed to Matt Ryan for two years at least. With that in mind, adding the best non-QB would seem to be a no-brainer. Particularly with Penei Sewell, Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase on the board.

However, to me, there are two ways the Matt Ryan situation plays out. 

Option 1 – Ryan plays for the next two years and plays at a good level. The roster as it stands even with draft additions is unlikely to become a Super Bowl contender in that time frame. The better he performs the more likely the Falcons will have to mortgage future picks to get up the draft board to find a replacement.

Option 2 – Ryan’s play falls off a cliff and the Falcons regret not taking the opportunity to draft a premier Quarterback with the fourth pick this year.

With both options the solution appears to be Trey Lance. Lance has his drawbacks. He played at the FCS level meaning he faces a steep learning curve in the NFL. He is inexperienced in terms of starts after NDSU missed out on the 2020 season due to Covid. What’s not a concern is his natural talent. The opportunity to learn under Ryan could be priceless and at some point in late 2022 or early 2023 Lance would become the franchise cornerstone.

Round 2 - Pick 35 - Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State

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The Falcons have spent plenty of draft capital at the edge rusher position but the search has been fairly fruitless. Vic Beasley flashed for one year only and they have already moved on from Takk McKinley. Dante Fowler contributed three sacks last season but the depth chart is bare outside of that.

Athletic ability and traits are difficult for NFL teams to ignore. Jayson Oweh recorded zero sacks in 2020 for Penn State but his athletic testing means he isn’t expected to fall too far in this year’s draft. To say he is a raw, ball of clay would be unfair. Oweh is active and disruptive along the defensive line but the lack of production is difficult to ignore. Somebody will take a gamble on Oweh and at the top of the second round appears to be the sweet spot. He would give the Falcons the type of twitchy rusher they are missing.

Mid Round Gem - Pick 68 - Ben Cleveland, iOL, Georgia

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The Falcons have made giving Matt Ryan a stable offensive line a point of emphasis. If Ryan is to prosper in the twilight of his career, then keeping him upright is a must. It is a developing group, Kaleb McGary is growing into right tackle with Jake Matthews the experienced man charged with protecting the blindside. There is however a glaring hole they would like to fill by drafting a starting guard.

By picking Ben Cleveland they don’t even have to leave the state. Cleveland’s stock is rising as so often happens with offensive linemen. It’s not a glamorous spot to scout and it often gets left to the end of the process, but analysts are finally wising up to how solid Cleveland was for the Georgia Bulldogs. A first team All-SEC selection in his first year as a full time starter, Cleveland has the hallmarks of an immediate starter and long term solution at the position.

Late Round Sleeper - Pick 187- Racey McMath, WR, LSU

While Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley form one the better wide receiving duos in the league the Falcons must add depth at the spot. Jones cannot continue to produce to the same degree indefinitely and adding competition at the spot is a must. While LSU’s Racey McMath is unlikely to come in and contribute immediately he has the developmental traits that make him a worthwhile late pick.

McMath found himself on the fringes of LSU’s 2019 National Championship side by virtue of being bottom of the pile in one of the most talented receiving groups in college football history. Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall could all end up first round picks. While he only had 33 receptions for 522 yards during his time in Baton Rouge, the combo of 6’2 frame and 4.39 40-yard dash is always worth a punt late in proceedings.

Draft In Full:

4. Trey Lance, North Dakota State (QB)

35. Jayson Oweh, Penn State (Edge)

68. Ben Cleveland, Georgia (iOL)

108. Jamien Sherwood, Auburn (S)

148. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State (RB)

182. Garret Wallow, TCU (LB)

183. Jaelon Darden, North Texas (WR)

187. Racey McMath, LSU (WR)

219. Landon Young, Kentucky (OT) 

Mock Draft

Rory-Joe Daniels

Cfb contributor

formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at