The 2021 NFL draft is officially here! We’ve got one final mock draft for you, as we take a look at a scenario where the Falcons look to build an immediate contender around Matt Ryan.
It’s Draft Day, folks. The 2021 NFL Draft is officially here, with just hours to go until the Falcons are on the clock with the 4th overall pick. Even though we’re close to the draft itself, we’re no closer to figuring out Atlanta’s intentions at the top. Rumors have been swirling about Kyle Pitts, attempted trade downs, and Justin Fields as the dark horse. There’s very little clarity and a lot of speculation.
This will be my final mock draft of the 2021 season, and is the partner to last week’s Penultimate Edition. I’ll be making them “predictive”: my picks will reflect my personal thoughts on what the team will do in the 2021 NFL Draft. That means wild trades are (mostly) off the table, and I’ll be taking my best shot at figuring out the team’s targets. While I took Justin Fields and a more future-focused approach in last week’s mock, this week I’ll be going in a different direction: trying to win now and build a competitor around Matt Ryan.
Interested in my previous mock drafts? You can check them out below:
As always, I’ll be using The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to complete this simulation.
Round 1, Pick 4: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
With Justin Fields surprisingly off the board to the 49ers at 3, that leaves Atlanta with a choice between Trey Lance and Kyle Pitts. Since I took a QB last week, we’ll go with Kyle Pitts here for my final mock. While I still believe it’s most likely to be Fields at 4 when the dust settles, there’s certainly a strong case to be made for taking the most talented player in the draft here and trying to “ride it out” with Matt Ryan over the next 3-4 years.
In Kyle Pitts, Atlanta would be adding a potentially elite receiving threat to complement an already-loaded offense. Pitts is an incredible athlete with exceptional size, and has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen. He’s no slouch as a blocker either, and can more than hold his own when asked to line up in-line. Pitts is a transcendent talent, and would have plentiful one-on-one opportunities in an offense with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. If the Falcons want to win right now with Ryan, loading up the offense is probably the best way to do it.
Round 2, Pick 35: RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
The Falcons are clearly taking a win-now approach with selection of Kyle Pitts. Now the attention shifts to getting the best players to accomplish that goal through the rest of the draft. It seems more and more likely that one of the top three RB prospects will still be on the board at pick 35, and Atlanta pounces on the opportunity to add the most dynamic runner in the draft in Clemson’s Travis Etienne. I don’t generally agree with taking RBs early, but the value is simply too good to pass up here. Etienne and Pitts would immediately give the team one of the most talented offenses in the league.
Etienne is an elite athlete for the position with truly dangerous speed and explosiveness—I personally think he runs faster than 4.45—but he’s not just a one-trick pony. He’s capable of handling short-yardage work due to his exceptional contact balance, and is surprisingly smart with the football to avoid losing yardage.
As a wide zone back, Etienne is deadly. He’s good at reading his blocks and taking the right angle to break off big runs. One of the biggest weaknesses of Etienne’s game was his ability as a receiver, but he improved markedly in this area this season with nearly 50 receptions and over 500 yards.
Round 3, Pick 68: C/G Josh Myers, Ohio State
With the team electing to go after two major offensive weapons at the top of the draft, the offensive line has to wait until the latter portion of Day 2. Luckily, this is a deep class on the interior, and the Falcons have an opportunity to add a quality player here at 68. Ohio State’s Josh Myers lacks of upside of players like Creed Humphrey and Wyatt Davis, but he’s an experienced starter who is ready to come in and start immediately. Myers can play guard or center, but is probably best served by staying at the pivot with Matt Hennessy moving to left guard.
Myers is a two-year starter at center and brings excellent size to the position at 6’5, 310. That size gives him the versatility to play guard, as well, but he’s much more experienced at the pivot. Myers is experienced and technically sound in nearly all aspects of his game, making him an ideal rookie starter in the NFL. He’s competitive and smart, with the capability to be a leader on the offensive line. As an athlete, he’s got plenty of lateral quickness and can handle both inside and outside-zone concepts. In terms of strength, Myers is solid and has the ability to get push as a run blocker and hold his own in pass protection.
Round 4, Pick 108: EDGE Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa
As Atlanta prioritized bolstering the offense early, defensive improvements will have to come from finding value on Day 3. There is good depth in this draft class, particular at EDGE and safety, and the Falcons can still find quality contributors at this point in the draft. Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith is a riser from the FCS with an excellent frame (6’6, 252) and standout athletic ability.
Smith’s best trait is his explosiveness, as he can be a terror off the snap. He’s a fluid mover in space with the ability to bend the edge and create pressure. I like his effort and competitiveness, as he doesn’t give up on plays and is willing to chase from the back side. Smith must get stronger at the NFL level however, as he can be a liability against the run. He’ll start his career as a pass rushing specialist, but at his size there’s no reason to believe he can’t develop into a more complete player in time.
Round 5, Pick 148: S James Wiggins, Cincinnati
One of my favorite Day 3 fits for the Falcons manages to fall to the top of the fifth round, and it’s great for Atlanta. Wiggins is an ideal safety pick for Dean Pees’ defense, as he can play any spot in a pinch and brings physicality to the position. He tested out as an elite athlete and has come back strong from a few injury-plagued seasons. Wiggins would be a steal this late in the draft, but he could fall here because of the depth of the safety class.
Wiggins is a physical player who can bring the boom as a tackler. He’s also strong in coverage and is an excellent ballhawk, with 5 INTs and 11 PD over the past two seasons. His ability to line up anywhere in the secondary adds to his value, although he still needs work in zone coverage. The issues with Wiggins have primarily been injury-related, as he tore his ACL prior to the 2019 season and had a setback prior to 2020. His athleticism has clearly not been affected, as his testing shows, but it’s worth mentioning and he’ll need to clear medical checks.
Round 5, Pick 182: CB Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon
Without a trade down to pick up additional Day 2 resources, there’s no way for the Falcons to address all of their major needs early. Cornerback ends up as the position which gets pushed down the board. It’s not an incredibly deep class, but there are still some prospects worth taking a chance on here at the end of the fifth round. Oregon’s Deommodore Lenoir is one of them.
Lenoir has solid size for the position at 5’10, 200 and pairs it with good long speed. He’s only an average athlete in terms of agility and explosiveness, but Lenoir still finds ways to win with his intelligence and instincts in zone coverage. His ability to play both on the outside and in the slot add to his value, and he’s a quality tackler in run support. Lenoir isn’t likely to be an impact starter, but he could fill a Blidi Wreh-Wilson role for Atlanta as a spot starter and versatile reserve option.
Round 5, Pick 183: WR Simi Fehoko, Stanford
The more I watch Stanford’s Simi Fehoko, the more I love his game and fit in Atlanta. It’s no secret that the Falcons have been taking calls about a potential Julio Jones trade—and while I think that move is unlikely in 2021, it could easily happen next season. Outside of Jones, the team has a significant lack of size in the WR corps and Fehoko can fill that void. He’s got a great chance to outplay his draft position in Atlanta.
Stanford WR Simi Fehoko has tremendous size at 6’3, 222 and pairs it with incredible speed and agility (4.44 40-yard dash and a 6.78 3-cone). Fehoko, as you might expect from his athletic profile, is a dangerous deep threat. His combination of long speed and size makes him difficult to cover downfield. He needs more experience as a route runner in the short-to-intermediate area, and he’s had some issues with drops throughout his college career. Atlanta has time to coach Sehoko up and get him ready to take on a larger role, and his size profile would be a perfect complement to the players already on the roster.
Round 6, Pick 187: DT Khyiris Tonga, BYU
The Falcons managed to bring back Tyeler Davison after he agreed to a pay cut, but his fit in traditional 3-4 looks is not ideal. Atlanta would be wise to invest in a more prototypical 3-4 NT who will also cost a lot less. BYU’s Khyiris Tonga has been a frequent appearance in these mock drafts, and he makes a lot of sense for the team at this point in the draft.
Tonga is a massive space eater at 6’4, 322. As you might expect from his size, Tonga is an exceptional run defender. He has experience playing both 1 and 0 tech, and can two-gap and take on double teams effectively. Tonga relies on his strength and bull rush to create pressure on pass plays, but he is adequate in this area. He’s unlikely to ever offer much as a pass rusher, but he can be a long-term starter as a run stuffing NT for the Falcons. In the sixth round, that’s good value.
Round 6, Pick 219: EDGE William Bradley-King, Baylor
Late in the draft, it’s time to take a swing on a player with high upside. Baylor’s William Bradley-King has the build of a 3-4 OLB at 6’3, 252 and plays with good athleticism. He’s quick, agile, and explosive off the snap with plenty of juice to get to the QB and cause problems in the backfield. Bradley-King has a tremendous motor and will always seek to make an impact, including chasing down runners from the back side.
Bradley-King has some issues to his game. He’s a 3-4 OLB only due to his frame, and even then he still has issues defending the run. While he’s a smart player overall, he can be over-aggressive and leave cutback lanes for opposing ball carriers. Bradley-King also has a very limited repertoire of pass rushing moves and will need to develop some to have sustained success at the NFL level. This is a deep EDGE class and I believe Bradley-King offers rotational upside all the way at pick 219.
What are your thoughts on this mock draft scenario for the Falcons? Share your comments and your own mock drafts below!