The bad news? If this plays out, it’s going to be a rough season.
Is it really mock draft season again? Here’s the trick: Mock draft season never really ended, and a sleepy Saturday before Monday night preseason game is the right time to whisper about it.
As we gear up for an uncertain season ahead, it’s natural to look forward a bit. Can Desmond Ridder be the guy at quarterback? Will the Falcons be good enough this year to avoid picking in the top ten for the first time since 2020? If they are bad, what kind of elite talent can they pick up to go with what’s expected to be a major free agent haul?
It’s far too early to give strong answers on any of that, but there are a couple of early trends that may persist for your major mock draft websites. The first is thinking the Falcons are going to be terrible—something Atlanta’s eager to disprove—and the second is that they’ll prioritize an elite defender early in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Draft Network has the Falcons doing exactly that, landing Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter with the second overall pick next year. Here’s the writeup from Keith Sanchez:
The Falcons are still in the midst of a roster overhaul where they just simply need to draft great football players. Last draft, they picked up Drake London to pair up with Kyle Pitts on the offensive side of the ball. This year, I think they turn their attention toward the defense and draft Jalen Carter.
Carter is a dominant interior defensive lineman that may have been the best player on an all-time great defense. Carter will be an immediate impact player and give this defense an identity of toughness—something it’s been missing for a long time.
The Falcons may or may not have quarterback solved, but if they think there’s any chance that Ridder can be the guy long-term and they wind up in the NFL’s basement, this is the kind of pick I’d spring to the podium for. Carter would make a lot of Georgia fans happy, but more importantly, he’s a tremendous defensive lineman who immediately make the team’s defensive front more intimidating alongside Grady Jarrett. Atlanta’s last two picks in the first round have gone to stocking their weapons cabinet on offense, so it’d be nice to see them invest in the trenches early on next week.
In addition, NFL Mocks has the Falcons also picking at No. 2, but landing Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson instead. I would hardly be upset if the Falcons find themselves picking that early and wind up with a choice between a potentially phenomenal pass rusher and defensive tackle, though your belief or lack thereof in Desmond Ridder and Marcus Mariota might give you different mileage.
If the Falcons are this bad, chances are that its going to be a pretty miserable season. Whether the prospect of getting an elite defender is enough to make you hope for that outcome or at least tolerate it is, of course, up to you, but I can’t say I don’t love the idea of Jalen Carter or Will Anderson in Atlanta.