Now more than ever, building depth through the draft will be critical for the Falcons.
Given the financial limitations for the Atlanta Falcons this offseason, the NFL Draft will provide the best opportunity to fill out and address the remaining holes on the roster.
Teams hope to find impact starters in the first three rounds, but Day 3 is still extremely important. These players become core special teamers and reserves, and the best teams can develop their late-round picks into future starters. Doing just that will likely be important for Atlanta to return to contention in the near future.
By now, the Falcoholic staff has had plenty of time to dive deep into their collection of draft tape and lay eyes on the late-round prospects. Here are the guys we like the most.
RB Trey Sermon – Ohio State
Edge Jordan Smith – UAB
Edge Patrick Johnson – Tulane
CB Ambry Thomas – Michigan
TE Hunter Long – Boston College
Day 3 of the NFL Draft is when most teams shore up depth and maybe find a future starter or two. If the Falcons wanted to wait until Day 3 to add to their running back group, Sermon would be PERFECT for the new Falcons offense. He would also complement Mike Davis and give the Falcons two 200-plus-pound thumpers to tote the rock. If you like athletic edge rushers with length, Smith and Johnson are two under-the-radar edge rushers who can help stockpile talent at a true position of need. –Eric Robinson
RB Khalil Herbert – Virginia Tech
OL Sadarius Hutchinson – South Carolina
DE/LB Elerson Smith – Northern Iowa
S Damar Hamlin – Pittsburgh
I’m the least reliable contributor to this particular roundtable, but for what it’s worth, here are four guys I like a lot later on. Herbert is a well-rounded, patient runner who would be a nice long-term piece of the rotation in Atlanta, starting off as a complement to bruising Mike Davis. Hutchinson has the talent and athleticism to develop into a long-term starter in Atlanta and shores up the team’s weak depth on the interior right away, while Smith brings intriguing athleticism as a pass rusher, even if he’ll need time and work to improve his play strength. Hamlin is a versatile, smart safety who lacks top-flight speed but has the skillset to be a long-term backup for a Falcons defense that needs all the safety help it can get. –Dave Choate
WR Tutu Atwell – Louisville
Edge Chris Rumph II – Duke
OL Cole Van Lanen – Wisconsin
S Hamsah Nasirildeen – Florida State
In a lot of ways, Day 3 is actually the best time to fully put the BPA approach into practice. These players aren’t expected to be immediate contributors on offense or defense, but they will be core special teamers with the potential for more, so take the guys with the highest upside.
I really like Atwell for this offense. The Falcons don’t really have a player like Atwell, who reminds me of Taylor Gabriel, on their roster. He would be perfect as the flat or mid option on some of the bootlegs we expect to see from Arthur Smith. Rumph is an interesting one for me. He is versatile as an edge rusher and can play standing up or with his hand in the dirt, although he’s best suited to do the former at the next level. The son of former Texans outside linebackers coach and current Bears d-line coach Chris Rumph, he’s not an athletic specimen, but his technique and rush counters are fantastic. I think he’s a high-floor depth piece for a transitioning defense.
Van Lanen played left tackle during his career at Wisconsin, but I’d immediately kick him inside and make him one of the top reserves at guard. He looks comfortable in a zone scheme and can drive defenders to the second level before peeling off a double team. There’s growth that needs to happen, but I could see Van Lanen adding depth at a position where depth is paramount. Finally, Nasirilden – one of the most interesting prospects in the draft. This is a pick that will be determined by how Dean Pees wants to play his defense. Nasirildeen isn’t an explosive athlete, but he is smooth, physical and very versatile. He could play strong safety in a two-high look or move around and play closer to the line of scrimmage, and has some joker traits for a defense. – William McFadden
WR Simi Fehoko, Stanford
S James Wiggins, Cincinnati
RB Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
EDGE Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
What the 2021 NFL Draft lacks in star power at the top, it makes up for with a plethora of quality talent on Day 2 and Day 3. This is one of the deepest WR classes I can remember, and there will be starting-quality talent available late on Day 3. I have a number of prospects I like, including Illinois’ Josh Imatorbhebhe and Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette, but I’ll highlight Stanford’s Simi Fehoko here. The Falcons need size and athleticism on the outside behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, and Fehoko has it in spades: at 6’3, 222 he ran an incredible 4.44s 40-yard dash and a 6.78 3-cone.
The need at safety isn’t quite as desperate with the additions of Duron Harmon and Erik Harris, but the Falcons would be smart to invest a quality player for the future. Cincinnati’s James Wiggins tested out as an elite athlete and had a strong bounce-back year in 2020 after missing the 2019 season due to injury. He’s a versatile prospect who can play both in the box and in deep coverage, making him an ideal chess piece for Dean Pees’ defense.
Even after the additions of Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson to bolster running back, Atlanta should still add a potential future starter in the draft. If they elect to wait until Day 3, there are a number of good options, but I’m a big fan of Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard despite his lackluster 2020 season. Hubbard is still an electric home run threat who offers a terrific complement to the size and physicality of Davis and Patterson. If his down year was a blip on the radar, as I believe, Hubbard could be a massive steal in the 4th round. Don’t forget: Hubbard put together a 2000-yard season in 2019!
Finally, I’ll wrap things up with one of my favorite edge rushing prospects. Hamilcar Rashed Jr. had a tough season this year coming off an incredible 22.5 TFL and 14.0 sack season in 2019, but he’s still an explosive athlete who gives tremendous effort on every play. He’s in need of development as a pass rusher and I don’t know what he’ll offer as a rookie, but I have confidence in his long-term projection as a potential impact player on the edge. – Kevin Knight