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2023 NFL Draft Preview – Atlanta Falcons 

The Falcons are looking to get back to their glory days. Its time to build up this team with hitting important draft needs.

Credit to the mock draft simulation goes to NFL Mock Draft Database. Team needs are also generated from this site. Compensatory picks have not been assigned and will not be included in this exercise.

In 2022, the Atlanta Falcons finished their season better than many expected. They had a 7-10 record and had a shot at the playoffs as the NFC South division leader for most of the season. The Marcus Mariota experience lasted longer than it should have, and it let Desmond Ridder see less action as he only played the final four games of the season. While he didn’t impress much during his time, his season finale game was promising to go into next season. Rookie running back Tyler Allgeier had a quiet 1000-yard season showing he may be their primary back. Losing Kyle Pitts in the season hurt, but rookie Drake London did enough to show promise as the team’s number-one receiver. 

They played better than expected on the defensive side of the ball but still managed to bend way too often. Their top sack leader had six sacks, and their top interception leader had two on the season. Two of their rookies made a minimal impact, Arnold Ebiketie and Troy Anderson, and hope to take a step in 2023. 

1.08 – Joey Porter Jr., CB Penn State

As I mentioned, the Falcons were terrible in the secondary, allowing many receivers to produce in 2022. Enter first-round pick Porter, a cornerback from Penn State. Porter projects to be an immediate, impactful defense off the bat in the NFL. His frame and length allow him to cover much of the field vs. pass catchers. In the first game of the college season, he had six pass breakups against Purdue, and teams caught up on how dangerous he could be as a defender. He has excellent ball skills at the catch points, allowing him to break out many plays. Due to injuries to AJ Terrall and Casey Hayward in 2023, it should be that the Falcons don’t have quality depth and need to add talent. Porter may not be a turnover machine, but you can be sure that the quarterback will learn quickly to throw Porter’s way. 

2.44 –  John Michael Schmitz, IOL Minnesota

The second-round pick, Schmitz, is an interior offensive lineman from Minnesota. Under head coach Arthur Smith, the Falcons could move the ball on the ground well, but improvements in the middle of the line could be made. Schmitz projects to be a center at the next level, which they could use an upgrade there. Schmitz offers power in the middle of inside zone runs and between the gap blocking. The Falcons will likely give Ridder a chance as the starter in 2023, so providing the young quarterback more time in the pocket will be essential for his success. Schmitz is stout in pass protection and can block anyone on the defensive lines. His mobility allows him to get to the second level as a blocker, even if he has to play guard, and get around the edge for outside runs. Schmitz will be a fantastic addition to the offensive line in 2023.

3.75 – Jordan Battle, S Alabama 

The team selects Battle in the third round, a safety from Alabama. Falcons rolled out two first-time starters as safety in Richie Grant and Jaylin Hawkins, but improvements could be made over Hawkins. Battle has All-Pro talent in his game, in which he can impact all parts of the field. He can play back on both safeties, play up and attack the box or even play nickel back in the middle of the field. Battle is a leader with a high IQ to anticipate the game at all three levels of defense. He is very fluid as a defensive back to keep up with pass catchers or track the ball as it comes to his direction, even if he is five to ten yards away. Battle is a physical tackler, and he isn’t going to let many players get past him. He’d be a day-one impact player for that defense. 

4.105 – Blake Freeland, OT BYU

In the fourth round, the Falcons selected Blake Freeland, an offensive lineman from BYU. The Falcons will need a new right tackle after declining Kaleb McGary’s fifth-year option, and his play is easily replaceable with a younger, cheaper option. Freeland projects as a left tackle but would likely start as a right tackle for now and, in a few years, could shift over to left tackle. Freeland’s strength helps in the run game, pushing off defenders with his hand technique and strength. He can push off a defender and get into the second level to help move the running back down the field. In terms of pass protection, he’ll need some work, especially with his footwork and ability as a technician. The Falcons will need a physical offensive line, and Freeland can offer that type of power to the offense. 

4.109 – Dontay Demus Jr, WR Mayland 

For those who love fantasy, finally, the Falcons select Dontay Demus, a wide receiver out of Maryland. I fully expect the Falcons to bring in a veteran to the team, but continuing to build depth is essential. It’s an excellent time to take a little risk with an upside-play receiver in the fourth round. Demus started 2021 on a hot streak with five games and 502 yards but would go on to tear his ACL and miss the rest of 2021. He never seemed to return to himself, as he only produced 255 receiving yards in 2022. Demus is a big-bodied receiver that the Falcons are trying to have on offense. He is built like Drake London, who has slightly similar receiving abilities but could be amazing if he gets back to form. He has speed and quickies when watching his film and the ability to get up and win those 50/50 balls like a true red zone receiver. Demus and London could work interchangeably for the Falcons’ offense. 

5.159 – Roschon Johnson, RB Texas 

We know that Arthur Smith’s offense is going to run through the running game. Cordarrelle Patterson is 32 years old and in the last year of his contract. Could he be back? Sure, but they may want to get younger and have two young studs running the offense. Tyler Allgeier was good in his first season, but I’m not sure he is the workhorse back that the Falcons’ offense needs. Johnson has workhorse capabilities to handle the rock at the NFL level. He is a tall running back with spectacular speed and overall solid athleticism. He is a patient runner who has fantastic vision and instinct. Johnson is above average in the passing game and has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He can deliver blows to defenders. While running back may not be the biggest need, Arthur Smith’s offense has dominated using strong, powerful offense. Allgeier is good, but Johnson can be elite. 

7.225 – Dorian Williams, DL Tulane

In the seventh round, they take an upside pick with Williams, a defensive end from Tulane. He has the talent to be a nightmare for backfields at the next level. He has a muscular frame with long length and massive hands. Williams led the ACC in 2020 in tackles and had 15.5 tackles for a loss. In 2022, he had another strong performance with 132 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, and two interceptions. Williams has a high motor and is a strong tackler. It will be essential in which position he plays for this defense at the next level. He has the physical force to be a starter, but he needs to see improvements. 

7.248 – Noah Daniels, CB TCU 

With their second pick in the seventh round, the Atlanta Falcons continue to build that secondary depth in Daniels, a cornerback from TCU. Daniels is raw in terms of a prospect and taking it to the next level. He is an aggressive press coverage defender using his hands to stop receivers. He has the speed to stick with some of the faster, more vertical receivers. Daniels needs to be more fluid with his hips, as he can be sold on receiver routes. He has dealt with many injuries over this college career, so we haven’t seen his full potential yet. The Falcons can take a shot at Daniels because, in the worst case, he is gifted enough to produce on special teams.  

Fantasy Impact 

In terms of fantasy impact, let’s start with the offense. Demus would likely be a late-round rookie flier that could be productive. Ridder would have to take a massive step in the passing game for Demus to make an immediate impact. He likely won’t make an impact in his rookie season. Johnson could be a sneak value in fantasy, especially if Patterson gets released from the Falcons. He could out-talent Allgeier on the offense and have a sneaky rookie season. Johnson would be someone I’m targeting in drafts if he goes to Atlanta.

As for the defense side of the ball, it is mostly Porter and Battle. Battle would most likely make the biggest impact on his ability to play all over the field. I see many tackles coming his way as a Falcon.

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