Dynasty fantasy football is a year-round affair. A sharp manager will be thinking about all aspects of the dynasty season at all times. Managers who are keen enough to look ahead will be the ones that can grab themselves an edge. A large portion of the dynasty off-season will be spent discussing incoming rookies and the related topic, the NFL draft. It is easy for us to fall in love with the next workhorse running back or prototypical alpha wide receiver, but a manager that is in tune with the entire draft class as a whole will find themselves ahead of the game. Whether it is the next road-paving interior offensive lineman or genetic freak edge rusher, we can find ourselves at quite the advantage in April by building an entire picture of how the 2022 class will play out. Those that prepare ahead will not be often surprised at the outcomes.
Draft order used in this article reflects the order before NFL Conference Championship weekend. Credit to the mock draft simulation goes to The Draft Network. Team needs are also generated from this site. Compensatory picks have not been assigned and will not be included in this exercise.
The Atlanta Falcons finished the 2021 season with a 7-10 record. They finished third place in the NFC South and haven’t seen the playoffs since the 2017 season. Their quarterback will be 37 by the 2022 season kicks off and carries a $40 million dead cap hit if cut or traded. Ryan is under contract until 2023. The team also has a star wide receiver dealing with some off-field issues, and whose future with the team is strangely uncertain.* This player, Calvin Ridley, is also in a contract year regardless of his future with the Falcons. The cherry on top may be the defense who ranked bottom three in the league in total opponent points allowed. Is it time to hit the reset button in Atlanta? If so, how could that look? Let’s examine how this front office may approach the 2022 draft. The Falcons have eight picks. Can we start the turnaround now? Read on to find out!
*Mental health issues are a very serious topic and extend well beyond the scope of the game of football and the NFL in general. If you or somebody you love is dealing with a mental health issue, there is help out there. Resources can be found at the National Alliance of Mental Illness or by calling 1-800-273-8255.
1.08 – Derek Stingley Jr, CB LSU
The Falcons are fortunate here with the CB1 on the board falling to the eighth overall pick. Stingley is a 6’1” 195-pound corner from LSU. He was a three-year starter in college but did miss some time due to injuries the past two seasons. In 2019, during LSU’s national title run, Stingley allowed only a 41.1 completion percentage. He was also PFF’s highest-graded corner in the nation that season. Stingley was targeted only 94 times on 589 coverage snaps during that season. He allowed 36 receptions on those 94 targets while also hauling in six interceptions.
The 2020 and 2021 seasons were not what people hoped for Stingley. He missed time during both seasons with leg and foot injuries. LSU as a whole was going through some turmoil throughout this stretch. Most of the talent was lost from its 2019 title team. The situation even got as bad as to have LSU move on from coach Ed Orgeron, less than two years after bringing a national championship to Tiger nation. The pre-draft process will be important for Derek Stingley Jr, but all medical issues look to be clear for now.
Stingley will join 2020 first-rounder A.J. Terrell as the other starting corner. Terrell had a very impressive sophomore season. He was targeted only 66 times on 847 snaps at corner this past year. On those 66 targets, he only allowed 29 receptions with three interceptions and 13 pass breakups. These two will make a formidable duo for a long time down in Atlanta.
2.43 – Nakobe Dean, LB Georgia
Atlanta was thrilled to have a player that most have rated as a first-round talent fall into the early second. When a player like Dean is available at this draft slot, you ignore team needs and run the card in. Luckily for Atlanta, linebacker is also one of their team’s needs. Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun leave a lot to be desired at the position, and Dean would slot in as a day one starter.
Dean is a 6’, 225 pound junior from Georgia. Nakobe was one of the nation’s number one ranked defense leaders in 2021. He also won the 2021 Butkus Award, the best linebacker in the nation. Dean can excel all over the field and is versatile enough to be deployed in either pass rush or coverage. Both areas of concern for this Falcons defense.
For a more in-depth breakdown of Nakobe Dean and all of his skills, check out IDPBaumer’s writeup.
2.58 – Drake Jackson, EDGE USC
The Falcons spent a third straight pick getting an elite player on defense. Hopefully, this will solidify a core of young defensive talent for years to come. In the second, the Falcons select the Edge rusher out of the University of Southern California, Drake Jackson. Jackson measures in at 6’4” and 250 pounds. He was a three-year starter at USC and accumulated 13 sacks over that time.
Jackson is much better at pass rush than in the run game, but this defensive line is so bad it might not matter. The Falcons ranked dead last in the league in quarterback pressures and sacks. Any help is desperately needed. Jackson could plugin as a day one starter and, hopefully, elevate this pass-rushing unit from worst to at least average.
3.74 – Malik Willis, QB Liberty
Willis may be the most lightning rod prospect in this 2022 draft class. Industry mocks have him falling from a top ten pick to the end of day two. The Atlanta Falcons selected Willis at the top of the third round in this mock draft. It would be a great value if Arthur Smith could get this polarizing prospect’s ceiling side. Let us first go over why Willis has been such a hot-button topic.
Willis is a red-shirt senior who was the starting quarterback for the Liberty University Flames for the past two years. He initially began his college career at Auburn, where he played the backup role to now New England Patriot Jarrett Stidham. Auburn eventually recruited Bo Nix to be the quarterback of the future, and that is when Willis decided that it was his time to transfer. Willis followed coach Hugh Freeze to Liberty but unfortunately had to sit out a year after his waiver to play immediately was denied by the NCAA.
Tools are the buzzword that many in the NFL draft community have been drooling over for most of the past season. All in thanks to the breakout we have seen from Josh Allen both this year and the last. Tools is also a great word to describe Willis. He has all of the tools that one would look for in a prospect. Willis has the big arm to make throws all over the field and can pair that with the mobility to keep the offense moving when a play breaks down. He has the ceiling of a Josh Allen, but also the floor of a Jake Locker.
Willis will be best served going into a situation where he won’t be asked to start right away. The Atlanta Falcons can provide that perfect opportunity. As stated at the beginning of this piece, Ryan is getting old. He is also not going anywhere, thanks to the structure of his contract. In this scenario, Willis sits behind Ryan for the 2022 and most of the 2023 season. Ryan is a free agent after the 2023 season. Atlanta can do right by their hometown hero by letting him retire as a Falcon and transition perfectly into a Willis-led offense starting in 2024.
For more on Willis, check out his rookie profile by our very own Bobby Bishop.
4.110 – Kerby Joseph, S Illinois
To begin Day Three of the draft, the Atlanta Falcons select Joseph out of Illinois. Kerby is an excellent free safety that will help a defensive secondary that requires help over the middle of the field. In coverage, Joseph was targeted only 19 times on 357 coverage snaps. He only allowed nine receptions on those targets and even converted five to interceptions. Coverage is a challenging position to play, but Kerby will bring some stability to the coverage unit in Atlanta.
5.149 – Khalil Shakir, WR Boise State
With the 149th overall pick, the Falcons select Khalil Shakir from Boise State. He is a 6’ 190 pound senior who most recently broke a thousand receiving yards for the Broncos. He operates primarily out of the slot and is top 25 in the nation in slot catches and slot yards.
Using his short-area quickness, Khalil will be best operated underneath routes over the middle of the field. This is a godsend for any quarterback who has limited time to throw. Ryan was bottom five in the league, or top-five depending on how you look at the number in pressure percentage. He was pressured on 27.9% of his dropbacks. Shakir will help Ryan have a safety net assuming this number remains the same.
Questions are revolving around Ridley and his future in Atlanta. As of this publication, he is still on the Falcons, but the offseason trade rumors are already heating up. Regardless, some good depth at the receiver position is never bad.
6.189 – Jalen Redmond, IDL Oklahoma
The Atlanta Falcons can add a depth piece to the defensive interior front to begin the sixth round. Redmond is a red-shirt senior out of Oklahoma. He led the Sooners in sacks in 2019 with 6.5 but has missed time throughout his college career. 2018 was cut short due to blood clot issues, and in 2020 he chose to opt-out of the COVID year. When he returned in 2021, he could post similar numbers to 2019, but the rust was obvious. This late in the draft, this is an excellent developmental prospect who may one day turn into a rotating piece on the defensive line.
6.212 – Dameon Pierce, RB Florida
With the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons grab a running back. Pierce is a Junior coming out of the University of Florida. He measures in at ideal size for an NFL back. He is 5’10” and weighs 215 pounds. While at Florida, he saw limited work. He was given at most 106 attempts one season and spent most of his career with wildcat-style quarterback Emery Jones. However, with such limited work, Pierce proved efficient. He was number nine in the SEC in yards per attempt despite being handicapped by his offense. This late in the draft, it is not bad to take a dart throw at the running back position. We have seen late-round or undrafted guys such as Elijah Mitchell, James Robinson, and Philip Lindsay produce at Pro-Bowl levels. Hopefully, Pierce can test well in the pre-draft process.
Fantasy Impact and Analysis
The Atlanta Falcons enter this offseason with all signs pointing towards a rebuild. Unfortunately, money tied up at the QB position may hamper this endeavor. The front office must lay in the bed they made and deal with that. They have the opportunity to use some prime draft capital to put this team in a position to win in the future.
Started From The Bottom
A majority of the picks in this draft were spent on the defensive side of the football. And for a good reason, this unit ranked close to league bottom in many significant metrics. They were bottom five in points and first downs allowed while also dead last in sacks and pressures. Help is needed at all levels of the defense. With the addition of Stingley Jr, Atlanta will potentially have two very elite and young corners. This is a great building block for a defense. Kerby Joseph is also an excellent coverage safety that will help a ton.
Hopefully, the increase in coverage skill will help the defensive front get after the opposing quarterback. Their selections in the second round will also help with that. Jackson can provide some much-needed speed and agility on the edge. He will pair nicely with Dean, an extremely athletic linebacker who can take advantage of holes created in a delayed rush.
Atlanta added two offensive weapons with this 2022 draft class. Despite being later picks, Shakir and Pierce are two excellent players. They can hopefully contribute to this offense in year one but will impact by year two. Shakir can see himself starting week one as Russel Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus are slated to be free agents depending on what happens to Ridley this offseason. If that were the case, he would make a great value pick in the late second round of your dynasty rookie drafts.
Pierce should be prioritized in the fourth round of rookie drafts. As we have seen recently, sixth-round draft capital isn’t a death sentence for the running back position. Cordarrelle Patterson is set to hit free agency, and Mike Davis is, well, old, to say the least. Pierce does have a chance to see the field in 2022. hen we are taking fourth-round rookie picks, seeing the field is what we hope for.
The New QB1?
There is a good chance that the draft doesn’t play out this way. Even if he didn’t fall to the third, do not be surprised to see Atlanta take a chance on Willis if he were to fall to one of their second-round picks. He is the ultimate ceiling play prospect and would ideally sit behind Ryan for one or possibly two years. Such late draft capital will lead the dynasty community to fade Willis in rookie drafts. Do not let this happen to you. If you have the chance to pull the trigger in the second round, don’t hesitate to make the pick. You may have to sit him on your taxi squad for a season or two. That is a price worth paying to get a shot at Josh Allen 2.0.
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I hope you enjoyed this seven-round mock draft. For more content like this, be sure to give me a follow on Twitter @DanT_NFL. DMs are always open for any questions, comments, or craft beer recommendations!