It has been nearly a month since my last mock draft, in which I tried to project seven possible picks for the Atlanta Falcons in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Now that free agency is probably close to being wrapped up for the Falcons, it’s time to take another look at who the Falcons could be targeting later this month.
First Round, Pick 26
Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Bryan is a highly athletic and disruptive defensive tackle that made the most out of his only year as a starter at Florida, earning All-SEC honors with six tackles for loss and four sacks. While still raw, Bryan has the toughness and work ethic to show that his best football is ahead of him, giving his upbringing as the son of a former Navy SEAL and firefighter.
Most likely Bryan will immediately step into the Falcons defensive line rotation as a pass-rushing defensive tackle alongside Grady Jarrett in sub-packages. Eventually, he can grow into a more expanded role in the base defense, potentially as a defensive end that replaces Derrick Shelby in 2019 given the former’s length, flexibility and burst. Either way, Bryan’s potential to play both inside and outside should allow him to carve out a significant role in the Falcons’ defensive front in the years to come.
Second Round, Pick 58
Dante Pettis, WR, Washington
Recruited during the final months of Steve Sarkisian’s tenure at the University of Washington, Pettis turned in a very productive career in the northwest. He had a monster junior season where he scored 15 touchdowns on 53 catches. He had another strong season as a senior, catching 63 passes for 761 yards and seven scores while earning All-American status. He also was a highly productive return specialist, scoring nine times over the course of his career at UW. He is the son of former Major League outfielder Gary Pettis and his older brother Austin played wide receiver in the NFL for a number of seasons.
A polished route-runner that can potentially play inside or outside, Pettis will immediately contribute in Atlanta as a punt returner in 2018. Starting in 2019, he can begin to carve out a bigger role in the offense, eventually growing into a No. 2 option opposite Julio Jones that can thrive as a chain-mover on third downs that can win the red zone.
Third Round, Pick 90
P.J. Hall, DT, Sam Houston State
An athletic specimen in the middle, the Falcons look to beef up the middle the defense with a nose tackle that was highly productive during his college career in the FCS. He finished his career with 86.5 tackles for loss, 42 sacks, 14 blocked kicks and nine forced fumbles and earned All-American honors every year of his career. He was able to flash dominance in the East-West Shrine practices and game.
A one-technique nose tackle that has the quickness, burst and power to also affect the quarterback on passing downs. Hall should immediately get an opportunity to play beside Grady Jarrett in the base defense, as the team looks to replace Ahtyba Rubin and Dontari Poe in the middle. Eventually, he could team with Jarrett, Takk McKinley and Bryan to forge the Falcons defensive line in the base package and allow the team to finally have a unit that requires only minimal substitutions on passing downs.
Fourth Round, Pick 126
Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois State
As noted in the previous mock draft, Harris had a good week of practice at the East-West Shrine Game coupled with a solid Combine performance where he was able to showcase both speed and strength. He finished his career with three interceptions and 37 pass breakups.
Harris has the skills to win in man coverage, something that the Falcons could certainly use more of as they look to supplement their cornerback depth even after adding Justin Bethel in free agency. He has the potential to play both inside and outside for the Falcons as he develops, but for the time being, will give them a more effective outside cornerback behind starters Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant.
Sixth Round, Pick 200
Ito Smith, RB, Southern Mississippi
Smith had a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl, showing off his ability to make plays both on the ground and in the air. Undersized with a similar build as Devonta Freeman, Smith has the ability to be a dynamic option in the passing game after catching 40 or more passes in each of his final three seasons at Southern Miss.
While he may not win a foot-race against Tevin Coleman, Smith is a viable candidate to replace the fourth-year running back in 2019 should the former depart in free agency. In the meantime, Smith could compete for a role on special teams, where he dabbled as a kickoff returner early in his career. He has the vision, burst, speed to shine in the Falcons outside zone-blocking scheme.
Seventh Round, Pick 244
Foye Oluokon, LB/S, Yale
Even with Ivy League pedigree, Oluokun proved to be a premier athlete as well at his pro day. Having spent time at linebacker and safety, he offers versatility to play a number of roles in the Falcons defense. He spent the bulk of his career at safety before moving to linebacker this past year, finishing with 50 tackles, three sacks, nine tackles for loss and four pass breakups.
Oluokun’s safety-like athleticism trapped in the 229-pound body of a linebacker will give him the sort of coverage potential and speed that the Falcons covet at the position. He’ll immediately carve out a role on special teams and be counted on to add some much-needed depth at outside linebacker. Eventually, the Falcons hope to grow him into a fixture as a reserve similar to their current safety-linebacker hybrid in Kemal Ishmael.
Seventh Round, Pick 256
Cole Reyes, S, North Dakota
Reyes had his senior season cut short by a wrist injury but was able to recover in time to participate in the East-West Shrine game. His last full season as a junior, he managed to earn All-American honors with 70 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and eight pass breakups. He’s experienced playing either safety position, showing comfort playing both in the box and in deep coverage.
Reyes fits the bill as a solid reserve to play behind Keanu Neal at strong safety, possessing enough athleticism, range and ball skills to be comfortable covering tight ends as well as rotating to the deep half as a single-high safety. He’ll have little issue carving out an immediate role on special teams as the Falcons look to build their depth long term.
There are more seven-round mocks in store before the draft that is now barely more than two weeks away!
Preseason Week 2 Q&A
Aaron reviews the Falcons vs. Chiefs preseason action from last week and answers listeners questions. He discusses:
- Damontae Kazee pushing Ricardo Allen as a starter
- Standout undrafted rookies like Anthony Winbush and Jon Celestin
- Grady Jarrett’s Pro Bowl potential
- Duke Riley’s progress
- Marvin Hall’s role
- Steve Sarkisian’s play-calling
- How Calvin Ridley matches up with corners in the NFC South
- Making adjustments to his practice squad and 53-man roster projections from earlier this summer.
Rapid Reaction to Preseason Loss to Chiefs
Aaron reacts to the Falcons 28-14 loss to the Chiefs in their second preseason game. He goes position by position, breaking down the standouts and struggles including Calvin Ridley’s breakout performance and potential to impact as a returner, the battles at tight end and right guard, the improvement from Duke Riley and thoughts on the new helmet penalty.
Preseason Week 2 vs. Chiefs Preview
Aaron previews tonight’s preseason action between the Falcons and Chiefs. He goes position by position, discussing the team’s QB rotation, seeing more of Calvin Ridley, the battle at right guard, tweaking the DT rotation, potential shifts in secondary roles and more.
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