With limited resources, the Falcons will have to rely heavily on the 2021 NFL draft to fill out the roster. Free agency kicks off in a few weeks and the team has just 36 players under contract. Plus, Atlanta is approximately $16.4 million over the cap minimum of $180 million by my count.
Using the Pro Football Network Mock Draft Machine with trade abilities, we looked at an idea of what the Falcons could do to really build the roster through the draft. By trading down, we were able to accumulate more picks.
Trade 1: Atlanta trades No. 4 overall to the Detroit Lions for No. 7 overall, their second-round pick (No. 41 overall) and fourth-round pick (No. 112 overall).
Trade 2: Atlanta trades No. 7 overall to the San Francisco 49ers for No. 12 overall, their second-round pick (No. 43 overall) and fifth-round pick (No. 173 overall).
Trade 3: Atlanta trades No. 41 overall to the Indianapolis Colts for No. 54 overall, their fourth round pick (No. 127 overall) and seventh round pick (No. 243 overall).
Trade 4: Atlanta trades No. 68 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals for No. 69 overall, and their seventh round pick (No. 227 overall).
Trade 5: Atlanta trades No. 218 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals for No. 240 overall, and their additional seventh round pick (No. 249 overall).
Round 1 (Pick No. 12): QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
(AP Photo/Sam Hodde)
Best player available is the way these drafts under Terry Fontenot should go. And at No. 12 overall, if Trey Lance is there even after a trade down, the Falcons should take him. He'd be the best fit for the team at the pick combined with a perfect situation for him to learn for a year or two behind Matt Ryan. Lance has Aaron Rodgers level potential.
Round 2 (Pick No. 35): S Richie Grant, Central Florida
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When it comes to selecting a perfect fit for a free safety in Dean Pees' scheme, Richie Grant should be at the top of the list. He can cover all three levels of defense and flies around the ball. He also has on-field intelligence comparable to that of Ricardo Allen and would have grossly benefited from Allen's mentoring at the position.
Round 2 (Pick No. 43): OL Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
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The Atlanta Falcons need a starting left guard, and while Leatherwood was known as a true left tackle at Alabama, he'd be a perfect fit for the role of starting left guard in Atlanta. Leatherwood instantly shows out as a pass blocker, but his fit as a zone blocking guard would take advantage of his above-average tackle athleticism and frame.
Round 2 (Pick No. 54): S Jevon Holland, Oregon
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With Dean Pees loving the idea of interchangeable safeties, having Jevon Holland selected as a strong safety would give the Falcons someone who can play deep, cover in quarters, cover two or drop into the box if need be. Holland's long-term future as a strong safety in the scheme with his kind of coverage range and play-making instincts should yield multiple Pro Bowls.
Round 3 (Pick No. 69): EDGE Hamilcar Rashed, Oregon State
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With the Falcons switching over to more of a 3-4 set in the front seven, adding someone like Rashed is a necessity. While he's not a perfect fit for a lot of teams, he's ideal for a scheme like what Pees will be running in Atlanta. His length, speed and pass-rush ability should instantly help the Falcons get after the passer and force bad throws or get sacks.
Round 4 (Pick No. 108): RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
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The Falcons need some running backs to compete with Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison for the starting role in 2021. Kenneth Gainwell from Memphis is an ideal fit for a long-term starter at running back. He can do a bit of everything and be the lead back for a scheme that runs primarily wide and inside zone. Gainwell would be like a Dion Lewis type of back for Arthur Smith.
Round 4 (Pick No. 112): CB Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota
(AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Depth at cornerback is needed with the way the Falcons have been getting injured at the position. Benjamin St-Juste is a tall, long cornerback who thrives in press-man coverage, which a heavy-blitz team would like. St-Juste should be able to contribute early as a depth player and special teams.
Round 4 (Pick No. 127): RB Trey Sermon, Ohio State
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As stated above in the Gainwell pick, the Falcons need more running backs. Trey Sermon is very familiar with zone schemes and could jump right in to be the thunder to Gainwell's lightning. The combination of the two backs with Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison would give the Falcons a competitive coalition of tailbacks to really help jump start the running game.
Round 5 (Pick No. 149): EDGE Jonathan Cooper, Ohio State
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Adding another edge rusher for depth would be smart for the Falcons to do. Jonathan Cooper is a speed rusher who can attack the quarterback. Considering Atlanta has had issues with the pass rush since John Abraham was cut in the 2013 offseason, it's about time they really invested in a multitude of pass rushers to attack opposing quarterbacks.
Round 5 (Pick No. 173): WR Simi Fehoko, Stanford
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The Falcons have a lot of short, speedy, non-physical wide receivers. Those kinds of receivers don't allow Arthur Smith to truly run his scheme fully. Simi Fehoko is a great fit for a No. 4 wide receiver in Atlanta's scheme. That will allow him to play in some possession situations where he'd have to make contested catches and also on special teams to start his career.
Round 5 (Pick No. 181): WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, Illinois
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When looking for someone to develop into a potential starting receiver behind Julio Jones, Josh Imatorbhebhe has the full package of size, speed and strength. However, much like Stefon Diggs before him, he's going to need some work in creating separation and route running.
Round 5 (Pick No. 183): EDGE Shaka Toney, Penn State
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After adding Jonathan Cooper from Ohio State, the Falcons should look to their B1G rival to select Shaka Toney who has immeasurable potential in Pees' scheme. His ability as a speed rusher will help Atlanta's defense get after the quarterback in nickel sets when Fowler or Rashed are off the field.
Round 6 (Pick No. 189): DT Bobby Brown III, Texas A&M
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The Falcons need someone who can develop behind Tyeler Davison and eventually take over the starting nose tackle role when Davison is gone. Brown has the frame at 6-foot-4, 325 pounds that would be ideal for Pees' scheme at nose tackle. By adding him to the roster, the Falcons might have the perfect 1-technique 3-4 nose tackle to eat double teams long term.
Round 7 (Pick No. 227): OT Royce Newman, Ole Miss
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Swing tackle Matt Gono is a restricted free agent that could easily be back in Atlanta if the team gives him a qualifying offer. But that offer would only last for one season, so bringing in Royce Newman to eventually take over the role Gono plays would help Atlanta have better tackle depth.
Round 7 (Pick No. 240): LB K.J. Britt, Auburn
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Depth at inside linebacker behind Foye Oluokun, Deion Jones and Mykal Walker is definitely needed. Jones has injury history, and Oluokun is only under contract for one more season at this point. By adding Britt, the Falcons take a high-upside linebacker with vocal leadership that could give them a boost on special teams instantly.
Round 7 (Pick No. 243): TE Luke Farrell, Ohio State
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When replacing Luke Stocker, the Falcons should look for another blocking tight end with athleticism that could develop into a solid No. 2 tight end. Luke Farrell from Ohio State seems to fit that mold well. He's got a larger frame and the athleticism to compete for the No. 2 tight end role with Jaeden Graham.
Round 7 (Pick No. 249): CB Tre Norwood, Oklahoma
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The Falcons are adding yet another cornerback for competition and depth here. When filling a roster on the back end of the draft, it is all about adding guys who can compete on special teams and have long-term potential to start if need be. Norwood is a play-making cornerback who could instantly compete for snaps in the slot.