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Trading out of the No. 4 spot might be the best way for the Falcons to fill out their roster, but what if they luck out into a franchise QB along the way? Could a quarterback like Justin Fields or Trey Lance happen to slip to No. 9 overall after a trade with the Broncos? The Falcons would likely sprint to the podium for one of these two if they were available after letting the Broncos have their pick.
In this scenario, we’ve used the Mock Draft Machine from The Draft Network. After a trade down, we lucked into a franchise quarterback at No. 9 overall. And just like the Falcons would do in real life, we sprinted to the podium for a quarterback who seemed to slip for no real reason.
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Trade details: The Falcons send the No. 4 overall pick to Broncos for their No. 9 pick, second-round pick (No. 40), fourth-round pick (No. 114 overall), and 2022 1st-round pick.
Round 1, No. 9 Overall: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State/Georgia
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After the first four quarterbacks went off the board, Cincinnati, Miami, Detroit and Carolina all ignored the QB position with their primary quarterbacks already figured out. So Justin Fields fell to the Falcons at No. 9 overall, and the team sprints to the podium for him. Fields would be the long-term solution to the Falcons starting quarterback position. Whether Matt Ryan has one year, two years or three years left in Atlanta is up for debate. Fields wouldn't change that question. Ryan is in charge of his destiny based on his play. Fields gets the benefit of sitting behind a future fringe Hall of Fame quarterback. He also gets to come home and play just down the road from where he grew up in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Round 2, No. 35 Overall: CB Eric Stokes, Georgia
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The Falcons have some talent at cornerback right now in A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield. They also went out and signed Fabian Moreau to compete for a starting role in the new defense. Atlanta could still use a true starter to force Sheffield and Moreau into true depth roles. That's where Eric Stokes and his ridiculous athleticism comes in. Stokes is one of the fastest cornerbacks in the draft and has insane change of direction and recovery speed. His coverage ability is still a bit raw, but he's better in man coverage and new coordinator Dean Pees thrives with more man-oriented cornerbacks. The Falcons could start Terrell and Stokes outside while having Oliver play a bigger nickel to round out the corner group.
Round 2, No. 40 Overall: RB Javonte Williams, North Carolina
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The Falcons went out and signed Mike Davis to compete for the starting running back role in 2021. But running back is a tricky position. It's rare for guys to be effective after the age of 26, but Davis might have had his best season at age 29. That being said, with a GM committed to a best-player-available philosophy, it'd be tough to see them pass on Javonte Williams here. Williams is a perfect fit for the zone-blocking system that Arthur Smith runs. He's a one-cut and go style runner that can destroy a defense with his vision, balance and all-around play. He's a competent blocker from day one in pass protection. However, his strength comes from his ability to do damage running the ball and creating yards in space after the catch.
Round 3, No. 68 Overall: S Richie Grant, Central Florida
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In the third round, the Falcons lucked out again in this simulation with Richie Grant falling to them. He would instantly start as a free safety for the Falcons and be a great fit for the new defense. Grant is a play-making free safety that the Falcons didn't really have when they were starting Damontae Kazee and Ricardo Allen over the last six seasons.
Round 4, No. 108 Overall: OG Ben Cleveland, Georgia
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When it comes to the Falcons offensive line, the first thought is that the loss of James Carpenter at left guard would leave a massive hole. And that thought is somewhat correct, but the re-signing of Matt Gono could address the starting role short term. Drafting a guy like Ben Cleveland could be better for the long term than Gono would, though, once he gets up to speed.
Round 4, No. 114 Overall: NT Alim McNeal, North Carolina State
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The Falcons need a long-term nose tackle who would fit in well with the new scheme that Dean Pees runs. McNeal is a true nose tackle who has good agility and strength to be a talented pass rusher and penetrating run stuffer in the scheme. He handles doubles well and would fit in as a one-technique nose in the 3-4 and nickel sets.
Round 5, No. 148 Overall: EDGE Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame
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The Falcons could use some pass rushers. Dante Fowler wasn't very good during his first year with the Falcons and adding a true athlete who could attack the quarterback should be a huge priority. Daelin Hayes had exceptional athletic testing at his pro day, but his production at Notre Dame wasn't what anyone would expect for a high-round pick.
Round 5, No. 182 Overall: EDGE Elerson Smith, Northern Iowa
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The Falcons taking a flyer on a highly productive pass rusher from division I-FCS. Smith was highly productive in 2019 as a junior for Northern Iowa with 14 sacks and five forced fumbles. His potential in the NFL is exceptional with the combination of his raw athleticism and his frame. Smith would have to learn over the years, but the Falcons scheme could be his best fit.
Round 5, No. 183 Overall: WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, Illinois
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Atlanta has a ton of smaller, quicker wide receivers, but they don't have a taller, faster wide receiver who can destroy the defense over the top. Josh Imatorbhebhe is a 6'2", 220-pound wideout with exceptional speed and a 46-1/2" vertical. He has the athleticism of a basketball player that just happens to play wide receiver. His issues come from a lack of refinement in his game.
Round 6, No. 187 Overall: S Damar Hamlin, Pittsburgh
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The Falcons need multiple safeties, but Damar Hamlin being selected here would be more for depth than anything else. Hamlin played corner and safety for the Pittsburgh Panthers and could slide in as depth in the slot or at free safety easily. He also has the rough and tumble nature that will help him play special teams effectively and be a true impact for the Falcons early.
Round 6, No. 219 Overall: OT Foster Sarell, Stanford
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Atlanta needs depth at offensive tackle if they're viewing Matt Gono as more of a starting left guard this season. Foster Sarell is a good fit for the zone scheme and could compete for the swing offensive tackle role with Willie Beavers and Gono should the Falcons believe that Gono isn't the guy at left guard. Sarell has good length and quickness for the role.
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In the end, the trade down and luck of getting Justin Fields at No. 9 was more than worth it. Passing on the chance for Trey Lance and getting Fields also yielded a first-round pick for 2022, Javonte Williams to compete for a starting running back spot and a nose tackle who could learn from Tyeler Davison and eventually take over in the base packages. This trade puts the premium on letting the Broncos get the quarterback they wanted. It also gives the Falcons the shot at getting a quarterback that would succeed best in Atlanta and would be the perfect player for Matt Ryan to pass the torch to. Between the trades for quarterbacks that Detroit and Denver did and the franchise quarterbacks Miami and Cincinnati already have, it may not be as unrealistic as it seems.