Who will the Falcons Pick in The 2021 Nfl Draft?
By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)
The Atlanta Falcons are in a unique position with the fourth pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. They can draft a quarterback as the heir apparent to Matt Ryan, they can trade back to a quarterback needy team and still get an upper echelon player or they can stay at their pick and draft the best available player.
For the sake of this mock draft, trading out of the pick is not being considered, although in reality it might be the best option. The Falcons have a lot of needs and if they don’t take a quarterback this year they will probably need to next year, so why not maximize how many picks they have and fill some holes this year and have extra ammunition to move up (if needed) next year.
After finishing 4 – 12 in 2020, the Falcons have a lot of holes on their roster. Three of the biggest needs are running back, secondary help and edge rusher. In the upcoming four pick of this mock draft, the Falcons take care of two of those needs.
First Round (#4): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Kyle Pitts is arguably the best position player in the draft and Atlanta should be ecstatic to get him with the fourth pick to add to quarterback Matt Ryan and receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Falcons President/CEO Rich McKay was adamant that the team is “all-in” on Ryan as their quarterback and drafting Pitts shows their level of seriousness to that.
Some might scoff at the idea of taking a tight end so high in the draft, but Pitts is built differently. He can line up all over the field making him an offensive weapon in the body of a tight end and thanks to wonderful play over the past few years of players like Travis Kelce, Greg Kittle and Rob Gronkowski, Pitts’ athleticism and abilities are seen over the fact that the letters “TE” proceed his name.
Pitts is a big play threat on every play. He averaged 14.9 yards per catch in 2020 and only had four receptions that were not for a touchdown or first down. Adding him to Jones and Ridley should really open up the field for Matt Ryan to deliver the ball.
Second Round (#35): Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina
If a pass-catching tight end is a quarterback’s best friend, a good running game is right up there as well. Javonte Williams would be a great running back for the Atlanta Falcons to draft in the beginning of the second round as he can run and catch the ball effectively. In 2020, he rushed for 1,140 yards with 19 touchdowns as well as 305 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
While at North Carolina, Williams shared time in the backfield with Michael Carter. For the Falcons, Williams will have the opportunity to be the lead running back after their top two leading rushers from last year, Todd Gurley and Brian Hill are no longer on the team.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein has compared Williams to current Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt due to his abilities in both the running game and passing game. After adding Pitts in the first round, Atlanta can have Jones and Ridley on the outside, Pitts in the slot and Hayden Hurst lined up as an inline tight end and Williams in the backfield. Quite the lineup with plenty of mismatch opportunities that Matt Ryan will need to take advantage of.
With the NFL becoming more of a position-less game, having a running back who can contribute in the passing game goes a long way. Pitts and Williams being added to the offense raises the level of the Falcons a lot. Additionally, with Williams’ ability to run the ball will not only help Ryan’s efficiency, but also it should help the defense, as a good running attack can shorten the game.
Third Round (#68): Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Shaun Wade was one of the top cornerbacks in college in 2019 and when he originally opted out of the 2020 season he was projected as a first round draft pick. Then he opted back in and did not play as well as he did the previous season.
It is important to point out, that there was a big change for Wade in 2020; he played outside cornerback, not just in the slot like he did in 2019. Wade has the size and strength to play man-to-man as well as the skills to play in zone coverage, however, playing outside proved to be a bit too much for him.
There has been some talk about moving Wade to safety in the pros to maximize on his strengths without him having to worry about being on an island in coverage or needing to be responsible for too much of an open area. If he does move to safety, he would still be able to come down in nickel situations to cover the slot receiver.
Fourth Round (#109): Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
The Falcons lost two long time starters at the safety position in Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. Andre Cisco is a ball-hawking safety who excels in zone coverage. He has good instincts but sometimes gets himself in a bad position when trying to make a tackle which means using him as a single high safety does not put him in the best position to succeed.
Cisco played well in 2018 and 2019 but in 2020 he only played in two games due to an injury sustained when he collided with a teammate in pregame warm-ups. In 2018 he had 60 tackles, seven interceptions and nine passes defended, while in 2019 he had 65 tackles, five interceptions and five passes defended. In both seasons, Cisco had a forced fumble.
Much like with Wade, Cisco would have been drafted earlier coming off his 2019 season, but fortunately for the Falcons, they get the opportunity to get both of these very talented secondary players in later rounds.