The Atlanta Falcons have lost four consecutive games to fall to 5-10 on the season. With no chance of making the playoffs, it’s officially time to look ahead to the NFL offseason.
Currently, the Falcons are on track to land the sixth overall pick in the 2023 draft. Since the team will have over $70 million in salary cap space next season, Atlanta can focus on taking the best player available in each round.
After selecting a quarterback in our first Falcons mock draft, we focus on upgrading the defense in our new seven-round projection.
Round 1 (pick 6): EDGE Myles Murphy – Clemson
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The Falcons added Arnold Ebiketie out of Penn State in the second round of last year’s draft, and while he’s been solid so far, the team was more than just a player away on defense. Atlanta has 19 sacks this season and an NFL-worst 37 sacks since 2021. With Lorenzo Carter set to hit free agency, there’s still a need for another pass rusher. Clemson’s Myles Murphy would be a good mix of value and need at this spot. Over the past three seasons, Murphy has racked up 20 sacks and 66 QB hurries while playing mostly on the edge.
Round 2 (pick 37): CB Clark Phillips III – Utah
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Atlanta could use another cornerback to pair with AJ Terrell in both 2023 and beyond. Casey Hayward is under contract for one more season, but he’s coming off a serious injury and his best days are probably behind him at this point. Phillips has improved drastically over the last two years at Utah. In 2022, he came away with six interceptions and finished the season with a coverage grade of 86.3 from Pro Football Focus. Phillips is not the biggest cornerback in the draft, but he is capable of playing on the outside as well as in the slot.
Round 3 (pick 69): WR Jalin Hyatt – Tennessee
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Hyatt was a major part of Tennessee’s dominant offense in 2022. Just how good was he, you ask? The Biletnikoff Award winner finished the season with 67 catches for 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns. Falcons rookie Drake London looks like the real deal, but there’s very little depth behind him. Olamide Zaccheaus, KhaDarel Hodge and Damiere Byrd are each set to hit free agency this offseason.
Round 4 (pick 101): DL Byron Young – Alabama
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Despite drafting Murphy in the first round, the Falcons need some beef on the interior of their front seven. Young, a 6-foot-3 defensive tackle out of Alabama, could be an instant contributor in Atlanta. Grady Jarrett is having another Pro Bowl-caliber season, but it’s time for the Falcons to finally get him some help. Now that former second-round pick Marlon Davidson is no longer in the picture, there’s little depth along the defensive line beyond Jarrett.
Round 4 (pick 115): OT Darnell Wright – Tennessee
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Darnell Wright is a good long-term prospect with experience at both tackle positions. If the Falcons don’t re-sign Kaleb McGary or add a starting-caliber right tackle in free agency, Wright could potentially step in if necessary. Ideally, he would become the primary swing tackle and develop into a starter down the line. The 6-foot-6, 335-pound offensive lineman has plenty of experience against good SEC competition.
Round 5 (pick 133): RB Kenny McIntosh – Georgia
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McIntosh has the kind of pass-catching ability that the Falcons are lacking in their running back room. While Cordarrelle Patterson is a stud, his production as a receiver has gone way down this season. Tyler Allgeier is a power back and clearly the future at the RB position, but why not add a quality third-down back like McIntosh if he falls to the fifth round? Atlanta loves to run the ball, and that won’t change as long as Arthur Smith is around.
Round 6 (pick 165): WR Jermaine Burton – Alabama
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Burton is no Julio Jones, but he’s worth a flier at this point in the draft. As stated above, wide receiver is one of Atlanta’s thinnest position groups and the team needs an infusion of young talent. The former Georgia wideout transferred to Alabama where he would have slightly more success in 2022. Burton finished the 2022 season with a career-high 37 catches for 590 receiving yards and six touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.
Round 7 (pick 197): EDGE Ochaun Mathis – Nebraska
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Finally, the Falcons added one more edge rusher to cap off their 2023 draft class. Ochaun Mathis racked up 25 QB hurries and three sacks for Nebraska in 2023. At this point, Atlanta is just looking for rotational production and depth.
Mock recap with PFF Draft grades
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Story originally appeared on Falcons Wire