Matt Tabeek's 2018 NFL Mock Draft 3.0: Falcons add an NFL-ready red zone weapon

Posted Mar 21, 2018

Falcons take arguably the most NFL-ready tight end in this draft class in latest mock draft

My oh my, has the NFL landscape changed since my last NFL mock draft was released on March 9. For starters, three of the first six teams picking – the Browns, Broncos and Jets – have all added quarterbacks. Those changes, along with all the other free agent action already taking place, will have a trickle-down effect on the draft, especially the first round.


And for the third mock draft in a row, I’m going in a completely different direction with the Falcons’ pick at No. 26, too. The Falcons haven't made headline-grabbing moves in free agency, but they've made a series of solid ones – including signing offensive lineman Brandon Fusco. I think Atlanta has needs along the defensive line and as well as receiver, and they could still draft a running back on Day 3, like they did last year when they took Brian Hill out of Wyoming in the fifth round. As we've been told repeatedly, whatever the Falcons do in the NFL Draft will hinge upon what happens in free agency.

So, without further ado, onto mock draft 3.0.

(AP photo by Shannon Broderick)


QB Josh Allen, Wyoming. Trading for Tyrod Taylor was smart, but I'm still expecting the the Browns to draft a quarterback here. With two of the first four picks, I think they address the most important position first and take strong-armed Josh Allen out of Wyoming. Allen is big - he's 6-foot-5 and 233 pounds - and helped himself at the combine. He's had an up-and-down career in Laramie but has all the tools to be successful. Allen's size and arm strength should help in Cleveland's less-than-ideal weather conditions.

(AP Photo by Gerry Broome)


G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame. The Giants could be tempted to draft Eli Manning’s successor here or even all-world running back Saquon Barkley, but they must address the offensive line at some point. It really won’t matter who is standing in the pocket or running out of the backfield if the Giants can’t block anyone. Yes, they added left tackle Nate Solder and guard Patrick Omameh, but they still need another guard, a center and maybe another tackle. Enter Quenton Nelson, who might just be the best overall prospect in this draft class and will help fortify New York’s front for years to come.

(AP Photo by Mark J. Terrill)

3. NEW YORK JETS (via Colts)

QB Josh Rosen, UCLA. The Jets traded up for one reason: to get their franchise quarterback, and I think they’ll go with Josh Rosen. Some believe (including yours truly) that Rosen is more polished than USC’s Sam Darnold. Rosen, who did nothing to hurt his draft stock during the NFL combine, won't be thrown to the wolves, either, with Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown already on the roster. Now the Jets need to get some weapons on offense.

(AP Photo by Darron Cummings)


DE Bradley Chubb, NC State. Sure, it’s hard to believe Saquon Barkley is still on the board here – and the Browns will be tempted to take the former Penn State star – but I predict they’ll be more than happy to bring that card to the podium and snatch Bradley Chubb here. The NC State standout is the best pass rusher in this class and will be the perfect bookend to last year's No. 1 overall pick, Myles Garrett.

(AP Photo by Rick Scuteri)


RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State. John Elway certainly remembers what Terrell Davis did for his career and will pounce at the chance to draft Saquon Barkley, a rare talent at running back. With the quarterback position addressed in free agency (Case Keenum), the Broncos could be tempted to take an offensive tackle here, but Barkley is just too good to pass up.

(AP Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast)


T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame. Yes, they could certainly use help with their edge rush on defense, but with Bradley Chubb off the board, the Colts will look to fortify their offensive line. Indy needs to do a better job in protecting its franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck. That's why taking Mike McGlinchey here makes more sense to me. The 6-foot-8 Notre Dame standout is an NFL-ready blocker and some consider him to be the best road-grading right tackle in this draft class.

(Logan Bowles via AP)


SS Derwin James, Florida State. They're a team that also needs help on defense, specifically with the edge rush. They could look at Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Marcus Davenport, Jeff Holland and Arden Key but I think the No. 7 spot might be too high for those guys. Instead they'll go with the best strong safety in this draft class - Derwin James. He's a playmaker out of FSU who can blitz, cover and hit.

(AP Photo by Mel Evans)


CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State. The Bears landed their franchise quarterback last year in Mitchell Trubisky and they've got a potent 1-2 backfield punch in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. They added tight end Trey Burton as well as receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in free agency. Now they get their lockdown corner in Denzel Ward. He’s an athletic ballhawk with tremendous hand skills. The one knock is that he's only 5-foot-10 and has a smaller frame.

(AP Photo by Michael Wyke)


WR Courtland Sutton, SMU. The 49ers addressed cornerback when they signed Richard Sherman, but they also need a pass rusher, help along the offensive line and a go-to receiver for Jimmy Garoppolo. Enter 6-foot-4 and 218-pound Courtland Sutton, who would make for a very nice (and hard-to-miss) target in Kyle Shanahan's offense. He's no Julio Jones, but should bolster the receiving corps. 

(AP Photo by Michael Conroy)


LB Roquan Smith, Georgia. Jon Gruden's forte may be offense, but he also understands that the Raiders need help on defense, especially at linebacker - and all Smith does is fly around the field and make plays. Despite being on the small side for a linebacker, the Georgia star has great speed, football instincts and is a leader. He should flourish on a unit that already includes Khalil Mack. Those two together would be downright scary.

(Ben Liebenberg via AP)


QB Sam Darnold, USC. Adam Gase will be ecstatic if the first round plays like this and Sam Darnold - who some believe is a top-three pick - is sitting there at No. 11. Between Ryan Tannehill's injuries and the inconsistent play of Jay Cutler last season, the Dolphins jump at the chance to the former USC star who has the size and arm talent to have a long NFL career.

(AP Photo by Gregory Bull)

12. BUFFALO BILLS (via Bengals)

QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma. I originally had Baker Mayfield going to Miami in the 11 spot, but with Josh Allen going No. 1 and Sam Darnold falling into the Dolphins' hands, this spot makes more sense for the fiery Mayfield. The Bills signed longtime Bengals backup AJ McCarron, but the Heisman Trophy winner should come in and compete for the starting job.

(AP Photo by Ted S. Warren)


DT Vita Vea, Washington. The Redskins, already in need of defensive line help, select the mammoth Vita Vea -- who is 6-foot-4, 344 pounds -- arguably the best run-stuffer in this draft class. The former Washington Husky should also help collapse the pocket on a regular basis, too.

(AP Photo by Butch Dill)


WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama. The Packers landed tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive end Muhammed Wilkerson in free agency but opted to release longtime go-to receiver Jordy Nelson in a salary-cap move. Green Bay fills Nelson’s void and takes the speedy Calvin Ridley out of Alabama, who many scouts believe is the top receiver in this class.

(AP Photo by Timothy D. Easley)


QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville. The Cardinals desperately need a quarterback and are thrilled to land their QB of the future in Lamar Jackson. There are questions about his accuracy on the run, but comparisons to Michael Vick are spot on - and the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will inject life into that offense.

(AP Photo by Bob Leverone)


LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech. The Ravens have major needs at receiver and tight end, but they also could use help at linebacker. Enter Edmunds, a tall linebacker -- he's 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds -- who can run and hit like a truck. He's the son of former NFL tight end Ferrell Edmunds.

(AP Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack)


DT Taven Bryan, Florida. San Diego appears set with edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram but need help inside. I originally had the Bolts taking former Alabama standout Da'Ron Payne here, but scouts continue to rave over Taven Bryan, who is being compared to J.J. Watt. Bryan, who is the son of a Navy SEAL, is quick, aggressive and can play both defensive tackle and end.

(AP Photo by Sue Ogrocki)


OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma. Seattle could address a number of needs here, including offensive line, defensive end and cornerback. Without a Day 2 pick (rounds 2 and 3), the Seahawks must hit on the first pick - and it's time to fix that offensive line and take tackle Orlando Brown. Forget the "historically bad" combine numbers because Brown is massive (6-8, 360 pounds) and the man can play.

(AP Photo by Mark Humphrey)


FS Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama. With a total of 10 draft picks (thanks to four compensatory picks), I wouldn't be surprised if the Cowboys considered moving up to address a number of needs (tight end, cornerback/safety, guard and defensive end). If they stay here, it'll be hard to pass on Minkah Fitzpatrick, the top free safety in this class. He can cover the slot, play high safety or handle nickel linebacker responsibilities and has been compared to Budda Baker.

(AP Photo by Richard Shiro)


DE-OLB Harold Landry, Boston College. Detroit placed the franchise tag on Ziggy Ansah, but expect that Lions defense to get a makeover under new coach Matt Patricia. The versatile Harold Landry, who can play in both a 3-4 and 4-3, should pair up nicely with Ansah. One NFC team pro personnel director says Landry is just like Vic Beasley "coming out with the way he comes off the snap" and "when he puts it together, he'll do what Beasley did."

(AP Photo by Charlie Neibergall)


CB Josh Jackson, Iowa. I previously had the Bengals taking Connor Williams out of Texas here, but the trade for Cordy Glenn addresses the need to bolster the offensive tackle position. Cincinnati also needs to add some speed at cornerback, and they jump at Josh Jackson, who is the definition of a ball hawk with 27 passes defensed and eight interceptions.

(AP Photo by Eric Gay)

22. BUFFALO BILLS (via Chiefs)

OT Connor Williams, Texas. The Bills addressed their defense during the first wave of free agency by re-signing defenisve tackle Kyle Williams and then adding Star Lotulelei. I think they'll turn their attention to the offensive line with pick 22 and take 6-foot-6, 320-pound Connor Williams, who fills a need. Williams performed well at the NFL combine and is also a locker room leader.

(AP Photo by Sue Ogrocki)


DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma. Some might think this is too high for the former Sooner, but all he's done the last two seasons is tally 17 sacks and 146 tackles while terrorizing the Big 12. The Rams need help at linebacker and with their edge rush and the compactly built Okoronkwo will provide it. He played well at the Senior Bowl, generating two sacks and four other hurries.

(Michael Yanow via AP)


G Isaiah Wynn, Georgia. With the loss of guard Andrew Norwell in free agency, the Panthers will need to replace a major void along the offensive line. Isaiah Wynn more than fits the bill for Carolina. The former Georgia star played both tackle and guard but will likely play the latter in the NFL.

(AP Photo by Mark Humphrey)


DT Da'Ron Payne, Alabama. The Titans could use some help at defensive tackle and Da'Ron Payne is a no-brainer if he's sitting there at 25. Described as a wall of granite, the 6-foot-2, 311-pound former 'Bama star possesses exceptional strength and athleticism. The Titans need to improve their pass rush and pressure the quarterback more, and Payne should help.

(AP Photo by Patrick Semansky)


TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State. Surprised by this pick? Don't be. The Falcons addressed their offensive line in free agency and with defensive tackles Taven Bryan and Da'Ron Payne off the board, they'll take arguably the most NFL-ready tight end in this draft class in the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Gesicki, who led all tight ends at the combine in the 40, vertical jump, broad jump and the three-cone. Gesicki adds depth and could also help the Falcons in the red zone, an area they want to improve in come 2018. If you're still skeptical, maybe the one-handed grabs and jump-ball catches will warm you up to the idea of having him in the Falcons offense.

(AP Photo by Charlie Riedel)


TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State. The Saints are also looking to address tight end in the draft as well as receiver and possibly their quarterback of the future. But for now, I have them taking Dallas Goedert, who is 6-5, 250 pounds and can get downfield to catch the ball -- something the Saints offense has been missing since Jimmy Graham left.

(Ric Tapia via AP)


LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama. The Steelers have a definite need at inside linebacker and the 6-foot-3, 234-pound Evans compares to Lawrence Timmons and can play all three downs. Evans is a perfect fit for the Steelers defense, which will be without the injured Ryan Shazier for the 2018 season.

(AP Photo by Sue Ogrocki)


QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State. The Jaguars made some significant moves in free agency, which included deals with guard Andrew Norwell, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, corner D.J. Hayden and receivers Marqise Lee and Donte Moncrief. But I still think they'll add a quarterback to provide depth (and competition for Blake Bortles) -- and Mason Rudolph is too good to pass up with the 29th pick. Rudolph led the FBS with 377 passing yards per game (4,904 total) and 37 touchdowns while throwing just nine interceptions.

(AP Photo by Brynn Anderson)


G Will Hernandez, UTEP. There's a lot to like about Will Hernandez, who has the size, power, speed and quickness to bolster the Vikings offense, which could use help at both tackle and guard. Hernandez, a four-year starter at UTEP, is aggressive, smart and disciplined - and when he gets to the second level, he routinely destroys linebackers. Some NFL scouts believe that Hernandez is polished enough to step in and start right away.

(AP Photo by John Raoux)


DE Arden Key, LSU. I think the Patriots could end up addressing cornerback here, especially when you consider Malcolm Butler's benching prior to the Super Bowl and eventual departure for the Titans. But I also think Arden Key is a perfect fit for their 3-4 defensive scheme and would be tough to pass up. The 6-6, 238-pound Key has battled some injuries the last two years, but has loads of potential and is comparable to Willie Young.

(AP Photo by Otto Kitsinger)


LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State. The defending Super Bowl champs re-signed (and rewarded) Nigel Bradham with a big contract, but could still bolster their linebacker corps and Vander Esch, a former basketball standout who had a terrific showing at the NFL combine, has the athletic ability and tools to become a stud inside for years to come.

Please Note

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on represent those of the individual authors. Unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Atlanta Falcons’ organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. The writers’ views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Falcons officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.