2021 Atlanta Falcons Draft Guide

How To Watch

The 2021 NFL Draft will be broadcast on NFL Network, ABC, ESPN, and ESPN Deportes live from Cleveland, Ohio. The Draft will kickoff with the first round on Thursday, April 29 at 8 p.m. ET with the second and third rounds beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, April 30, and the fourth through seventh rounds beginning at noon ET on Saturday, May 1.

Falcons fans can get their pre-draft fix by tuning into Fox 5 Atlanta for a special edition of Dirty Birds: Path to the Draft on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET. The special will feature exclusive interviews with general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith as well as breakdowns from former Falcons Harry Douglas and D.J. Shockley.

dirty-bird-report

AtlantaFalcons.com will air a special Pre-Draft live show at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday shortly before the Falcons go on the clock. Presented by Truist, the show will be live streamed on AtlantaFalcons.com. and led by Wes Durham, Dave Archer, and D.J. Shockley. The trio will break down the teams' roster, needs, prospects the Falcons could target, and their picks for how the draft will shake out. The show will also feature interviews with Smith and Fontenot as they put the finishing touches on their preparations.

Falcons Picks 

Round 1 | Pick 4 (4 overall) 

Round 2 | Pick 3 (35 overall) 

Round 3 | Pick 4 (68 overall) 

Round 4 | Pick 3 (108 overall) 

Round 5 | Pick 4 (148 overall) 

Round 5 | Pick 38* (182 overall) 

Round 5 | Pick 39* (183 overall) 

Round 6 | Pick 3 (187 overall) 

Round 6 | Pick 35* (219 overall) 

* - Denotes a compensatory pick.

Who's next? Take a look back at some notable Atlanta Falcons first round picks in the NFL Draft

A New Regime

General Manager Terry Fontenot and Head Coach Arthur Smith are positioned to shape the club's future through their first draft with the organization. Entering Thursday's first round they'll have nine picks to work with, including two compensatory picks in the fifth round and one such pick in the sixth round. Atlanta will alternate between the fourth and third pick in rounds one through six.  

After a virtual draft in 2020, it's strange to think that the 2021 draft may be equally unprecedented, albeit in a different way. With the San Francisco 49ers trading up to the third overall pick, it's all but certain that the top three players off the board will be quarterbacks. That scenario has only played out once in league history. In 1999, the Browns, Eagles, and Bengals selected quarterbacks Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith, respectively, with the first three picks.  

The consensus around the NFL is that Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will go to Jacksonville with the top pick and BYU signal-caller Zach Wilson will be the second player off the board to the New York Jets. While the jury is out on which quarterback San Francisco will select, it's all but certain Justin Fields, Mac Jones or Trey Lance will be the third pick. That puts the Falcons in a prime position to select the best player available at four, regardless of position, or entertain trade offers.

“I would say we never want to reach for needs. We want to stack the board and be consistent. It's never a bad thing to add to a strength. You want to continue to add competition and you want to get the best players that fit the makeup standard, that fit the physical talent, that fit the skill set. We have a clear vision for what they are going to be and you definitely want to take those, the best player available.” General Manager Terry Fontenot

The Draft Starts with Atlanta

Fontenot and Smith will have several options to choose from when the Falcons go on the clock on Thursday night. The duo has played their cards close to the vest in the lead up to draft night but that has not slowed down the prognosticators. The consensus is that Atlanta has three tracks in front of it. One, use the pick on the best non-quarterback in the draft. Two, select the best available quarterback. Three, trade back and accumulate additional draft capital and select the preferred player at whatever spot the club trades to.  

A survey of 20 mock drafts from various NFL reporters showed the Falcons taking Florida tight end Kyle Pitts 55 percent of the time. Most of those mocks had Atlanta staying at four and making Pitts the first non-QB off the board. However, CBSSports.com writer Chris Trapasso had the Falcons trading with Denver (No. 9) and then with Detroit (No. 7) to take Pitts with the seventh overall pick. Vinny Iyer from the Sporting News also had the Falcons trading with Denver to move back to the ninth pick but in his mock Atlanta was able to stay there and pick up Pitts.  

The next most popular forecasted pick for the Falcons was North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. Our survey saw 20 percent of drafters taking Lance's name off the board. Three of those mock drafts had the 2021 NFL Draft making history with four quarterbacks taken in the first four picks. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. predicts a trade back with Miami to score Lance with the sixth overall selection.  

The most popular defensive player among mock drafters was Michigan edge defender Kwity Paye. NFL.com's Cynthia Frelund had the Falcons improving their pass rush with the fourth overall pick, while Yahoo's Luke Easterling had Atlanta moving back to No. 9 with Denver to get its edge rusher while adding additional assets.  

Three additional players were mocked to the Falcons in this survey, including Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II and Oregon tackle Penei Sewell.

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History of the 4th Overall Pick

The Falcons will pick fourth in the Draft for the first time in franchise history. The club has made a top-five pick 11 times since taking Tommy Nobis with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1966 Draft. The team has selected two Pro Football Hall of Famers in Claude Humphrey (1968 - No. 3) and Deion Sanders (1989 – No. 5).

Atlanta has found several members of its Ring of Honor in the top five, including Nobis, Humphrey, Sanders and Steve Bartkowski (1975 – No. 1). The club also hit on the underrated offensive lineman George Kunz, who was named to was named to six Pro Bowls in seven seasons with the team.

No to bury the lede here, but the Falcons also nabbed two legendary quarterbacks with top-five picks, Michael Vick (2001 - No. 1), which included a trade up from No. 5 with the Chargers. And perhaps the greatest player in franchise history Matt Ryan (2008 – No. 3).

Players Selected fourth overall since 2000

2020 – T Andrew Thomas – Giants

2019 – DE Clelin Ferrell – Raiders

2018 – CB Denzel Ward* – Browns

2017 – RB Leonard Fournette – Jaguars

2016 – RB Ezekiel Elliott* - Cowboys

2015 – WR Amari Cooper* - Raiders

2014 – WR Sammy Watkins – Bills

2013 – T Lane Johnson* - Eagles

2012 – T Matt Kalil* - Vikings

2011 – WR A.J. Green* - Bengals

2010 – T Trent Williams* - Washington

2009 – LB Aaron Curry – Seahawks

2008 – RB Darren McFadden – Raiders

2007 – DE Gaines Adams – Buccaneers

2006 - T D'Brickashaw Ferguson - Jets

2005 – RB Cedric Benson - Bears

2004 – QB Phillip Rivers* - Giants (traded to Chargers)

2003 – DT Dewayne Roberston - Jets

2002 - T Mike Williams - Bills

2001 – DE Justin Smith* - Bengals

2000 – WR Peter Warrick – Bengals

*-Denotes Pro Bowl selection.

Pro Football HOFers selected 4th overall in common draft era

1999 – RB Edgerrin James – Colts

1998 – DB Charles Woodson – Oakland

1996 – OL Jonathan Ogden – Baltimore

1989 – LB Derrick Thomas – Kansas City

1981 – DB Kenny Easley – Seattle

1979 – DL Dan Hampton – Chicago

1975 – RB Walter Payton – Chicago

1973 – G John Hannah – New England

1969 – DT Joe Greene – Pittsburgh

Pre-Common Draft Era Highlights

1967 – QB Bob Griese – Miami

1965 – RB Gayle Sayers – Chicago

1962 – HB Ernie Davis – Bills

1944 – QB Otto Graham - Detroit

Take a look at some of the recent picks at number four in the NFL Draft. Who will the Atlanta Falcons take in the first round?

Trades

Since 2000, the fourth-overall pick in the NFL Draft has been traded five times.

2018

The last time the fourth overall selection was traded was in 2018 as part of Houston's 2017 trade to acquire Deshaun Watson. The Texans traded their 2018 first-round pick, which would become the No. 4 pick, in addition to their first-round pick in 2017 (No. 25 overall) to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the No. 12 pick. The Browns used the fourth overall pick in 2018 on Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward.

Trade Breakdown

  • Texans: QB Deshaun Watson (2017, 12th overall)
  • Browns: S Jabrill Peppers (2017, 25th overall) & CB Denzel Ward (2018, 4th overall)

2014

On Draft night in 2014, the Browns traded the No. 4 pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for the No. 9 pick, and the Bills first and fourth-round picks in 2015. The Bills used this selection to take Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Trade Breakdown

  • Bills: WR Sammy Watkins (2014, 4th overall)
  • Browns: CB Justin Gilbert^ (2014, 8th overall), C Cameron Erving (2015, 19th overall), and S Ibraheim Campbell (2015, 115th overall)
  • ^ - Cleveland traded No. 9 and a fifth-round pick to Minnesota to move up to No. 8.

2012

Prior to the 2012 Draft, The Cleveland Browns traded the No. 4 pick, along with picks No. 118 (4th round), No. 139 (5th round), and No. 211 (7th round) to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for the No. 3 overall pick. The Vikings selected Pro Bowl offensive tackle Matt Kalil with the pick.

Trade Breakdown

  • Vikings: T Matt Kalil (2012, 4th overall), WR Jarius Wright (2012, 118th overall), S Robert Blanton (2012, 139th overall), LB Michael Mauti^ (2013, 213th overall), and CB A.J. Jefferson^
  • Browns: RB Trent Richardson (2012, 3rd overall)
  • ^ - Minnesota traded the 211th overall pick to the Tennessee Titans for a 2013 sixth-round pick. Minnesota then traded that pick to the Arizona Cardinals for CB A.J. Jefferson and the 213th overall pick.

2004

Perhaps the most notable trade of the fourth pick in the draft came in 2004 when the New York Giants used the pick to select Philip Rivers then traded Rivers to the Chargers in exchange for Eli Manning and their third-round pick in 2004 (No. 65) as well as their first- and fifth-round selections in 2005.

Trade Breakdown

  • Chargers: QB Philip Rivers (2004, 4th overall), K Nate Kaeding (2004, 65th overall), LB Shawne Merriman (2005, 12th overall), and T Roman Oben^
  • Giants: QB Eli Manning (2004, 1st overall)
  • ^ - The Chargers traded the 144th overall pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for offensive lineman Roman Oben.

2003

File this one under 'you don't see this every day'. Prior to the 2003 Draft, the Chicago Bears traded the fourth overall pick to the New York Jets for a pair of first-round picks (No. 13 and No. 22) and a fourth-round pick (No. 116). The Jets used the pick on defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson.

Here's the unusual part, the Jets got the No. 13 pick from Washington in exchange for Washington signing Laveranues Coles who was a restricted free agent. The Jets had placed a first-round tender on Coles and in turn, Washington had to give up a first-round pick in order to sign him. This is practice is almost unheard of in today's NFL and it all comes down to a one-year difference in contracts.

The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement made four-year contracts standard for all drafted players. Players designated as restricted free agents are those with three years of service whose contracts have expired. That means the four-year contract stipulation made restricted free agents a rare breed in the NFL. Today, RFAs are undrafted players who signed three-year deals or players that had been drafted and later released.

Trade Breakdown

  • Jets: DT Dewayne Robertson (2002, 4th overall)
  • Bears: DE Michael Haynes^ (2002, 14th overall), DT Ian Scott (2002, 116th overall), WR Justin Gage^^ (2002, 143rd overall)
  • ^ - Chicago traded the 13th overall pick to New England in exchange for the 14th-and-193rd overall picks.
  • ^^ - Chicago traded the 193rd overall pick along with picks 176 and 218 to Jacksonville in exchange for the 143rd overall pick.

Deep Drafts

There is a tremendous amount of buzz and excitement surrounding the Falcons top selection in the draft, that's almost an understatement at this point. However, the club's ability to find contributing players with its additional eight picks will be an important factor in building the roster for the short, mid-and –long-term future. With that in mind, we'll look at where the Falcons are picking in the later rounds and some of the team's current day-three finds.

Round 2 | 35 overall

2021 will mark the second time Atlanta will pick at 35. The last time the Falcons held that pick was 2001 when they selected tight end Alge Crumpler. The UNC product was a four-time Pro Bowler and currently ranks sixth in club history with 35 touchdown receptions.

Notable 35th picks: RB Nick Chubb (2018, Cleveland), TE Hunter Henry (2016, Los Angeles Chargers), G Joel Bitonio (2014, Cleveland), TE Zach Ertz (2013, Philadelphia), CB Charles Tillman (2003, Chicago), TE John Mackey (1963, New York Jets), QB Fran Tarkenton (1961, Boston Patriots)

And Now You Know: Alge Crumpler's 35 touchdowns are tied with Tony Gonzalez for the most by a tight end in franchise history.

Round 3 | 68 overall

The Falcons have picked 68th twice in team history, selecting LSU cornerback Chevis Jackson in 2008 and Wisconsin defensive back Dezmen Southward in 2014. Both players spent two seasons in Atlanta.

Notable 68th picks: LB Lance Briggs (2003, Chicago), LB Jack Del Rio (1985, New Orleans)

Round 4 | 108 overall

Atlanta has never picked at 108. The Falcons have selected 107th once (Justin Hardy, 2015) and 109 four times.

Notable 108th picks: WR Brian Hartline (2009, Miami), WR Jerricho Cotchery (2004, New York Jets), QB David Garrard (2002, Jacksonville)

Round 5 | 148 overall

The Falcons have made the 148th selection four times in team history. The Falcons selected Colorado State defensive back Kevin McCadam in 2002, Duke quarterback Ben Bennett in 1984, West Texas A&M defensive back Ray Brown in 1971, and Elizabeth City State running back Eugene Snipes in 1967.

Notable 148th picks: LB Dre Greenlaw (2019, San Francisco)

And Now You Know: Despite never playing in a game for the Falcons, and only seeing action in one game during his NFL career, Bennett would go on to win Arena League Football MVP honors in 1988 and was inducted into the Arena Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

Round 5 | 182 overall

The Falcons have only selected 182nd once, picking Florida linebacker Tim Paulk in 1992. He did not see any game action in the NFL.

Notable 182nd picks: RB Aaron Jones (2017, Green Bay), LB Lee Woodall (1994, San Francisco), T Rayfield Wright (1967, Dallas)

Round 5 | 183 overall

Similar to 182, the Falcons have made the 183rd pick once in club history. The Falcons took Boise State defensive back Jeff Turk in 1983 but he also did not see any game action in the NFL.

Notable 183rd picks: RB Marion Butts (1989, San Diego Chargers), RB Bo Jackson (1987, Los Angeles Raiders), T Cody Risien (1979, Cleveland)

And Now You Know: The Falcons have had consecutive picks 13 times, including 2014, 2013, 1992, 1979, 1975, and 1970. In 1972, the Falcons made three straight picks, selecting 40th, 41st, and 42nd overall. In the club's first draft in 1966, Atlanta held the first pick and the last pick in each round which led to consecutive picks five times, 16th and 17th, 32nd, and 33rd, 48th and 49th, 64th and 65th, and 80th and 81st.

Round 6 | 187 overall

2021 will mark the first time that the Falcons have picked at 187 overall.

Notable 187th picks: QB Matt Hasselbeck (1998, Green Bay), DB Louis Breeden (1977, Cincinnati)

Round 6 | 219 overall

Atlanta has picked at 219 four times, including 2004, 2001, 1981, and 1976. In 2001, the Falcons selected Hawaii guard Kynan Forney who would go on to be a key member of the offensive line that blocked for one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in franchise history in 2004 and 2005.

Notable 219th picks: QB Elvis Grbac (1993, San Francisco), DB Barry Wilburn (1985, Washington), G Mark Bortz (1983, Chicago), T Brad Benson (1978, New England)

And Now You Know: The Falcons latest draft pick came in 1976 when Atlanta took Texas Tech defensive back Tony Green with the 468th overall selection. The 1976 draft was the last to feature 17 rounds and the first to feature "Mr. Irrelevant". That award went to Dayton wide receiver Kelvin Kirk who was, picked 487th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Atlanta's Top Day 3 Picks

Gage-Russell

Russell Gage

Selected in the sixth round (194th overall) of the 2018 Draft, Russell Gage has become a solid and consistent addition to the Falcons offense. The LSU alum has seen action in 47 games with 127 receptions for 1,295 yards and five touchdowns, including 72 catches for 786 yards and four touchdowns in 2020. His biggest contribution has been grabbing first-down receptions on third downs, registering 21 of those in 2020 where he fell just behind Packers' Davante Adams (24) and Cardinals' DeAndre Hopkins (22) for the league lead.

Jarrett-Grady

Grady Jarrett

The Falcons selected Grady Jarrett in the fifth-round (137th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Clemson. Jarrett was the 11th player selected at his position in 2015. Now entering his seventh season in Atlanta, Jarrett has recorded 300 total tackles (160 solo), 25.5 sacks, 51 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and 76 quarterback hits in 93 games with 78 starts. The Conyers, Ga., native finished last season with 52 total tackles (27 solo), 4.0 sacks, eight tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hits, and one fumble recovery, earning his second-consecutive Pro Bowl selection.

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Getting Real with Grady Jarrett: Ep. 1 | Ep. 2

Oluokun-Foye

Foye Oluokun

Joining Gage as the other sixth-round pick (200th overall) in the 2018 Draft, Foye Oluokun has been a stable force on the defensive side of the ball. The former Yale man has played in 47 games with 25 starts, recording 261 tackles (165 solo), 11 QB hits, eight tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, five passes defensed, 3.0 sacks, one fumble recovery, and two interceptions. Oluokun [oh-LOU-a-con] started all 15 games played in 2020 and hit single-season career-highs in total tackles (116), sacks (3.0), interceptions (two), forced fumbles (four), and passes defensed (four).

Walker-Mykal

Mykal Walker

The Falcons selected linebacker Mykal Walker in the fourth round (119th overall) of last year's draft out of Fresno State. As a rookie last season, Walker started six of 16 games at linebacker and recorded 40 total tackles (26 solo), one tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, one pass defensed, one forced fumble, and six special teams tackles.

SFB_Tommy-Nobis.jpg

Falcons Draft History

The Falcons made their first-ever draft selection with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1966 draft. The newly minted team made Texas linebacker Tommy Nobis the first player in club history. He would go on to play his entire 11-year NFL career in Atlanta and earned the moniker 'Mr. Falcon'. Nobis was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor in the inaugural class in 2004.  

All but two members of the team's Ring of Honor were selected by the Falcons in the draft. The exceptions are Warrick Dunn, who was taken 12th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1997, and Jessie Tuggle, who was undrafted out of Valdosta State. 

Seven of the Ring of Honor inductees were selected by the Falcons in the first round, including Nobis ('66), Claude Humphrey ('68), Steve Bartkowski ('75), Mike Kenn ('78), Gerald Riggs ('82), Deion Sanders ('89) and Roddy White ('05). Jeff Van Note was selected in the 11th round of the 1969 draft with the 262nd overall pick while William Andrews went in the third round - 79th overall – 10 years later in 1979. 

The Falcons have selected three players in the draft that have gone on to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sanders, Humphrey, and Brett Favre who was selected in the second round, 33rd overall, of the 1991 draft. He played in just two games for Atlanta before being traded to the Green Bay Packers. 

The Falcons have selected players from 165 schools, with LSU leading the way in terms of Falcons picks. Atlanta has selected 13 LSU Tigers since 1966. The Falcons have selected 11 players from both Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, and Wisconsin. The Falcons have selected 10 players from Notre Dame and nine players each from Alabama, Auburn, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, and Stanford. 

Excluding Favre, the Falcons have drafted 15 players that have been named first-team All-Pro and 44 players that have earned Pro Bowl honors.

Atlanta Falcons great Roddy White has earned his place in the Falcons Ring of Honor. Take a look back at 84 through the years.

The Last Time

Offense

Table inside Article
Position Year Round Player (School)
QB 2013 7th Sean Renfree (Duke)
RB 2019 5th Qadree Ollison (Pitt.)
WR 2019 7th Marcus Green (La-Monroe)
T 2019 1st Kaleb McGary (Wash.)
G 2019 1st Chris Lindstrom (BC)
C 2020 3rd Matt Hennessy (Temple)
TE 2017 5th Eric Saubert (Drake)
FB 2012 5th Bradie Ewing (Wisc.)
K/P 2020 7th Sterling Hofrichter (Syracuse)

Defense

Table inside Article
Position Year Round Player (School)
DE 2020 2nd Marlon Davidson (Auburn)
DT 2018 3rd Deadrin Senat (USF)
LB 2020 4th Mykal Walker (Fresno St.)
CB 2020 1st A.J. Terrell (Clemson)
FS 2017 5th Damontae Kazee (San Diego St.)
SS 2016 1st Keanu Neal (Florida)

Draft FAQs

What happened to our seventh-round pick?

  • We traded it to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for Charles Harris. The pick was subsequently traded to the Tennessee Titans. Harris played in 13 games for the Falcons in 2020. He tallied 18 tackles, three tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, and three sacks. He signed with the Detroit Lions in March.

How do compensatory picks work?

  • The NFL uses a complex formula, awarding compensatory picks to "Clubs that lose to other Clubs a greater number of compensatory free agents than they sign or acquire from other Clubs".

How much time does each team have for each pick?

  • Each team has 10 minutes to make its pick in the first round on Thursday. The second and third rounds are on Friday; rounds 4-7 are on Saturday. Teams get seven minutes to make picks in the second round, five minutes for regular or compensatory picks in rounds 3-6 and four minutes in round 7. If a team lets its time expire without making a choice, it can make a selection later — but it runs the risk of letting the next team on the clock take the player it was considering.

Where is it taking place?

  • The 86th annual NFL Draft will take place April 29-May 1 across iconic downtown Cleveland locations, including FirstEnergy Stadium, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center.

Will the teams draft virtually again in 2021?

  • No, teams will conduct their drafts within their draft rooms as compared to the 2020 NFL Draft when all organizations conducted the draft from home. As per NFL protocol, teams can have a limited number of vaccinated individuals together in the draft room.

How do rookie contracts work?

  • Every pick in the draft has a minimum and maximum he gets paid throughout that contract and very few things can be negotiated. The maximum annual increase in salary in each of those first four years is 25% of the cap number in year one. That number is the sum of a prorated signing bonus, which varies, and the rookie minimum salary. All deals signed include a base salary and the remainder of the contract is done within those constraints. Teams have the option to pick up a fifth-year on the rookie contract but must do so before the fourth year of that deal officially begins. If that option is exercised, the fifth year is fully guaranteed. If a player is a top 10 pick, the fifth-year salary is the average of the 10 highest salaries for a player's position in the fourth year of his deal.
Fans react to an Atlanta Falcons touchdown during the first half of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA, on Sunday November 24, 2019. (Photo by Adam Hagy/Atlanta Falcons)

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