2021 NFL Draft: Why Caleb Farley could be Falcons' first-round pick

Taking a closer look at why cornerback Caleb Farley could be Atlanta's first-round pick 

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Editor's note: This is the seventh of 10 prospect profiles on players who could be the Falcons' first-round pick.

If the Atlanta Falcons were to trade out of the No. 4 overall spot in the upcoming draft, one of the players who could be available and would fill a need is cornerback Caleb Farley.

Farley, 22, is 6-foot-2, 197 pounds and has elite athleticism and speed for his position. The former high school quarterback is very much seen as a prospect who might not have as much experience at the position as others but has a high ceiling because of his physical makeup.

In two seasons at Virginia Tech, Farley recorded 56 tackles, 19 pass deflections and six interceptions. During his sophomore season, Farley led the ACC in pass deflections helping him earn first-team All-ACC honors. Farley opted out of the 2020 season.

The Falcons have a hole to fill at the No. 2 cornerback spot opposite of A.J. Terrell who had a standout rookie season. Last year, Kendall Sheffield, Isaiah Oliver, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Darqueze Dennard all saw action as a starting cornerback for the Falcons. Of that group, Sheffield and Oliver are the only two still on Atlanta's roster. The team added Fabian Moreau in free agency and he's expected to compete for the job as well.

Farley's ability to make plays on the ball sets him apart in his draft class. If it weren't for the back procedure, he had done on March 23 that kept him from working out at his pro day and his injury history, there's a chance he would be viewed as the No. 1 cornerback in the draft. Most mock drafts and draft analysts have Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II coming off the board before Farley.

Why he fits with the Falcons

The Falcons finished last in the NFL in pass defense as they gave up 293.6 yards per game in the air in 2020. With Dean Pees taking over as defensive coordinator in his first season with the Falcons, he'll likely want more playmakers in his secondary.

Farley fits the bill and his size and speed bode well for him given the talented and big wide receivers he would go up against playing in the NFC South. His athleticism also allows Pees to move him around the field as he's known for bringing pressure packages from all over the field.

While some view Farley as a raw prospect, he could be the type of player who excels in the right defense with good coaching. He'll have that in Atlanta with Pees, a veteran defensive coordinator, and the rest of the Falcons' coaching staff. He would also be able to compete for a starting job right away with the Falcons and competition could elevate his game even more.

Expert analysis:

"Farley possesses rare size for the position and does an excellent job of utilizing his frame and length to charge rent inside the catch space. While his traits and ball skills will be coveted, he's still light on overall reps at the cornerback position. He needs to continue to improve his technique and discipline as he displays inconsistencies staying connected to routes at times. Farley is an ascending talent who fits more cleanly in a press-heavy scheme. Might require early patience as he continues to gain the polish necessary to become a quality NFL starter. Concerns surrounding his past injuries and latest back procedure could cause him to slip in the draft." – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

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