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Bair Mail: On Dean Pees' defense, George Pickens and other Day 2 WR options, Julio Jones, NFL Draft rankings

We also see who Falcons fans want at No. 8 overall


So I set up a little NFL draft scenario for you at the bottom of Friday's Bair Mail and, well, wow. The responses were many.

I planned to publish each one I got, but there are so, so freaking many of them that it's essentially impossible. Also, y'all need to work on brevity. Ha. Asked for a line or two about who you'd pick at No. 8 using a top seven from Mel Kiper's recent mock. I got a paragraph or two instead.


While there are no word counts on the internet – cyberspace has lots of, well, space – we can't go crazy here. I'll try to add more responses, and add a new game, into Wednesday's edition. Also, make sure to keep the questions coming for those installments as well.

So let's get to some fresh topics, as well as what you'd do at No. 8, in this Monday mailbag:

Allen Schultz from Ellijay, Ga.

Hello Bair, I'm a big fan of Bair Mail but have yet to submit a question. While everyone is curious about the draft I'm more interested in a statement by Dean Pees. He said he was able to only install a small portion of his defensive scheme last year and expects to be able to put the entire playbook in this year what with it being the second year and all.

But with the high turnover of personnel you are going to have free agents as well as rookies coming in who aren't familiar with his scheme. So how are they going to be expected to be able to learn the entire playbook/terminology since this will be their first year in his scheme? And if they are expected to learn it then why couldn't he have installed the entire playbook last year. There are always going to be new players every year.

Bair: Hey Allen! Thanks for the question and for being the Bair Mail equivalent of a first-time caller, long-time listener. Ha.

I think Dean was referring to a few things with that comment, which I remember. 1. His playbook is enormous and can be tailored to specific offensive style or defensive strengths. 2. He can keep stacking because there's a core of returners to help install and educate. It's easier to teach five new guys than all 11.

I also think that, generally speaking, Pees' scheme has been impactful for years. His track record in scoring defense especially is out of this world. As he continues to add scheme fits to the roster, defensive execution will improve and we'll see more variation and those exotic blitzes he's known for.

I spoke to Rashaan Evans about this last week. Here's what he had to say:

"The knowledge that he has. He has a unique way of explaining things he wants you to do. He simplifies it to the point that it's very easy to understand and easy to execute on the field. That comes from his experience over [40-plus] years coaching some of the great guys we all know, and coaching some coaches who have become elite, too. That shows you want type of coach Dean Pees is. And that's just a small percentage of the type of person he is. Having him in my corner and having experienced the type of things he has done for me in my career, it was a no brainer for me to come [here]."

We take a look at eight options for Atlanta's first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

King Dad from Cookeville, Tenn.

I firmly believe that the Falcons need to address edge in the first round. That being said, I like the Green Bay model of drafting 2nd round receivers and turning them into superstars. Who are some names to look for in the 2nd round to boost our WR group? Along the same lines, as a LONG time Falcon fan, our O line has been a chronic problem for decades. Who are some O line prospects to look for in the 2nd and 3rd round? Thanks and go birds!

Bair: Appreciate the question, King. So much time is spent talking about the first round, not enough about the fact you can find real quality in the second and third. There are tons of good receivers in the group, and the Falcons could snag a good one in the second round. Here are some names to watch during the draft's second day who would be good Falcons fits:

  • Christian Watson, North Dakota State (if he makes it that far)
  • George Pickens, Georgia
  • Skyy Moore, Western Michigan
  • Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama
  • Justyn Ross, Clemson
  • David Bell, Purdue
  • John Metchie III, Alabama

Regarding OL:

  • Dylan Parnham, Memphis
  • Tyler Smith, Tulsa
  • Sean Ryan, UCLA
  • Max Mitchell, Louisiana-Lafayette

Bill Whitten from Killen, Ga.

Scott, I've got a bone to pick with you. It's not a big one but one I believe you ought to address. I've seen you write several times that you would rather take the #1 receiver at 8 than the 4th edge rusher. What you haven't considered is that even if 3 edge rushers have been taken the remaining one might not be ranked on the Falcons big board #4. Maybe they have him ranked as 2nd or 3rd. If so who would you select at 8 if it was between the #1 receiver and the 3rd or even 2nd ranked edge?

Bair: I hear what you're saying, Bill, and it makes sense. That's certainly the case, with positions disproportionally spread throughout a draft board. I was saying that the odds the fourth edge rusher is higher than the best receiver seem remote. It all depends on the individuals being considered. It's possible, though, to your point, that edge rushers are stacked atop the overall board and they get someone ranked high and as a good scheme fit, as the third or fourth taken at his position.

Shane Hymers from Centerury, Ga.

Hey Bair, Why is no-one talking about a Julio return? Clearly there isn't a massive market for him and he could be picked up for a reasonable fee. Yes, he isn't the player he used to be and will probably be injured for a large part of the season. However, a one year deal could be a little lift for the fan base in what seems to be shaping up as a long season. And, just and, what if he rediscovered his best form?

Bair: I just can't see it, Shane. I'll never say never, but I can't imagine a scenario where Julio Jones and the Falcons form another partnership while he's playing. I'd be shocked if it turned out different.


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Who you'd pick at No. 8

Let's get to a cross section of who fans want at No. 8 overall. I didn't repeat many names to show some variety but I will say the responses for Jordan Davis and Jermaine Johnson were the overwhelming majority. There was a lot of love for Sauce Gardner as well. That would've been my pick as well. I love how the Cincinnati cornerback plays.

As quick reminder of Kiper’s top 7:

1. JAX – EDGE Aidan Hutchinson

2. DET – S Kyle Hamilton

3. HOU – OT Ikem Ekwonu

4. NYJ – WR Drake London

5. NYG – OT Evan Neal

6. CAR – EDGE Travon Walker

7. NYG – EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux

Your responses:

Christopher Duke from Covington, Ga.: First, if I were GM and keeping the #8 pick, based off of the first 7 selections that Mel Kiper highlighted, I would definitely select Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner. Pairing Gardner with AJ Terrell would help solidify our secondary for the next decade.

Next, I ran a hypothetical trade off of the PFF draft simulator and here is an accepted trade: ATL trades: #8 pick GB trades: #22 pick, #28 pick, and a 2023 4th-round pick In this scenario, I would select Andrew Booth Jr. with the #22 pick, and Skyy Moore with the #28 pick. This trade provides us selections at 2 positions of need.

Bair: I like the trade as much as Gardner, though I might go with Christian Watson or another receiver option at No. 28.

Justin Reynolds from Tallapoosa, Ga.: I played out the scenario in the mock draft and traded back with the Vikings at 12 and picked up their second-round pick as well. I was very surprised to see Edge Jermaine Johnson still there at 12. I debated on trading back again with the chargers at 17 to get another second and possibly a 4th or 5th, but I just couldn't pass up JJ!

Bair: Getting Johnson and more selections is a real win. I'm a little skeptical Johnson would be there as well. That would be risky if he's your guy.

Benjamine Strugill from Welch, Ga.: I'll take Jordan Davis, I believe if you going to run a 3-4 defense, you need that nose tackle to take on blocks to free up your pass rush, I believe Davis can give the Falcons that and he could be use as a 3 down lineman. He is really good against the run and give coaching could be a force on passing downs too. Falcons could get pass rushers later in the draft but you can't fine someone of Davis size with his ability all the time and I believe he could be the anchor for the Falcons defense for years to come.

Bair: That seems like a high spot to take Davis, but so many Falcons fans agree with you and believe that's the right move. Would they if he wasn't a Georgia product? I don't know.

Matthew Johnson from Hampton, Ga.: With the #8 pick the Atlanta Falcons select Sauce Gardner cornerback from Cincinnati. Ok so from Mel's mock draft this is what my pick would be and here is why! Charles Cross would have been maybe my other choice but I took Garner because he is the best player available. The third best tackle or the best cornerback that has been a shut down corner at every level he has played. Two shut down corners can help a second round edge rusher look like a first round talent.

Bair: I was stunned that Gardner was available. I'd take him without hesitation.

Dennis DiCicco from Suwanee, Ga.: The Falcons have need at so many positions and like many my opinion of who to draft at number eight changes Right now I'm thinking Jermaine Johnson. H e was great at Georgia but transferred to Florida for more playing time He was outstanding at both places and I believe he has a very high ceiling to improve.

Bair: Can't go wrong with Johnson there. A really solid scheme fit, in my opinion.

Imre Balla from Budapest, Hungary: Hi Scott, here you go: 8. MIN - CB Derek Stingley Jr., TRADE, MIN receive #8, #151, ATL receive #12 , #46 9. SEA - QB Malik Willis 10. NYJ - OT Charles Cross 11. WSH - CB Ahmad Gardner 12. ATL - EDGE Jermaine Johnson II The Falcons acquire a top tier pass rusher and a second rounder while giving up nr 8 and a fifth rounder. Edge is arguably our biggest need, and Johnson has a good value at 12, especially with an extra top 50 pick.

We can address another pass rusher, a WR (probably with slight trade up), and a CB/OT/NT) in the second round (Pickens, Ojabo and Travis Jones are in my dream scenario, I know, I know, not very likely to happen). Why does it worth to the Vikings? They get a TOP 5 talent at no. 8 to rebuild their secondary.

Bair: I like this one, too, and that's a fair return for a short drop to No. 12.

Chris K from Dunwoody, Ga.: Malik Willis. I'll keep it short and sweet. Any other year you'll need a top 4 pick to grab the best QB that your team values as the right fit for the franchise. There's a real possibility Atlanta could get that opportunity with an 8th pick. Willis is a franchise QB personality with incredible athleticism, he's coachable, and has a dual threat veteran in the QB room.

Bair: Not as many Willis submissions as I'd expect from a local talent. I don't think it's time for a QB, though.

Brian Henderson from Sparks, Nev.: No. 8 goes to Charles Cross, why you ask? It gives us a stud that will be able to transition to the left when Matthews eventually retires. Not only that, it allows you to use McGary as a swing or even move him inside to LG and give him a shot there. The dude has shown good run blocking skills but the pass is where he struggles, not to ding Mayfield. Still think he has a solid chance at being our starter but ultimately, we need to have competition.

Bair: Cross is an intriguing option who could well be there at No. 8. Such a strong player already, and he has great upside.

Call for questions

Let's fill the mailbag back up with questions right here, for inclusion in Wednesday's Bair Mail.


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