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Bair Mail: On Malik Willis, Derek Stingley Jr., Micah Parsons and 2022 NFL Draft strategy

We also discuss prospects of trading down from No. 8 overall in Wednesday's mailbag


We're fresh off the Senior Bowl, and essentially in an offseason holding pattern until the scouting combine next month. And by "we," I mean those outside the front office. Falcons scouts are working to build a draft board and prepare for the upcoming draft. Free agency plans are being made, ready to execute once the time comes.


There's plenty to discuss in the interim period, and it seems like the NFL Draft is the biggest Falcons topic right now. That includes some questions about my first mock draft, where I took LSU cornerback Derek Stingley. Some of y'all have different priorities, which came up a few times in the mailbag.

Let's get into all that and more in Wednesday's Bair Mail:

Jerry B from Hinesville, Ga.

Hey Scott. Malik Willis is an Atlanta native and admires Matt Ryan. Now, I'm not saying draft him with our first two picks because he'll need to sit a year. But if he's there when we're on the clock at 58 or our 74, do we pull the trigger? That's another reason to trade down in the first round if possible. I think there will be an abundance of riches in the second round.

Bair: I agree, Jerry, that No. 8 overall is way too early for Willis. I also think, after his impressive Senior Bowl week, that he could be a very late first-round pick unavailable to the Falcons in the second round. Even if he's around, I would stay committed to building up the team around Matt Ryan. I would be pretty surprised if he ends up playing for his hometown team.

In terms of trading down, that's a good option especially if you can pick up quantity. The Falcons have so many needs at this point that taking as many bites at the apple as possible will be key.

Chris Atlas from Marietta, Ga.

Hey Scott, read your first mock draft the other day. You like many others have us taking Stingley Jr. out of LSU. I know he's believed to be best the CB in the draft, but I'm not so sure. He never quite recaptured the momentum from his freshman season. I think the CB projections are closer than the experts think. Given what Terrell has turned into, with not many people believing he should have been a 1st round selection. Do you think we should stand pat and take Stingley or another CB or trade down for one of the others or a different position entirely?

Bair: Thanks for checking out the mock, Chris. I picked Stingley because he's an elite talent who I believe could be a true shutdown corner. Those guys are rare, and you get one where you can. There are a bunch of solid cornerbacks in this class, as you've said, but at No. 8 overall it's more about getting the best possible talent. I think he was the best talent available, with the two edge rushers and three offensive tackles and Kyle Hamilton already taken. In a different scenario, I might've gone with a different player. That's something we'll explore more in future mock drafts.

Michael Mitchell from Baltimore, Md.

Hi Bair, do you think it would be wise for the falcons to draft a quarterback this year or wait until next year draft being that Matt contract is up in 2024? What do u think about drafting a receiver in the first round instead of trying to get one in free agencies? Lastly, what do you think is more pressing for the defense front or back end help? Thank you as always and keep up the good work, I enjoy this as a longtime fan.

Bair: Let's run down the answers really quick here, Michael:

  • I don't this is the year to draft a quarterback. I say you build around Matt Ryan and upgrade at other spots both in the draft and free agency.
  • The Falcons will take the best player available at No. 8, whether that's receiver or not. In a perfect world, I'd try to find one later in the draft, maybe in the second or third rounds.
  • Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. The Falcons must solve that problem. It's essential work this offseason.

Christopher Duke from Oceanside, Calif.

Bair, have you seen the ESPN 2021 redraft? I can't help but to be saddened by who they have us selecting at #4, which is Micah Parsons. Can you imagine what he would have done for us this past year? Nothing against K. Pitts, however, Parsons would have given us that jolt that we needed, while helping Grady along the way.

Bair: I did see ESPN’s re-draft, and I might've done the same thing Falcons beat reporter Michael Rothstein did in that story, going with Micah Parsons over Kyle Pitts. I also would've used the logic he uses, that it's nothing against Pitts. He's going to be an outstanding player for a long time, but Parsons is equally special on the other side of the ball. It would be a tough call, either way. The Falcons have struggled rushing the passer for a long time, and Parsons would've been a great weapon in Dean Pees' system.

That said, we're talking about whether we like steak or lobster here. The Falcons got an elite, productive talent with good work ethic and a proper mindset. There should be no regrets with the selection, not even for a second.

Matt Ryan continued to build up his legacy with his 14th season, and we were there for every highlight along the way.

Kerry Miller from Centerville, Ga.

Bair, got a proposal to throw out. If Atlanta is going to run a true 3-4 defense in the future what about offering a 5th or 6th rounder to the Raiders for Clelin Ferrell. Ferrell so far hasn't panned out in Oakland but is young and has shown some talent. I think he is built more like what you would look for in a 3-4 end that 4-3 end/edge. He has the ability to get to the QB and push a pocket. Just someone the popped up on my radar.

Bair: I covered Clelin Ferrell in Oakland, so I've seen him play a bit. He was an excellent college player, just a so-so pro. I think he's kind of a tweener, not quite big enough to dominate inside and not quite quick enough to create havoc off the edge. He's also making a healthy sum as the No. 4 overall pick entering what we'd assume is a contract year – it's hard to imagine his fifth-year option getting picked up – so there isn't much value in a trade. I think you'd rather have the pick than the player in this instance.

Call for questions

Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Friday's Bair Mail.


Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast

Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Terrin Waack. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.

Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.

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