Editor's note:This is the third installment of a five-part series examining NFL Draft options the Falcons could use to address positions of need. We'll go over players the Falcons could take at No. 8 overall, plus considerations on Day 2 and Day 3. Here's where you can find the previous installments: Edge rushers and wide receivers.
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- It's only natural for the thoughts around a certain position group to change as the first few waves of free agency have come and gone. Perhaps none has changed quite like that of the cornerback position, though.
Since the start of free agency, the Falcons have added a couple former-first-round bodies to the secondary. They picked up Mike Hughes off the open market and then recently traded their No. 159 overall pick to Detroit for Jeff Okudah. These two join a cornerback room that's depth was tested in 2022 when Casey Hayward suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and A.J. Terrell missed a few games with a hamstring injury.
- Official free agency signings: S Jessie Bates III, DL David Onyemata, LB Kaden Elliss, QB Taylor Heinicke, CB Mike Hughes, LB Tae Davis, WR Mack Hollins; DL Joe Gaziano, WR Scotty Miller, DL Calais Campbell, OL Josh Miles, OLB Bud Dupree, CB Jeff Okudah, OL Ethan Greenidge
- Edge rushers the Falcons could target on every day of the 2023 NFL Draft
- Desmond Ridder discusses being named the Falcons starting quarterback heading into 2023 season
- Question of the Week: Which Falcons position group is the highest priority to replenish in the 2023 NFL Draft?
Even though Okudah and Hughes have not had the start to their NFL careers as they may have wanted due to injuries, the potential is still there with both. These additions made the need to fill the cornerback position in the 2023 NFL Draft change ever so slightly, but not enough to forget to draft a corner in 2023.
So, let's take a look at a handful of players the Falcons could draft at this position throughout the 2023 NFL Draft, which begins in a week.
Devon Witherspoon, Illinois (or) Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
Depending on how the first seven picks in the draft fall, there is a very, very good chance that the Falcons have their pick of the best cornerback in the draft at No. 8.
Depending on who you ask, that's Witherspoon or Gonzalez. They're both long. They're both tough. Either would look good opposite Terrell.
There are some that believe the Falcons are out on these two, though, because of the trade they put together for Okudah. But let's pull back the focus of the picture a little bit to include not just the 2023 season, but 2024 and beyond. One would assume the Falcons would like to put a long-term extension together for Terrell so let's stay away from him for a minute. But Hayward, Okudah and Hughes? They're all on one-year deals or on the final year of their deals. There's no guarantee they'll be in Atlanta in 2024. There's no guarantee that their potential would turn into production for the Falcons. So, even though the room may look more talented and have more depth than it did last year, it's all on the short-term.
It's this reason why you should still keep Witherspoon and Gonzalez on your draft boards for the Falcons. If Atlanta is about to throw quite a bit of cash Terrell's way, one of the best chances they have of giving him a long-term running mate with similar upside is to draft him. Witherspoon and Gonzalez fit that mold.
Other Day 1 options: Joey Porter, Jr. (Penn State), Deonte Banks (Maryland), Emmanuel Forbes (Mississippi State)
Kelee Ringo, Georgia
Ringo is quite a bit bulkier than other top cornerbacks in this draft class, officially weighing in at 207 pounds. It wouldn't be all that surprising if the team that does end up taking Ringo gives him a more hybrid look inside and outside. He could maybe even develop into an asset at safety.
For this reason he may be sitting around for an early Day 2 pick simply because teams may need a Witherspoon, Gonzalez or Porter body-type more than they need the the bulk. The Falcons, though? They may like the bulk. They may like a secondary player who can absorb a knock or two. Arthur Smith talks a lot about versatility, Ringo is someone who could be a fun toy to play around with in Jerry Gray's secondary.
D.J. Turner, Michigan
Turner is someone a lot of Georgia natives may know well, having grown up in Suwanee, Ga. He went to North Gwinnett high school before taking his talents to IMG Academy in Florida. Despite this, he's a local guy with local ties. The Falcons have been notorious in recent years for seeking local talent out. Not to say they'd do this simply for the sake of doing it. They'd have to see something in Turner. The good news is there is something to see.
Most notably, he's quick and twitchy. Turner ran the fastest 40-yard dash and 20-yard split at the combine this year. This speed allows him to get the position he needs as he's had 20 passes defended in the last two years as a starter. There's room for improvement here, but with so many veterans around him, though, Turner could be a very nice Day 2 pick up with time ahead of him to develop.
Tyrique Stevenson, Miami
Stevenson has always had a conviction to play corner. He was a nickel for Kirby Smart at Georgia for a couple of years but transferred to Miami (where he's from) to play closer to home as well as play outside for Kevin Steele. Stevenson doesn't shy away from contact, and while that's something that may catch the eye of officials, it's something that can be corrected. The Falcons have a pick at No. 75 that could be a perfect spot for Stevenson.
Other Day 2 options: Clark Phillips III (Utah), Darius Rush and Cam Smith (both South Carolina)
Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford
Though Kelly isn't the fastest corner of the bunch, he makes up for that lack of burst with his footwork and ability to stick with his receiver. He's smart and quick-thinking, notably so. And his intelligence shows up on the field. He's started a lot of games for Stanford, 35 to be exact. He's not someone who will be shocked by what he sees on the field, he just needs refinement and coaching that will set him up in the right positions to succeed.
Terell Smith, Minnesota
Another Georgia native, Smith grew up in Snellville, Ga., attending high school at South Gwinnett. There, Smith was best known for his speed, winning state championships in track twice with a 200 meter time that was the fifth-best time in the country, at the time. He's coming off his best season as a senior in 2022, still showcasing that top speed that may help him in the league as his techniques sharpen.
Darrell Luter, Jr., South Alabama
Luter has the length teams covet, and The Athletic's Dane Brugler noted he's at his best in man-to-man coverage. He could use additional bulk to fill out his long frame, but he has solid tape already of his tackling ability, so the added pounds may only help.
Other Day 3 options: Jakorian Bennett (Maryland), Tre Tomlinson (TCU), Riley Moss (Iowa), Jaylon Jones (Texas A&M)
Atlanta Falcons players are back at Flowery Branch to kick off prep for the 2023 season.