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The 2023 NFL Draft is upon us. The Falcons have seven picks in this three-day selection process, including the No. 8 overall selection. Here's a breakdown of everything you need to know about what the Falcons have done in the past and what they might do in a vital draft for the future of the organization.

Story by Matt Haley and John Deighton



The Falcons enter the 2023 Draft, the third under the guidance of general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith, with one clear objective: to make the team better. That may seem pretty obvious on the surface, but it's different. Here's why: the Falcons find themselves in a much different position entering Thursday's draft than in either of the previous two iterations.

"I'll tell you the difference for us is we are excited about the players that we've added thus far and we better make sure that the players that we bring in are going to have an opportunity to make the team," Fontenot said. The players here, I know they're working to make sure those guys don't make the team. It's going to be really competitive when you look at the depth chart and where we are."

This offseason, the Falcons have utilized cap space created over the past two seasons to retain key pieces on the roster, as well as add impact players through free agency. Before the start of the new league year, the Falcons inked All-Pro guard Chris Lindstrom to a five-year extension, keeping him in Atlanta through the 2028 season. The team also brought back Norcross, Ga., native Lorenzo Carter, fullback Keith Smith and punter Bradley Pinion. Atlanta signed a three-year deal with 2019 first-round selection Kaleb McGary following one of the most productive years of his career to keep the core of the offensive line together moving into 2023.

Atlanta also made splashes early in free agency this year – a departure from a salary cap-induced frugality over the past few years -- addressing all three levels of the defense. The Falcons signed Bengals All-Pro safety Jessie Bates III, Saints defensive lineman David Onyemata and Saints linebacker Kaden Elliss in the first wave of free agency. Additionally, the Falcons struck a deal with New England to bring in tight end Jonnu Smith, who played for Arthur Smith for the entirety of his rookie deal in Tennessee. Atlanta dipped back into the second wave to bring in cornerback Mike Hughes from Detroit, wide receiver Mack Hollins, who experienced a career year in Las Vegas last season, wide receiver Scotty Miller from Tampa Bay, and All-Pro defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who ranks fourth among all active players with 99.0 career sacks.

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Atlanta acquired former No. 3 overall selection, cornerback Jeff Okudah from Detroit in exchange for the 159th overall pick in this year's draft and signed outside linebacker Bud Dupree to a one-year deal.

"I look at it with where the numbers are and with credit to a lot of people, we've continued to add and build," Smith said. "I'm excited about that so that's part of the strategy too as you're moving around in the draft — how many picks do you want, future assets because we may have some guys on one-year deals, and this may be a hard 53 to make and that's a good problem to have."

With the additions the Falcons have made in free agency and those they'll make over the next three days, Fontenot and Smith are, as they said, excited and ready to make this team better.

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Falcons Draft Picks

Round 1 | Pick 8 (No. 8 overall)

Round 2 | Pick 13 (No. 44 overall)

Round 3 | Pick 12 (No. 75 overall)

Round 4 | Pick 8 (No. 110 overall) from TEN*

Round 4 | Pick 11 (No. 113 overall)

Round 7 | Pick 7 (No. 224 overall) from LVR^

Round 7 | Pick 8 (No. 225 overall)

*- The Falcons traded Julio Jones and a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick.

^- The Falcons traded their 2023 fifth-round pick to the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for wide receiver Brian Edwards and a 2023 seventh-round pick.

How to Watch

The 2022 NFL Draft will be broadcast on NFL Network, ABC, ESPN, and ESPN Deportes live from Kansas City, Mo. The draft will kick off with the first round on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET with the second and third rounds beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Friday and the fourth through seventh rounds beginning at noon ET on Saturday.

Dave Archer, Wes Durham and Derek Rackley will get Falcons fans primed for the evening with the 2023 Falcons Pre-NFL Draft Show presented by Truist, which will air on the Falcons YouTube channel, Facebook and AtlantaFalcons.com starting at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday night.

The trio will break down the team's roster, needs, prospects the Falcons could target, plus their picks for how the draft will shake out. The show will also feature exclusive interviews with head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot as they put the finishing touches on their preparations.

Fox 5 Atlanta will air the Dirty Bird Report: Path to the Draft at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The one-hour draft special will feature an exclusive live interview with Fontenot as well as live reports from Kansas City and Flowery Branch.



Announcing the Pick

Two participants from the Kansas City chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nation's largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, will announce the eighth-overall selection in the first round of this year's draft. The organization and the NFL chose the eighth pick for the announcement given the Falcons work with the organization at the local level. Falcons owner & chairman Arthur Blank served as a "Big" in the past and has always supported the organization's mission of creating and supporting one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.

Volunteer mentor, Christopher, and mentee, 16 year-old Shane, were matched more than four years ago through Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City. After losing his father to brain cancer, Shane formed an unbreakable bond with Christopher, who became a positive role model and mentor in his life. Through shared experiences at sporting events, holiday celebrations, key life moments and beyond, Shane and Christopher created a mentoring relationship to last a lifetime.



History of the 8th Overall Pick

The Falcons will pick eighth in the draft for the sixth time in franchise history and the second consecutive year. The club has selected the following players with the eighth overall selection in previous drafts:

Falcons selected eighth overall in franchise history

2022 – WR Drake London - USC

2015 – OLB Vic Beasley – Clemson

2007 – DE Jamaal Anderson – Arkansas

2004 – CB DeAngelo Hall – Virginia Tech

1992 – T Bob Whitfield – Stanford

Players Selected eighth overall since 2000

2022 – WR Drake London - Falcons

2021 – CB Jaycee Horn – Panthers

2020 – LB Isaiah Simmons – Cardinals

2019 – TE T.J. Hockenson* – Lions

2018 – LB Roquan Smith* – Bears

2017 – RB Christian McCaffrey* – Panthers

2016 – T Jack Conklin – Titans

2015 – OLB Vic Beasley* – Falcons

2014 – DB Justin Gilbert – Browns

2013 – WR Tavon Austin – Rams

2012 – QB Ryan Tannehill* – Dolphins

2011 – QB Jake Locker – Titans

2010 – LB Rolando McClain – Alabama

2009 – T Eugene Monroe – Jaguars

2008 – DE Derrick Harvey – Jaguars

2007 – DE Gaines Adams – Buccaneers

2006 - DB Donte Whitner* – Bills

2005 – DB Antrel Rolle* – Cardinals

2004 – DB DeAngelo Hall* – Falcons

2003 – T Jordan Gross – Panthers

2002 – DB Roy Williams* - Cowboys

2001 – WR David Terrell - Bears

2000 – WR Plaxico Burress – Steelers

*-Denotes Pro Bowl selection.

Pro Football Hall of Famers selected 8th overall in common draft era

1993 – T Willie Roaf – Saints

1982 – G Mike Munchak – Oakland

1981 – DB Ronnie Lott – San Francisco

1968 – RB Larry Csonka – Miami

Pre-common draft era highlights

1962 – WR Lance Alworth – San Francisco

1961 – TE Mike Ditka – Houston Oilers

1957 – T Jim Parker – Baltimore Colts



Atlanta's Areas of Need

Throughout their tenure, Smith and Fontenot have reiterated the need to add talent to every position group. With that said, now that we're through free agency, national media outlets have listed areas of need for each club. While fans should expect the Falcons to select the best player on Atlanta's draft board with the eighth overall pick, let's take a look at those areas of need and who the Falcons could target with the eighth pick and beyond.

The Ringer's 2023 NFL Draft Guide – Danny Heifetz: EDGE, CB, WR

The Athletic – Josh Kendall & Staff: EDGE, CB, S, WR

PFF – EDGE, IDL, WR

EDGE

Potential 1st Rounders

Will Anderson – Alabama

At 6-foot-4, 243 pounds, Anderson tallied 205 total tackles (115 solo), 62 tackles for loss, 34.5 sacks, five passes defensed, one forced fumble and one interception in 41 games for the Crimson Tide over the past three seasons. The Hampton, Ga., native earned first-team All-America honors and won the Bronko Nagurski Award, given to the best defensive player in the country, in each of the past two years.

Scouting Report

"Anderson plays from both two- and three-point stances and uncoils at the snap to instantly threaten the high-side edge. He converts that first-step speed to power on his bull rush, shoving opposing tackles into the pocket with a forceful two-hand punch. He knows how to bounce his rush back to the inside with an effective counterstep or spin move, and he employs a great push-pull move to get tackles lunging forward. He uses his long arms to latch onto opponents and drive them off their spot. He's not the bendiest athlete, but he has a rare tool set to get after the passer. He basically lived in opponents' backfields at Alabama." - Danny Kelly, The Ringer

Tyree Wilson – Texas Tech

Wilson played three seasons (2020-22) at Texas Tech after starting his career at Texas A&M. In three years in Lubbock, he notched 109 total tackles (69 solo), 29 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 32 games for the Red Raiders. At 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, Wilson recorded 61 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks in 2022.

Scouting Report

"Wilson was in the midst of a dominant season at Texas Tech last year before a foot injury sidelined him in November. He opted for surgery but said at the combine that he's "ahead of schedule" on his rehab process. Wilson, who was born in Alaska before his family moved to Texas, recorded 50 pressures in 11 games last season and was among the national leaders in win rate. He used his elite length and athletic recovery skills to hammer tackles, guards and TEs off the edge. His best assets off the edge are his length and ability to use his hands properly, both with a straight punch or a quick swim move. Wilson's arm length (35 5/8 inches) was a shade higher than Travon Walker's measurement at the 2022 combine." - Nick Baumgardner, The Athletic

Lukas Van Ness -- Iowa

Van Ness played two seasons (2021-22) at Iowa after redshirting the 2020 season. At 6-foot-5, 272 pounds, Van Ness tallied 71 total tackles (34 solo), 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks in 27 career games for the Hawkeyes. The Barrington, Ill., native moved from defensive tackle to defensive end last spring and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2022 after finishing with 38 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season.

Scouting Report

"What is most impressive about Van Ness is his versatility, as he lined up inside and outside for the Hawkeyes and played the run well. He was really productive in 2022, with 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He has a quick burst at the snap, and he is powerful when he gets his hands on an offensive lineman. NFL teams always are looking for defenders who can create mismatches, and that's Van Ness. He ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the combine, a great time for his size. For reference, that's slightly faster than Will Anderson's 4.60, and he did it weighing 19 more pounds than Anderson." - Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN

One for Day 2

Keion White – Georgia Tech

White played two seasons (2021-22) at Georgia Tech after spending three seasons (2018-20) at Old Dominion. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive lineman began his college career as a tight end, hauling in 11 receptions for 124 yards for Old Dominion in 2018. After transitioning to defense and tying ODU's single-season program record with 19 tackles for loss in 2020, White transferred to Georgia Tech. In 2022, White notched 54 total tackles (29 solo), 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks for the Yellow Jackets.

Scouting Report

"Rushing the passer is a consistent priority, so you rarely hear edge defenders discussed as run defenders first. It's a legitimate selling point for White, though. The 280-plus-pound edge isn't near as common now as it was in generations prior, which opens up the question of where White fits best with at the NFL level, but he can certainly step right in and help set an edge. In the two seasons he played all 12 games in (one of them at Old Dominion), White compiled 33 tackles for loss, mostly by knocking linemen back and disengaging to make plays in the backfield. His best outing came last November against North Carolina: four tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. — Diante Lee, The Athletic.



CORNERBACK

Potential 1st Rounders

Christian Gonzalez – Oregon

At 6-2, 201 pounds, Gonzalez combines a long and strong frame with elite speed. The former four-star prospect from The Colony, Texas clocked a blistering 4.38 40-yard time at the NFL combine and, according to The Athletic's Bruce Feldman, he topped out at 23.3 MPH on GPS in a game in 2022. Gonzalez spent the first two years of his college career at Colorado before transferring to Oregon. As a Duck, he earned All-Pac 12 honors after tallying 50 tackles, four interceptions, and seven passes defensed in 12 games.

Scouting Report

"Gonzalez is cool, calm, and confident in press coverage, regularly getting up in his opponent's face to jam and reroute. He's sticky in coverage, mirroring expertly while anticipating opponents' movements, matching their footwork, and planting himself on the receiver's hip. He brings easy speed to carry a receiver downfield, and he shows awareness for when to turn his head to find the ball and knock it away." - Danny Kelly, The Ringer

Devon Witherspoon – Illinois

Witherspoon played in 41 career games during his four seasons with the Illini, notching 25 passes defensed and five interceptions. He earned first-team All-America honors in 2022 after posting 41 tackles, three interceptions, and 14 passes defensed in 12 games. Witherspoon earned a 92.0 PFF grade and allowed a completion percentage of just 34.9 percent in his final season at Illinois.

Scouting Report

"After entering the season as a relative unknown, Witherspoon is now our top cornerback prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. That didn't happen by accident, as the junior's 92.5 grade led all FBS corners this season. He finished top-five in the country in completion percentage allowed, forced incompletions, passer rating allowed when targeted and yards allowed per coverage snap. And he did that while playing more man coverage than any other cornerback in this class." - Pro Football Focus

Joey Porter Jr. - Penn State

A three-year starter at Penn State, Porter Jr., totaled 94 tackles (74 solo) with 19 passes defensed, one tackle for loss, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in 30 games. He was named a second-team All-American and first-team All-Big 10 after posting 27 tackles and 11 passes defensed in 2022.

Scouting Report

"Porter plays with an edge that speaks to his pedigree — his dad was a longtime NFL linebacker. He is an outside cornerback with size, and he constantly displays a physical presence, length and high intelligence for the game. Seldom does Porter get outworked or outmuscled when the ball is in the air. He also loves to press receivers at the line of scrimmage. Porter consistently uses his long arms to his advantage when timing up his pass breakups. He plays with good eyes when used as a zone defender and shows an understanding for offensive pass concepts." - Nate Tice, The Athletic

One for day 2

Cam Smith – South Carolina

Smith totaled 91 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions, and 18 passes defensed in three years for the Gamecocks. He notched 27 tackles, one tackle for loss, one pick, and five pass breakups in his final season in 2022.

Scouting Report

"Smith is competitive at the line, crowding opposing receivers before jamming them to disrupt timing and force a reroute. He has quick feet and loose hips, staying low to smoothly transition from backpedal to half-turn or trailing technique without gearing down. His balance and body control show up when he needs to turn, jump, and play the football, and he posted consistent production on the ball throughout his career." - Danny Kelly, The Ringer



WIDE RECEIVER

Potential 1st Rounders

Jaxon Smith-Njigba – Ohio State

Smith-Njigba had a breakout sophomore season for the Buckeyes, ranking third in the FBS with 1,606 receiving yards on 95 catches in 13 games. He burst onto the national scheme with his eye-popping performance against Utah in the Rose Bowl catching 15 passes, including three touchdowns for 347 yards. He was limited to just three games in 2022 due to a hamstring injury.

Scouting Report

"Smith-Njigba is sudden as a route runner in the middle of the field, able to find soft spots in zones and understand where a quarterback's timing and progression marries up with the route being run. He attacks the football and can make defenders miss if given the space. Smith-Njigba has a smaller wingspan (75 1/2 inches) and below-average vertical jump (35 inches). He's also spent little time working on his blocking, so he's another receiver in this class that's not likely to play multiple roles within an offense. But he can take up a large share of targets in any passing game." - Diante Lee, The Athletic

Zay Flowers – Boston College

Flowers recorded a program-record 12 receiving touchdowns for Boston College last season, while tying the record for most receptions in a season (78) and finishing with the third-most receiving yards (1,077) in a season in program history. He also led the conference with five touchdown catches of at least 30 yards in 2022. The two-time, first-team All-ACC receiver (2020; 2022) tallied 200 receptions for 3,056 yards and 29 touchdowns over four seasons (2019-22) for the Golden Eagles.

Scouting Report

"Flowers is an explosive, sudden mover. He gets off the line of scrimmage using quick feet and turbo-boosted acceleration, changing direction on a dime to shake tight coverage and get open early in his route. He uses head and shoulder fakes to get opponents turned around, and he has a good feel for finding the soft spots in zones. Flowers isn't big, but he has excellent balance and body control when the ball is in the air and can turn and twist and come down with the ball. He is surprisingly strong at the catch point and shows awareness of his position near the sideline, tiptoeing down the line and keeping his feet in. He has the speed to threaten deep and can access an extra gear when the ball is thrown. He adjusts to low passes well and is comfortable going over the middle of the field. He is dangerous on deep crossers and is elusive and creative with the ball in his hands after the catch, using jump cuts to switch direction on a dime, reverse a play, and avoid tacklers. He can hit the afterburners and run away from the defense in space, and he ranked top 20 nationally in yards after the catch (503), per PFF." - Danny Kelly, The Ringer

Quentin Johnson – TCU

Johnson burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2020, recording a team-best 22.1 yards per catch average – the highest by a true freshman in Big 12 history (min. 20 receptions). The 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver would go on to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors as a sophomore and junior, leading the Horned Frogs in receiving yards and touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. Johnson finished his junior season with 60 receptions for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns, helping TCU reach the College Football Playoff National Championship this past season.

Scouting Report

Johnston became a starter by the mid-point of his freshman season for the Horned Frogs, ending 2020 with two straight 100-plus yard performances against Oklahoma State and Louisiana Tech. He started nine games in 2021, flashing big play potential while averaging 18.3 yards per reception and producing a 185-yard, three-touchdown performance against Oklahoma. That set the stage for a dominant 2022 season when the 6-foot-4 talent racked up 1,067 yards and six scores, cementing his status as a top prospect." - PFF.com

One for day 2

Cedric Tillman – Tennessee

Tillman played five seasons (2018-22) at Tennessee and finished his career with 109 receptions for 1,622 yards (14.9 avg.) and 17 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 213-pound receiver had a breakout season in 2021 when he recorded 64 receptions for 1,081 yards (16.9 avg.) and 12 touchdowns, setting a program record with a touchdown reception in seven consecutive games that season. Tillman battled injuries in 2022 and finished with 37 catches for 417 yards (11.3 avg.) and three touchdowns in six games for the Volunteers last season.

Scouting Report

"Tillman doesn't have the eye-popping speed of his college teammate Jalin Hyatt, and Tennessee's offense was built in a way that doesn't fit Tillman's exact skill set, so don't be surprised if he is a better pro than a prospect. At 6-foot-3 with nearly 33-inch arms and a 37-inch vertical, Tillman has the profile of a jump-ball winner. He's smooth with the ball in his hands and can shake off DBs to get extra yardage in the open field. Over the last two seasons, Tillman had 101 catches for 1,498 yards and 15 touchdowns — big leaps after not seeing much of the field early in his career. Some of his concerns have less to do with him as a player and more with the system in which he played. Tennessee doesn't give its receivers a robust route tree, so Tillman will need to prove that he's comfortable with the nuances of a timing-based offense. He also appeared in just 24 games over five seasons with the Volunteers, so he's not exactly a proven commodity either. The potential is there, though, and receivers with his play style are hard to come by. He's worth the gamble." — Diante Lee, The Athletic



Trading the 8th Overall Pick

Since 2000, the eighth overall pick in the NFL Draft has been traded six times.

2016

The last time the eighth overall selection was traded was in 2016 as part of Philadelphia's trade to select Carson Wentz second overall. The Miami Dolphins originally held the selection, trading the pick to Philadelphia. The Eagles then used the pick to move up to the second-overall selection in a swap with the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland then moved the pick to the Tennessee Titans, who would select offensive tackle Jack Conklin out of Michigan State with the eighth pick.

Trade Breakdown

Titans: OL Jack Conklin (2016, 8th overall), (2016, 176th overall)^

Browns: WR Corey Coleman (2016, 15th overall), OL Shon Coleman (2016, 76th overall), QB DeShone Kizer (2017, 52nd overall)

^ - Tennessee traded the 176th pick to Denver, who selected FB Andy Janovich

Cleveland originally acquired the eighth overall selection in a trade with Philadelphia, where the Eagles received the second-overall pick and a conditional fifth, while the Browns received Philadelphia's first-, third- and fourth-round selections in 2016 as well as a first-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018.

Philadelphia originally received the eighth-overall pick in a trade with Miami, sending the 13th pick, CB Byron Maxwell and LB Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins in exchange for the eighth pick.

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. Cleveland then moved up one spot from No. 9 to No. 8 in a trade with Minnesota to select cornerback Justin Gilbert.

Trade Breakdown

Browns: CB Justin Gilbert^ (2014, 8th overall)

Vikings: LB Anthony Barr (2014, 9th overall), OL David Yankey (2014, 145th overall)

^ - Cleveland traded No. 4 to Buffalo for No. 9 and the Bills first- and fourth-round picks in 2015.

2013

In 2013, the St. Louis Rams moved up from No. 13 to No. 8 in a trade with Buffalo to select WR Tavon Austin out of West Virginia. As part of the trade, the Bills would select QB EJ Manuel with the No. 16 pick in 2013.

Trade Breakdown

Rams: WR Tavon Austin (2013, 8th overall)

Bills: QB EJ Manuel (2013, 16th overall), LB Kiko Alonso (2013, 46th overall), WR Marquise Goodwin (2013, 78th overall), TE Chris Gragg (2013, 222nd overall)

2008

Jacksonville moved up from No. 26 to No. 8 overall in a move with Baltimore in 2008 to select DE Derrick Harvey out of Florida. The Ravens would use the picks they received in the trade with Jacksonville to move back up in the first round in a trade with Houston to select QB Joe Flacco with the 18th overall pick.

Trade Breakdown

Jaguars: DE Derrick Harvey (2008, 8th overall)

Ravens: QB Joe Flacco (2008, 16th overall)^, LB Tavares Gooden (2008, 71st overall), (2008, 89th overall), (2008, 125th overall)^^

^ - The Ravens traded Jacksonville's No. 26 pick, No. 89 pick, as well as their own sixth-round pick (No. 173 overall) to Houston in exchange for the No. 16 pick.

^^ - Baltimore traded Jacksonville's No. 125 pick to Oakland in exchange for CB Fabian Washington.

2007

One of the four times Atlanta has made the eighth overall selection in the common draft era came via trade. The Falcons traded QB Matt Schaub and the 10th overall pick to the Houston Texans in exchange for the eighth pick, as well as Houston's second-round selections in both 2007 and 2008.

Trade Breakdown

Falcons: DE Jamaal Anderson (2007, 8th overall), OL Justin Blalock (2007, 39th overall), OL Sam Baker (2008, 21st overall).^

Texans: QB Matt Schaub, DL Amobi Okoye (2007, 10th overall)

^ - Atlanta traded Houston's second-round pick in 2008, along with its own second- and fourth-round picks to Washington in exchange for a first-, third- and fifth-round selection in 2008 NFL Draft. The Falcons would select OL Sam Baker out of USC with the 21st overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

2002

Kansas City traded the eighth overall pick, a third-round pick (75th overall) and a 2003 sixth-round pick (186th overall) to Dallas in exchange for the sixth-overall pick in 2002. The Chiefs selected defensive tackle Ryan Sims out of North Carolina, while the Cowboys selected safety Roy Williams out of Oklahoma.

Trade Breakdown

Chiefs: DT Ryan Sims (2002, 6th overall)

Cowboys: S Roy Williams (2002, 8th overall), CB Derek Ross (2002, 75th overall), WR Zuriel Smith (2003, 186th overall)



What Do the Mocks Say?

Mock drafts are perhaps the most fun and entertaining part of the pre-draft process and while it seems like everyone has one these days, we'll check in with a few of the most well-known prognosticators to see who they think will be the newest Falcon.

It's no secret that Atlanta has made improving the defense a priority. Given all of the offseason moves the front office has made in the buildup to the draft, there's little surprise that edge rusher and cornerback are among the consensus needs as we close in on draft day. That consensus opinion has informed most of the mock drafts that we looked at for this exercise.

Of the 20 mock drafters surveyed, eight had Atlanta addressing cornerback and another eight had the team targeting an edge defender. Oregon cornerback Christain Gonzalez was the most popular pick with six selections, followed closely by Georgia edge rusher Nolan Smith with five. A few folks employed a best-player available strategy and sent Texas running back Bijan Robinson to Atlanta to turn the Falcons running game up to 11.

Following the needs pattern, Texas Tech edge Tyree Wilson and Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon picked up two votes each while Iowa edge Lukas Van Ness and Northwestern offensive lineman Peter Skoronski rounded out the selections with one pick each.

Table inside Article
Mock Draft Selection
Peter King | NBC Sports Bijan Robinson | RB | Texas
Danny Kelly | The Ringer Bijan Robinson | RB | Texas
Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz | USA Today Bijan Robinson | RB | Texas
Pro Football Focus Tyree Wilson | ED | Texas Tech
Josh Edwards | CBS Sports Tyree Wilson | ED | Texas Tech
Peter Schrager | NFL.com Nolan Smith | ED | Georgia
Connor Orr | Sports Illustrated Nolan Smith | ED | Georgia
Dane Brugler | The Athletic Nolan Smith | ED | Georgia
Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Nolan Smith | ED | Georgia
Matt Miller | ESPN Nolan Smith | ED | Georgia
Daniel Jeremiah | NFL.com Christian Gonzalez | CB | Oregon
Lance Zierlein | NFL.com Christian Gonzalez | CB | Oregon
Todd McShay | ESPN Christian Gonzalez | CB | Oregon
Ryan Wilson | CBS Sports Christian Gonzalez | CB | Oregon
Jeff Kerr | CBS Sports Christian Gonzalez | CB | Oregon
Jordan Reid | ESPN Christian Gonzalez | CB | Oregon
Jared Dubin | CBS Sports Lukas Van Ness | ED | Iowa
Charles Davis | NFL.com Devon Witherspoon | CB | Illinois
Jonathan Jones | CBS Sports Devon Witherspoon | CB | Illinois
Josh Kendall | The Athletic Peter Skoronski | OL | Northwestern

As Fontenot said during his pre-draft press conference, 2023 has been one of the most uncertain years when it comes to forecasting how the top of the draft will shake out. That's been clear in the variety of scenarios presented by our panel of mock drafters. Who do you have the Falcons selecting?

af_23_draft_flight-iq__1500x500


Deep Drafts

There is a tremendous amount of buzz and excitement surrounding the Falcons top selection in the draft; 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 | No. 44 overall

2023 will mark the second time Atlanta will pick at 44 in franchise history. The Falcons selected wide receiver Gerald Tinker from Kent State 44th overall in 1974.

Notable 44th picks: RB Matt Forte (2008, Chicago), S Bob Sanders (2004, Indianapolis), CB Patrick Surtain (1998, Miami), HOF OL Demontti Dawson (1988, Pittsburgh), LB Ron Rivera (1984, Chicago).

Round 3 | No. 75 overall

The Falcons are scheduled to pick at 75 for the fourth time in club history and the first since picking linebacker Duke Riley out of LSU in 2017. Atlanta selected wide receiver Laurent Robinson from Illinois State in 2007 and defensive tackle Andrew Provence from South Carolina in 1987.

Notable 75th picks: G Jonah Jackson (2020, Detroit), T Terron Armstead (2013, New Orleans), QB Russell Wilson (2012, Seattle), S Jim Norton (1960, Detroit).

Round 4 | No. 110 overall

The Falcons received Tennessee's fourth-round selection (No. 110 overall) as part of the Julio Jones trade in 2021. This marks the second time Atlanta has had the 110th selection in the NFL Draft. The Falcons selected cornerback Charles Dimry with the 110th pick in 1988, who went on to play 48 games with the Falcons over three seasons before completing a 12-year career with the Falcons, Broncos, Buccaneers, Chargers and Eagles.

Notable 110th picks: TE Tyler Higby (2016, L.A. Rams), RB Brandon Jacobs (2005, N.Y. Giants), OL Conrad Dobler (1972, St. Louis Cardinals), HOF RB Leroy Kelly (1964, Cleveland).

Round 4 | No. 113 overall

The 2023 Draft will mark the first time Atlanta has picked 113 overall. The Falcons have picked 112 twice and 114 three times.

Notable 113th picks: S Rayshawn Jenkins (2017, L.A. Chargers), LB Nick Kwiatkoski (2016, Chicago), HOF OLB Kevin Greene (1985, L.A. Rams)

Round 7 | No. 224 overall

Atlanta will pick 224th overall for the second time in team history and the first since selecting Minnesota tight end Kevin Starks in 1986.

Notable 224th picks: DT Beau Allen (2014, Philadelphia), DE Jay Ratliff (2005, Dallas), LB Chuck Allen (1961, San Diego).

Round 7 | No. 225 overall

The Falcons will make the 225th pick for the third time in club annals. Atlanta picked Eastern Washington offensive tackle Jake Rodgers in the seventh round of the 2015 Draft and selected defensive tackle Larry Bailey out of Pacific in the ninth round of the 1974 Draft.

Notable 225th picks: OL J.R. Sweezy (2012, Seattle), DE Reuben Davis (1988, Tampa Bay).



Day Three Finds

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 ninth season in Atlanta, Jarrett has recorded 420 total tackles (229 solo), 32.5 sacks, 66 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and 106 quarterback hits in 127 games with 112 starts. The Conyers, Ga., native is a two-time Pro Bowler and an Atlanta Falcons Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee.

Tyler Allgeier 

The Falcons selected running back Tyler Allgeier in the fifth round (151st overall) of last year's NFL Draft out of BYU. Allgeier surpassed Williams Andrews (1,023 in 1979) for the most rushing yards by a rookie in franchise history, finishing with 1,035 yards in 2022 and became the sixth rookie selected in the fifth round-or-later to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards over the past 20 seasons. Atlanta's fifth-round selection closed his rookie season by rushing for 483 yards and two touchdowns on 89 carries over the final six weeks. His 96.6 rushing yards per game over that span ranked second in the NFL – only Derrick Henry (98.0) averaged more. Allgeier also averaged 5.43 yards per carry after contact over the final six games, also ranking second in the league.

Avery Williams 

Atlanta selected Avery Williams in the fifth round (183rd overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Boise State as a cornerback. As a special teams ace in college who had six punt return touchdowns and three kickoff return touchdowns at Boise State, Williams slid into the Falcons punt returner role as a rookie. In just his second season, Williams led the NFL in punt return average (min. 15 attempts) with 16.2 yards per punt return. Atlanta's coaching staff moved Williams from cornerback to running back last season, utilizing his ability to make defenders miss in open space. In his first season on offense, Williams finished with 170 yards from scrimmage (109 rushing; 61 receiving) and a rushing touchdown.



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 of 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 most recent addition to the Ring of Honor, Todd McClure, was picked by the Falcons in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft out of Louisiana State University.

The Falcons have selected three players in the draft that have gone on to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The group includes Sanders, Humphrey and Brett Favre who was selected 33rd overall in 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 193 schools, with LSU leading the way in terms of Falcons picks. Atlanta has selected 13 LSU Tigers since 1966. The Falcons have selected 12 players from USC, including last year's first-round selection in Drake London. Atlanta has selected 11 players from Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. The Falcons have selected 10 players from Florida and Stanford, and nine players each from Alabama, Auburn and Colorado.

Excluding Favre, the Falcons have drafted 18 players that have been named All-Pro and 45 players that have earned Pro Bowl honors – most recently guard Chris Lindstrom (2023 All-Pro and 2023 Pro Bowl).



Draft FAQs

How many picks do the Falcons have this year?

Atlanta is scheduled to make seven picks, which includes each of their own selections in Rounds 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7, as well as additional picks acquired via trade in the fourth and seventh rounds.

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 88th annual NFL Draft will take place April 27-29 outside Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.

How do rookie contracts work?

Every pick in the draft has a minimum and maximum he gets paid throughout that four-year contract and very few things can be negotiated. The maximum annual increase in salary in each of those first four years is 25 percent 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 contracts of first-round picks, 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.

What is the highest the Falcons have picked in the NFL Draft?

Atlanta has made the first overall pick four times in club history, including selecting 'Mr. Falcon' linebacker Tommy Nobis first overall in 1966. Atlanta also picked quarterbacks Steve Bartkowski (1975) and Michael Vick (2001) with the top selection as well as linebacker Aundray Bruce (1988).

What is the latest the Falcons have picked in the NFL Draft?

In 1976 the Falcons selected Texas Tech defensive back Tony Green in the 17th round with the 468th overall pick. That year, the NFL draft consisted of 487 total selections – the most since the draft began in 1936.

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