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.
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.