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NFL Mock Draft Roundup: The Athletic analyst gives Texas Tech edge rusher to Falcons at No. 8

In addition to Tyree Wilson, Clemson's Myles Murphy, Ohio State's Paris Johnson often linked to Atlanta

Editor's Note: We'll track prospects the Falcons are linked to, at No. 8 overall and beyond, in mock drafts from respected analysts in this Mock Draft Roundup series, which will run through the 2023 NFL Draft.

We've had a flurry of mock drafts come out in the lull between the NFL's conference championship games and the Super Bowl, a generally dead period on the sports calendar.

We've got even more coming after the Super Bowl -- be on the lookout for mine on Tuesday -- once the NFL draft order is formally set.

I thought we'd provide a run down of players linked to the Falcons during the last two weeks. Clemson defensive lineman Myles Murphy keeps popping up at No. 8 -- I dig that pick -- but offensive linemen and cornerbacks are frequently given to the Falcons in these mocks. One thing you'll notice: no quarterbacks to this point.

Let's take a look at players associated with the Falcons in the latest prominent mock drafts:

MockDraft 1920x1080 roundup (2)

Diante Lee, The Athletic

  • Date: Feb. 8
  • Falcons pick: No. 8 overall
  • Selection: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

Analysis: Under new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, the structure of the Falcons' scheme likely will change to reflect that of the Saints. One of the calling cards of Dennis Allen's 4-3 defensive system is using huge bodies up front to keep the second-level players clean. This draft is good for that, and Tyree Wilson fits the mold of what Nielsen might need. Wilson is still a little raw as a pass rusher, but he plays like a tank and his ability to crush the pocket inside or on the edge would make him a perfect fit next to Grady Jarrett.

Danny Kelly, The Ringer

  • Date: Feb. 2
  • Falcons pick: No. 8 overall
  • Selection: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson

Analysis: The Falcons mustered just 21 sacks last season, second worst in the league, and their 14.6-percent pressure rate ranked dead last. This team needs more juice off the edge, and Murphy can provide that.

Nick Baumgardner, The Athletic

  • Date: Jan. 30
  • Falcons pick: No. 8 overall
  • Selection: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State

Analysis: Paris Johnson Jr. started at guard and tackle during his time at Ohio State and hasn't come close to playing his best football yet. An outstanding prospect in so many areas, Johnson's length and general body control/play strength make him a mistake-eraser. He's never out of a play, even if he screws it up, because he's athletic enough to get back in. Johnson could be a star in time, and he'd fit right in with Arthur Smith's hard-charging offense.

Lance Zierlein,

  • Date: Feb. 7
  • Falcons pick: No. 8 overall
  • Selection: LB Drew Sanders, Arkansas

Analysis: Have I got good news for Falcons fans. You need linebacker help and a pass rusher, and it just so happens that this monster can do both!

Eric Edholm,

  • Date: Feb. 3
  • Falcons pick: No. 8 overall
  • Selection: Edge Myles Murphy

Analysis: The Falcons have fewer sacks (68) over the past three seasons than the Eagles had in 2022 alone (70). They still need help heating up the edges.

Matt Miller,

  • Date: Feb. 6
  • Falcons pick: No. 8 overall
  • Selection: Edge Myles Murphy

Analysis: The Falcons might be tempted by quarterback C.J. Stroud with the board playing out this way, but rookie Desmond Ridder showed enough promise in 2022 to be given another shot as the starter. Instead, the Falcons have to address the defense and start building a unit that can compete across the board. At 6-5 and 275 pounds, Murphy is expected to perform among the top defensive ends in recent history at the combine.

One scouting source told me the junior could run in the "high-4.5-second" range in the 40-yard dash. And an AFC area scout compared Murphy's physical traits and potential to Travon Walker's, so there are high hopes of what he can become. Murphy had 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 2022.

  • Falcons pick: No. 44 overall
  • Selection: WR Josh Downs
  • Analysis: The Falcons have two big pass-catching targets with Drake London and Kyle Pitts but need an intermediate option who can spark the offense with speed. Downs plays exclusively in the slot, where his burst and balance allow him to beat up cornerbacks on underneath routes with after-the-catch ability. He had 94 catches and 11 touchdowns this season.

Mel Kiper, ESPN

  • Date: Jan. 25
  • Falcons pick: No. 8 overall
  • Selection: DL Myles Murphy, Clemson

Analysis: The Falcons had just 21 sacks this season, which ranked 31st in the league, and they were led by Grady Jarrett's six. Veteran edge rusher Lorenzo Carter added four, while rookie second-round pick Arnold Ebiketie had 2.5. No other player had more than two. They have to get better along the front seven. That could start here with Murphy, a complete defender who had 17.5 sacks in three seasons at Clemson. He could even kick inside to tackle on passing downs.

Atlanta is another team with questions at quarterback, as rookie third-rounder Desmond Ridder flashed at times at the end of the season. He's not a lock to be the Week 1 starter, though I expect the organization to do deep evaluations on this draft class and bring in another player to compete with him. For now, however, Murphy is too good to pass up.

Bucky Brooks,

  • Date: Jan. 23
  • Falcons pick: No. 8 overall
  • Selection: OL Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

Analysis: The Dirty Birds elect to fortify an offensive line that will need to protect a young passer growing into the position.

Marcus Mosher, PFF

  • Date: Jan. 26
  • Falcons pick: No. 8 overall
  • Selection: DL Myles Murphy, Clemson

Analysis: There wasn't a team in the NFL with a worse pass rush than the Falcons last season. While they were playing several rookies and young players, it's a unit that needs to improve. Murphy is less talented than Will Anderson Jr. or Tyree Wilson, but he is worth a top-10 pick since he can play both defensive end and defensive tackle in sub-packages.

Dane Brugler, The Athletic

  • Date: Jan. 17
  • Falcons pick: No. 8 overall
  • Selection: OL Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

Analysis: "Originally, I had the Falcons keeping Georgia left tackle Broderick Jones in his home state with this pick, but Peter Skoronski would give Atlanta a little more flexibility on the offensive line. While his lack of length is a legitimate concern, Skoronski has outstanding tape due to his feet, technique and processing. Scouts believe he has five-position versatility, which would allow the Falcons to move him around and get their five best blockers on the field."

  • Falcons pick: No. 44 overall
  • Selection: WR Tyler Scott, Cincinnati

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