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Terrin Waack's seven-round mock draft: Falcons land a running mate for A.J. Terrell

Each member of the Falcons editorial team will release a seven-round mock draft this week. Up first, Terrin Waack.

DISCLAIMER: The statements and opinions regarding players and/or potential future players in the article below are those of the editorial staff and are not of the Atlanta Falcons' football personnel unless noted in a direct quote.

Editor's Note: Over the course of the next few days, the Atlanta Falcons editorial team of Tori McElhaney, Terrin Waack and Amna Subhan will publish three separate seven-round mock drafts in preparation for this year's NFL Draft, which begins Thursday, April 25. Up first: Terrin Waack.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Let's stick to the facts up top before everything gets hypothetical down below.

The 2024 NFL Draft is next week, running April 25-27 in Detroit. There will be seven rounds with 257 picks over the course of the three days. The Atlanta Falcons, as it stands, own eight selections, starting with No. 8 in the first round and ending with No. 197 in the sixth round.

The following is the first of three seven-round mock drafts to be released this week. Each member of the Falcons editorial staff will share who they'd pick if given the power in Atlanta, starting with yours truly.

Please enjoy – and try not to take this too seriously. A simulator chose all non-Falcons outcomes.

Alabama defensive back Terrion Arnold (3) smiles as he walks off the field after an NCAA college football game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Michelle Haas Hutchins)

Pick No. 8, first round: CB Terrion Arnold (Alabama)

The Falcons need a cornerback to start alongside A.J. Terrell, especially if they decide to offer the former first-round draft pick a contract extension as his fifth year approaches. That's where Terrion Arnold can come in, as the most commonly top-ranked prospect at his position. Rather than taking a risk, the Falcons jump at the opportunity to lock Arnold in, even if this decision seems high. It worked out well the last time the Falcons selected a cornerback in the first round. Why not again? In 2023, Arnold totaled 63 tackles in addition to 17 pass breakups and five interceptions. Those latter marks made him the only FBS player with at least 12 pass breakups and at least five interceptions that season.

Pick No. 43, second round: QB Michael Penix Jr. (Washington)

The Falcons have their QB1 for 2024 thanks to the Kirk Cousins acquisition in free agency, but Cousins is 35 years old with 12 seasons already under his belt. He's not exactly a long-term solution. That's why the Falcons choose to draft a second-round quarterback in Michael Penix Jr. The need to trade up in the first round for a premier passer is gone, so Atlanta is able select someone who can develop under Cousins without immediate pressure. Penix is still a top-10 option in this year's class, and he has proven to overcome adversity – injuries, a transfer – and thrive. He threw for 4,641 yards in 2022 and for 4,903 yards in 2023, making him the first FBS player since Patrick Mahomes (2015-16) to pass for 4,500-plus years in back-to-back seasons.

Pick No. 74, third round: EDGE Bralen Trice (Washington)

The Falcons waited this long to draft an edge rusher because they're not fully convinced Bud Dupree and Calais Campbell are out of Atlanta. That pass-rush duo's 2024 fate has yet to be decided a month into the new league year. Both are still on the open market as free agents. They were the Falcons' leading sackers last season with 6.5 apiece, so it's possible they return. Still, the Falcons can and should continue to build depth at this position – and Bralen Trice was available for the taking. Trice, too, led his team in sacks last season, with seven. He also had 49 tackles, 11.5 of which were for a loss.

Washington defensive end Bralen Trice (8) looks towards Utah quarterback Bryson Barnes (16) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, in Seattle. Washington won 35-28. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

Pick No. 79 via JAX, third round: DT T'Vondre Sweat (Texas)

The Falcons should have a healthy Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata ready to go in 2024. But if 2023 taught the Falcons brass anything, it's that anyone can get injured. Last year happened to be Jarrett, who had otherwise missed only three games since his 2015 draft night. So, adding in T'Vondre Sweat could cover those bases if something similar occurred again. In 2023, Sweat had 45 tackles, eight for a loss and two sacks. Sweat has also proven to be an asset on special teams, blocking a PAT in his final collegiate year.

Pick No. 109, fourth round: OT Matt Goncalves (Pittsburgh)

The Falcons have drafted an offensive lineman in the last five drafts. Don't see that changing this year. Matt Goncalves is their best option when this pick rolls around, so he's coming to Atlanta. There's no such thing as too much depth, especially along the front lines. Goncalves split his college time rather evenly between left and right tackle, too, so he's a double whammy when it comes to being plug-and-play ready.

Pittsburgh's Matt Goncalves (76) is seen before an NCAA football game against West Virginia on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Morgantown, W. Va. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Pick No. 143, fifth round: WR Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (Georgia)

The Falcons signed three wide receivers in free agency, but even after those moves, this position room featured vacancies. Drake London was set to be the only returner from 2023, so there was initially a push to restock. Now, that urgency has calmed but still exists nonetheless. So, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint is a good local and available option. He had 24 receptions in 2023 for 535 yards – good for a 15.7 average – and four touchdowns. He was one of the 59 players set to attend the Falcons local pro day Friday, April 12, too.

Pick No. 187, sixth round: S Daijahn Anthony (Ole Miss)

The Falcons had Jessie Bates III, Richie Grant and - by the end of the season - DeMarcco Hellams consistently holding the safety position down last year, and all three are back in 2024, so the need here is low. Daijahn Anthony, however, offers something that makes him attractive enough to draft: diversity. Anthony has history at both safety and cornerback. Two birds, one stone when it comes to increasing depth in the secondary. In 2023, Anthony had 61 tackles, 11 pass breakups and three interceptions.

Mississippi defensive back Daijahn Anthony (3) during the first half of an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Oxford, Miss. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Pick No. 197 via CLE, sixth round: EDGE Solomon Byrd (USC)

The Falcons add more edge-rusher depth, just in case neither Dupree or Campbell re-sign in Atlanta. Solomon Byrd had 49 tackles overall, of which six were sacks and 11 were for a loss. He also forced a team-high four fumbles. So, not only is Byrd able to get into the backfield, he can cause chaos back there, too.

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