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Tabeek's 2021 NFL Mock Draft 6.0: Falcons trade down, land one of the top defensive players in this class

By Matthew Tabeek

The NFL news cycle never stops, and the landscape is always changing.

This past season was unlike any other we've ever experienced – extremely challenging and wildly unpredictable.

And it's carried into the offseason.

There have already been some blockbuster trades, lots of rumors, and more are sure to come. We saw it with the Matthew Stafford trade to the Rams and again on Thursday when the Colts traded for quarterback Carson Wentz.

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As we await a new TV deal and wonder what the salary cap number will be (hopefully before the new league year begins on March 17), teams are preparing for free agency and scrutinizing their draft boards.

For Atlanta Falcons fans, a new regime – general manager and head coach – is in place and much of the attention now is focused on Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith, and how they will attempt to reshape this Falcons roster into one that suits their short-term and long-term vision for sustained success here in Atlanta.

So, without further ado, here is mock draft 6.0 with the updated draft order (see order explanation at the bottom of the page).



1
Jaguars_table
QB Trevor Lawrence
Clemson

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars need to address a lot of positions, with quarterback being at the top of the list. With the No. 1 overall pick, the decision here is a no-brainer: Trevor Lawrence, who is considered to be the best quarterback prospect coming out since Andrew Luck.



2
Jets_table
QB Zach Wilson
BYU

New York Jets: Speaking of an unpredictable offseason, the Jets – who hold a bevy of draft picks already – could go in a number of different directions. Will they stick with Sam Darnold or move on? Will the new coaching staff push to draft a quarterback or build around Darnold? I think Zach Wilson is too good to pass up and they turn the page on Darnold.

3
Dolphins_table
WR Ja'Marr Chase
LSU

Miami Dolphins (via Houston): If the Jets are considered the first X-factor or domino to fall, the Dolphins would have to be the second one. There have been some rumors about Miami moving on from Tua Tagovailoa, but I think it's way too soon for that kind of talk. Instead, they'll give Tagovailoa some weapons and take the best receiver in this class. Chase put up better numbers than Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb and DeVonta Smith in 2019.



4
Broncos_table
QB Justin Fields
Ohio State

TRADE

  • Broncos receive: No. 4 overall (2021), sixth-round pick (2022)
  • Falcons receive: No. 9 overall (2021), No. 40 overall (2021), first-round pick (2022), second-round pick (2022), fourth-round pick (2022)

Denver Broncos: They say where there's smoke, there's fire. And there's been some smoke coming out of the Rockies as of late regarding the quarterback position. One rumor swirling is that Denver has been talking to teams about quarterbacks. In this scenario, they trade with the Falcons – ahead of the Panthers, another team that might be eyeing a quarterback – and pounce on Justin Fields.



5
Bengals_table
OL Penei Sewell
Oregon

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals nailed it last April when they drafted Joe Burrow. The former LSU star made an immediate impact and is clearly their franchise quarterback of the future. But they also learned the hard way that they need to protect their investment. This scenario works out nicely for the Bengals, who take Penei Sewell, hands down the best offensive line prospect in this class.

6
Eagles_table
CB Caleb Farley
Virginia Tech

Philadelphia Eagles: Now that Carson Wentz has been dealt to the Colts, does Philly go all-in on Jalen Hurts or draft a quarterback here? For now, I'm going with the idea that Hurts is their guy. If Penei Sewell is available at No. 6, I could see the Eagles not blinking and taking the former Oregon standout. But in this scenario, Philly knows it must also fix its defense and takes Caleb Farley, who checks all of the boxes to be a standout corner but also has tremendous upside.

  • Needs: OL, CB, WR, LB


7
Lions_table
WR Jaylen Waddle
Alabama

Detroit Lions: Speaking of the quarterback carousel, Jared Goff is now QB1 in Detroit as a result of a trade that sent Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles. The new Lions regime obviously needs Goff to succeed so they show faith in their new investment and draft former Alabama standout Jaylen Waddle, an explosive receiver who will stretch the field and demand extra attention.

  • Needs: WR, EDGE, LB


8
Panthers_table
QB Trey Lance
North Dakota State

Carolina Panthers: Don't be surprised if the Panthers try to move up in order to be in position to select their quarterback of the future. But in this scenario – and with the Eagles opting to go defense – Trey Lance falls right into Carolina's lap, and Matt Rhule couldn't be more thrilled (I'm just assuming here, folks). With Teddy Bridgewater in place and offensive coordinator Joe Brady, Lance can learn from two good ones before being thrown into the fire.

9
Falcons_Table
CB Patrick Surtain II
Alabama

TRADE

  • Falcons receive: No. 9 overall (2021), No. 40 overall (2021), first-round pick (2022), second-round pick (2022), fourth-round pick (2022)
  • Broncos receive: No. 4 overall (2021), sixth-round pick (2022)

Atlanta Falcons: This is another ideal scenario for the Falcons. They still have a top-10 pick and acquire more draft picks in the process, which will be key in reshaping the roster and infusing more talent while dealing with a very tight salary cap. By the time training camp rolls around, the back end of the Falcons defense could look very different – and for good reason. Atlanta surrendered a lot of big plays (only the Lions allowed more total completions of 15-plus yards) and needs to inject more talent to go along with A.J. Terrell, a budding star. The Falcons add Patrick Surtain II, who many scouts and draft analysts consider the top cornerback prospect in this class. Pairing Surtain and Terrell together would go a long way in turning that defense around under Dean Pees and his "multiple but simple" defensive philosophy.



10
Cowboys_table
OL Rashawn Slater
Northwestern

Dallas Cowboys: If you watched the Cowboys at all during 2020, it's clear that defensive unit struggled, especially against the run. Dallas, surprisingly, also struggled in the trenches on the other side of the ball, as the injuries piled up and gutted that once-formidable offensive line. With Rashawn Slater still available, Dallas jumps on the former Northwestern lineman. As Dane Brugler of The Athletic notes, Slater is "stout and power-packed and doesn't allow rushers to go through him." With Dak Prescott coming back from injury, tightening up that front will be key.

  • Needs: CB, OL, LB, TE


11
Giants_table
WR DeVonta Smith
Alabama

New York Giants: The Giants competed well under first-year coach Joe Judge, but one area in which Big Blue must address is receiver – and getting Daniel Jones some help. Defense could very well be an option here, too, but with DeVonta Smith sitting there, the Giants put his name on the card. The Heisman Trophy winner should help take the load off Jones as well as Saquon Barkley, who is expected to make a healthy return from a season-ending knee injury.

  • Needs: EDGE, OL, CB, WR
12
49ers_table
DL Christian Barmore
Alabama

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are another team to keep an eye on when it comes to making moves for a quarterback, either before, during or after the draft. For now, it's still the Jimmy G Show – and that's not a bad thing if Garoppolo can stay healthy and on the field. In this scenario, I can see San Francisco bolstering its defensive line and taking who many think is the top defensive tackle prospect in this class, Christian Barmore out of Alabama.

  • Needs: CB, OL, QB, DL


13
Chargers_table
TE Kyle Pitts
Florida

Los Angeles Chargers: I would not be surprised at all if Kyle Pitts is long gone by the 13th pick, but if he's still there I think the Chargers will sprint to the podium. Los Angeles has struck gold in Justin Herbert and now they need to surround their young quarterback with talent – and Pitts is a dynamic playmaker who can best be described as a big, fast receiver playing tight end. I think he fits the mold of the evolving tight ends, like Darren Waller and even Travis Kelce.

  • Needs: OL, TE, CB, DL


14
Vikings_table
OL Alijah Vera-Tucker
USC

Minnesota Vikings: This one is pretty straightforward. The Vikings must improve up front and taking Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC should help them do just that. Vera-Tucker has great size and is versatile because he can play both tackle and inside at guard. Many draft experts seem to think his NFL future is at guard. Time will tell, but this would be a solid pick for Minnesota.

  • Needs: OL, DL, EDGE
15
Patriots_table
LB/EDGE Micah Parsons
Penn State

New England Patriots: I've had Micah Parsons going as high as No. 4 to the Falcons because he's a do-it-all defender who can rush the passer, chase down running backs and is solid in pass coverage. That's a pretty nice package, but he's not perfect. There are some concerns about Parsons's maturity but I think he'd fit in very nicely with the Patriots here – and flourish in that defense.

  • Needs: QB, DL, WR, TE


16
Cardinals_Table
EDGE Azeez Ojulari
Georgia

Arizona Cardinals: This is a big season for the Cardinals in a lot of ways – and I could see them adding some offensive firepower here at No. 16. But I think adding edge rusher Azeez Ojulari out of Georgia is the play here. Arizona must address its pass rush and Ojulari, who has a great burst and knows how to get around the corner to passers, could go a long way in remedying that issue. Kwity Paye of Michigan could be an option here as well.

  • Needs: CB, DL, WR, TE


17
Raiders_table
EDGE Kwity Paye
Michigan

Las Vegas Raiders: Speaking of Kwity Paye and bolstering the pass rush, I think that's exactly what the Raiders will do in this scenario. While edge rushers don't headline this draft class, there are some good ones, including Paye. The former Wolverine has a non-stop motor, relentless energy and has a nose for finding the backfield and wreaking havoc back there – just what the Raiders (and any team) could use.

  • Needs: DT, OL, EDGE, S
18
Dolphins_table
OL Christian Darrisaw
Virginia Tech

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins got Tua Tagovailoa a nice weapon on the outside – Ja'Marr Chase with the No. 3 pick – and now they can address improving Tagovailoa's protection. Christian Darrisaw out of Virginia Tech makes sense here. Darrisaw thrives as a blocker in the run game and is solid in pass protection.

  • Needs: WR, OL, LB, EDGE


19
Washington_table
OL Teven Jenkins
Oklahoma State

Washington Football Team: Washington might be tempted to move up for a shot at a quarterback or even stay put and roll the dice on Mac Jones here (which I have them doing in my previous mock drafts). But the more I think about Washington's situation the more I think it needs to improve up front. I like Teven Jenkins here. The 6-foot-7, 320-pound tackle has great body control and is considered to be an excellent pass protector.

  • Needs: QB, WR, OL


20
Bears_table
OL Jalen Mayfield
Michigan

Chicago Bears: For a time, I thought Carson Wentz might end up in Chicago, but alas … he's now a Colt. So, what will the Bears do at quarterback? In this scenario, they could roll the dice on Mac Jones or even Kyle Trask, but I think they're both Day 2 picks. Instead, the Bears bolster the offensive line and take Jalen Mayfield out of Michigan. Mayfield can play both guard and tackle (although he's probably better suited inside) and a nice run blocker.

  • Needs: QB, OL, WR
21
Colts_table
EDGE Jayson Oweh
Penn State

Indianapolis Colts: Welp, I guess I should scratch "QB" as one of the Colts' needs. At least for now. Who knows if Frank Reich will ultimately "fix" Carson Wentz, but for now that's the plan in Indy. I think the Colts will turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball at No. 21 and pluck edge rusher Jayson Oweh off the board. Oweh has tremendous size, athleticism, can get into the backfield and has a lot of upside.

  • Needs: QB, CB, EDGE, WR


22
Titans_table
EDGE Gregory Rousseau
Miami

Tennessee Titans: When it comes to generating a pass rush, the Titans have struggled a bit there recently. This is an easy pick here, especially with the likes of Gregory Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips – two former Miami Hurricanes – still on the board. I think Tennessee will opt for Rousseau here. Rousseau is tall, long, smart and knows how to get off blocks in a hurry. He could provide a jolt to that Titans rush.

  • Needs: EDGE, WR, OL, CB


23
Jets_table
EDGE Jaelan Phillips
Miami

New York Jets (via Seattle): The Jets, with their new franchise quarterback in hand, address the other side of the ball and continue the run on edge rushers – and happily scoop up Jaelan Phillips here. While he's not as tall and as explosive as his teammate, Gregory Rousseau, Phillips still has great size and knows how to get to the passer and play the run well.

  • Needs: QB, EDGE, CB
24
Steelers_table
RB Najee Harris
Alabama

Pittsburgh Steelers: This pick just makes way too much sense here. At least for me. As I have noted for weeks in these mock drafts, the Steelers have their starting left tackle, top running back, leading receiver and No. 2 pass rusher ticketed for the open market in 2021. Pretty soon that list might also include a need for a quarterback, too. But for now, the Steelers take Najee Harris, the talented and bruising back out of Alabama. While his size is comparable to Derrick Henry, Harris is a very good pass catcher, too, and that's what separates him from a lot of backs his size.

  • Needs: QB, OL, RB, EDGE


25
Jaguars_table
CB Jaycee Horn
South Carolina

Jacksonville Jaguars (via LA Rams): As noted with the No. 1 pick, the Jaguars need to address a number of areas, other than just quarterback. Secondary is one of them, too. Last year they drafted C.J. Henderson out of Florida and I think adding South Carolina standout Jaycee Horn into the fold makes a ton of sense here. Horn has nice size, length and isn't afraid to be aggressive at times, either. He oftentimes was matched up against SEC team's top receivers and more than held his own.

  • Needs: QB, OT, CB, EDGE


26
Browns_table
LB/EDGE Zaven Collins
Tulsa

Cleveland Browns: The Browns will probably take a long, hard look at the back end of their defense this offseason, including cornerback, safety and linebacker. It's an area that must be addressed. I like Zaven Collins here; he won the Bronko Nagurksi for the best defensive player in college football and was also a runner up for the Butkus Award. As Dane Brugler of The Athletic notes about Collins, he has "the size of a defensive end and the athleticism of a safety." Adding a player like Collins in this spot seems like nice value.

  • Needs: S, LB, CB, DL
27
Ravens_table
EDGE Joseph Ossai
Texas

Baltimore Ravens: I had the Ravens taking a receiver here at No. 27 in my last mock but I think they'll go defense here and add edge rusher Joseph Ossai out of Texas. Ossai has nice size and can come off the edge with some steam. The one quality that most people talk or write about when it comes to Ossai is his motor – and that it's non-stop. That's something that can't be coached.

  • Needs: WR, OL, EDGE, S


28
Saints_table
CB Tyson Campbell
Georgia

New Orleans Saints: Things in New Orleans are shaping up to look a lot different in 2021. For starters, it appears that Drew Brees will retire, and a new signal-caller will be behind center. Jameis Winston? Taysom Hill? The good news for them is that they have some options on the roster already. One area where New Orleans needs to add talent, though, is the secondary. I think Tyson Campbell out of Georgia makes a ton of sense right here, too. Campbell has great size, a ton of talent and upside. His best football is front of him.

  • Needs: QB, DL, CB, WR


29
Packers_table
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Notre Dame

Green Bay Packers: Sure, it would be nice if the Packers would get Aaron Rodgers some more weapons. But Green Bay knows it must address the other side of the ball – which sustained a number of injuries, but also struggled at times. Notre Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah can run and hit – he has great range and when he shows up, he drops the hammer. Owusu-Koramoah, if he's still on the board, would be a nice fit in Green Bay.

  • Needs: LB, DL, CB, OL
30
Bills_table
CB Asante Samuel Jr.
Florida State

Buffalo Bills: For the sixth mock draft in a row, I have the Bills taking a cornerback – and I really like Asante Samuel Jr. out of Florida State here. For starters, cornerback will be a position of need for Buffalo and Samuel isn't really a reach here at No. 30. Samuel is a 5-foot-10 corner who is fast, twitchy, has good instincts and a high ceiling. At Florida State he broke up 29 passes and made four interceptions in three seasons.

  • Needs: CB, OL, DL, EDGE


31
Chiefs_table
OL Landon Dickerson
Alabama

Kansas City Chiefs: One area the Chiefs will likely address this offseason is the offensive line. As I've noted previously, the Chiefs haven't spent a first- or second-round pick on an offensive lineman since 2015 and tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz are a year away from having their deals expire. And we all saw in the Super Bowl, that area was an issue against the Buccaneers defense. I'm going with Landon Dickerson out of Alabama here. Dickerson tore his ACL in December, but if he can stay healthy is definitely worthy of this pick. He's got great size, nice footwork and can be a true mauler at times.

  • Needs: OL, EDGE, LB, WR


32
Bucs_table
LB Nick Bolton
Missouri

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I was tempted to pick running back Travis Etienne here but couldn't pass on the idea of adding linebacker Nick Bolton to that linebacker corps, especially with Lavonte David scheduled to become a free agent. Bolton doesn't have imposing size, but he flies to the ball and knows how to deliver the big hit. He plays with great speed and processes things quickly, and I like that pick here at the end of the first round.

  • Needs: LB, DL, EDGE, WR

Teams without a first-round pick

As it stands right now, three teams do not have a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft: the Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks. Their team needs, actual draft picks (and rounds) are listed below:

Texans_table
Houston Texans
Needs: WR, CB, DE

Current picks (round): 67 (3), 100 (4), 113 (4), 131 (5), 164 (6), 178 (6), 188 (6), 195 (7)

Rams_table
Los Angeles Rams
Needs: OL, DE, LB

Current picks (round): 57 (2), 185 (6), 217 (7)

Seahawks_table
Seattle Seahawks
Needs: OL, CB, DE

Current picks (round): 56 (2), 120 (4), 151 (5), 184 (6)



2021 NFL Draft order

  • A note on the draft order: The non-playoff teams are picks 1-18 (the team with the worst record, Jacksonville, picks first overall). The rest will be determined as the playoffs unfold. Teams that will be eliminated in the wild-card round get picks 19-24. Teams that will be eliminated in the divisional round get picks 25-28. The two teams eliminated in the AFC and NFC title games get picks 29 and 30. The Super Bowl loser will pick at 31 and the winner picks last. The current order is based on records, strength of schedule and seeding (via Tankathon).
  • The Falcons current draft picks: For an in-depth look at how many and where the Falcons pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, standout players previously drafted at those positions and who has been drafted in those same positions over the last five years, click here.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here belong to Matthew Tabeek and and do not represent the opinions of the Atlanta Falcons' front office staff, coaches and executives unless it is noted otherwise.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan #2 against the New Orleans Saints on December 6, 2020.

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