Falcons 7-Round Mock Draft: EDGE Prospect Sneaks Into Top 10

Nolan Smith | Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nolan Smith | Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Falcons have been busy this offseason and should continue improving the roster at this month’s NFL Draft. In our final mock draft for Atlanta, the team adds a high-end talent on the edge… and more!

The Atlanta Falcons are on the cusp of competing for the NFC South crown, and with a strong free agency class already in the building, the team can seriously toss their name in the ring with a solid draft class this month. With a young core of talented playmakers already in place, second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder has been handed the keys to the franchise and it appears that the Falcons are going to see what they have in a player who led Cincinnati to a College Football Playoff appearance in his final collegiate season.

Outside of the optimism surrounding Ridder and other key offensive contributors like Kyle Pitts, Drake London, and Tyler Algeier, the Falcons have focused on improving the defensive unit this offseason. This change is highlighted by signing veteran stars in Jessie Bates and Calais Campbell and trading a fifth and seventh-round pick for Jeffrey Okudah.

Despite what seems to be a solid young core, there are still many holes on this roster, and the play from last season shows it. Amongst all 32 NFL teams, the Falcons ranked 31st in quarterback sacks last year with a total of just 21, and 25th in total yards allowed. Offensively, the team was certainly a mixed bag, finishing third in total rushing yards and 31st in passing yards.

Falcons 7-Round Mock Draft: EDGE Prospect Sneaks Into Top 10

To help some of these rankings in 2023, it is paramount that the team finds pass rushers, run stoppers, and pass catchers in this mock draft. As the offense looks to continue its ground-first identity, adding offensive line depth and future starters should be on the table as well.

With seven selections in this year’s NFL Draft, three of which are among the top 75, here is a seven-round mock draft for the Atlanta Falcons this April.

Round 1, No. 8: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia

Atlanta’s biggest need right now is a dominant edge defender, and with the eighth overall selection, the team can find just that in Georgia’s Nolan Smith. A top-ten pick might seem like a reach for a player who missed the majority of last season due to injury, but considering Smith’s unique traits as an athlete, he certainly deserves consideration amongst the top of this year’s draft.

As an edge, Smith is on the smaller side at 6′ 2″ and 240 pounds, but he tested off the charts at the NFL Combine. Between a 4.39 40-yard dash, a 41.5″ vertical, and a 10′ 8″ broad jump, Smith recorded a RAS of 9.21, putting him in the 92nd percentile amongst edge rushers in terms of athleticism. However, there are still some natural concerns for a player of his size regarding his transition to the NFL, but his tape should alleviate a lot of these doubts.

At Georgia, Smith proved to be elite against the run, perhaps more so than his role as a pass rusher, and he plays with aggression and strength that helps to make up for his slighter frame. In Atlanta, Smith could perform extremely well in the role of a 3-4 outside linebacker, allowing him to lean more on his insane athleticism. Smith was asked to do a lot at Georgia, including some time in pass coverage, and with 15 sacks over his final two seasons in college, he should be able to focus more as a pure pass rusher edge threat. If taken by Atlanta, Smith could turn into a leader on and off the field for years to come. He is a great start to the mock draft.