Now that the Combine is over, I’m doing my second to last mock of the year. The last one is gonna be post-FA, pre-Draft. God knows FA is going to throw a wrench into all the mocker fockers hopes and dreams…so let’s have fun while we can.
Disclaimer: I know that the CBA isn’t finalized, so I won’t be doing designated June 1st cuts or assuming a higher salary cap. The proposed changes could affect cap space drastically, freeing up more space for our Birds, but I’ll be using our current cap figures with the projected 2020 cap to limit the hypotheticals in what is already a guess-heavy piece of writing.
Other disclaimer: This isn’t what I think Dimi would do, it’s what I would do. I’m trying to have fun writing this, after all.
Let’s get into it!
Starting Cap Space: 4.5 million
(I’ll be using Spotrac to calculate remaining space after trades/adding players
Luke Stocker (2.6 million freed up)
Ty Sambrailo (3.7 million freed up)
Allen Bailey (4.5 million freed up)
I don’t think any of these cuts require much explanation, but if you have questions, feel free to comment. The money can go better places, I’ll say that much.
In terms of who wasn’t cut and why – Freeman and Trufant aren’t cut for reasons explained later. Mack is dealt with later too. No one else is really worth talking about, seeing as we either couldn’t free up space or they would have to be a June 1st cut (CBA not finalized).
Cap Space Post-Cuts: 15.3 million
Alex Mack (two year extension, frees up 4 million in 2020). OL, especially smaller OL like Mack, have a history of playing into their late 30s. Mack was much better than I remembered him being last year, enough that I think he has another 2-3 years in the tank. That being said, this could be easily structured as an out in 2022 (the last year of the deal), and I doubt Mack wants more than 8 mil/year or so. His cap number is reduced to 6 million this year (from 10 million) and the next two years are between 8 and 10 million. Also, Mack happens to be the perfect mentor for one of the draft picks I make in this mock.
Cap Space Post-Extensions: 19.3 million
Some of these are more likely than others. Remember, it’s what I would do if possible, not what I think the Falcons are likely to do. That said, I think the 1st one is actually likely to happen in some form, even if not to this exact team. The rest? I’m totally aware of how unlikely it is things pan out this way.
Falcons trade Desmond Trufant to the Los Angeles Chargers for a 2nd round pick. The Eagles are likely a better fit, especially with having brought on Marquand Manuel as a DB coach, but the Chargers have less money and more needs on offense. The fit here is stellar. Trufant is still a really good CB, just not a fit for what I believe the Falcons are trying to do. The Falcons choose to favor the high draft pick over cap relief, so the Chargers get Tru for 5 mil, 10 mil, and 14 mil over the next 3 seasons (a great deal for a starting caliber CB) and the Falcons free up 5 million in cap space.
Falcons tag and trade Austin Hooper to the Redskins for a 3rd round pick. A bidding war is apparently brewing for Hooper, and the Skins, Bears, and Packers are at the forefront. I doubt the Pack is willing to give up a 2nd rounder if it comes down to it, and Washington picks before Chicago, so it comes down to who has the best pick to offer. Godspeed, Hooper…and please, understand that it isn’t you. It’s us.
Falcons trade Devonta Freeman, a 5th round pick, and a 7th round pick to the Lions for cap relief and a 6th round pick. The 5th rounder is a pretty steep price to pay, especially given Freeman still has talent, but the Falcons need cap relief bad. I wanted to have the Lions give a 7th round pick back, but instead they give a 6th and we give a 7th to comp the difference since they don’t have any 7th rounders. This idea stems from the Brock Osweiler trade, where he was traded along with a 6th and future 2nd for a 4th rounder and cap relief. The Lions were interested last year and have 46.5 million in space this year, a number that’ll turn into nearly 60 million if they trade Slay like they’ve been rumored to be considering. This move frees up 9.5 million this year and more in the years to come, and the Lions can still cut Free next year to free up 6 million if he doesn’t turn out to be a fit.
Falcons trade a 4th round pick to the Browns for David Njoku. This idea has been tossed around a good bit by now, and I think it’s a better solution than any TE that’ll be available in the 4th round of the draft. Don’t get me wrong – I like guys, but expecting a draft pick from a weak class like this to start isn’t great. Njoku has experience, talent, and even production, but for whatever reason, he hasn’t clicked with Mayfield and co. Koetter is the perfect remedy. The Falcons take on no money this year (the Browns are looking for a Day 3 pick and we give them the highest possible) and have a 5th year option they can exercise, making him an admittedly less immediately good substitute for Hooper with no risk outside of the draft pick we gave up.
Cap Space Post-Trades: 33.2 million
Campbell can be upgraded, Hooper is good but will be expensive, and Beasley will be more expensive than other FAs that can offer similar production. Won’t hate if we bring certain people back if the price is right, but I don’t plan on it. The other guys are JAGs at best and will likely be able to be re-signed for vet minimum contracts if need be.
Adrian Clayborn (2 years 5 mil, 2 mil hit)
Blidi Wreh-Wilson (vet min)
Tyeler Davison (2 years 3 mil, 1.25 mil hit)
Steven Means (vet min)
Kenjon Barner (2 years, 2 mil, 1 mil hit)
Keith Smith (vet min)
Sharrod Neasman (vet min)
Wes Schweitzer (vet min)
These are all pretty straightforward. Clayborn got 2 mil last year and is the most crucial re-sign, but he isn’t breaking the bank, especially at his age. Neither is Davison. Both get a nice pay bump though. Ditto Barner. Schweitzer gets vet minimum after garnering no interest in FA. The other guys are all vet min too. Vet minimum is calculated according to the proposed CBA values. All in all, when accounting for only top 51 contracts, this puts cap for the FA period at:
Cap Space Pre-FA: 24.9 million
Not a ton, eh? The nice thing is that only our top 51 count, and after this, according to Spotrac, we have 56 guys on the roster. That means every signing from here on out (including the rookies) is going to be roughly a half million less on the cap table than it appears to be.
Jayron Kearse (1 year, 2 mil). I would love this move. Non upper-tier safeties don’t get paid much in FA to begin with, and Kearse has some issues that let us snag him cheap. I doubt this move elicits much excitement from those of you who don’t watch the Vikings much. That excitement is likely tempered even further when you look at his recent history, which includes a DUI and some history of undisciplined off-field behavior. However, when you have the limited cap space we do, you have to go with some high risk, high reward plays. When he’s been on the field, Kearse has been a terrific player, and he’s one of my favorite Vikings to watch as a result. He’s a faster and meaner replacement for Kemal Ishmael, capable of playing both strong safety and weak side linebacker. He may very well take Neal’s job, and to those of you who like PFF – he got a 89.0 grade for the season. Not bad for a relatively cheap contract.
Bruce Irvin (2 years, 9 mil, 4 mil hit). Irvin comes back to the ATL. Irvin can compete at SAM and replace a lot of Beasley’s snap on the line, and I think he’s far better for the locker room. It’s an easy move to make, but a crucial one.
Tramon Williams (1 year, 3 mil). Williams is older, and he certainly isn’t the player he was 5 years ago, but he’s coming off a really good season for the Pack and has familiarity with Whitt Jr. To add to this, Williams is going to be a crucial mentor to our young CB corps.
Kendall Fuller (2 year, 8 mil, 3.5 mil hit). Basing the cap numbers on Poole’s NYJ contract. Fuller was one of the best slot CBs in the NFL before the move to safety – this contract is assuming other teams are valuing him at last year’s level of play and not the previous year’s. Fuller has oodles of talent and could potentially shore up the nickel for years to come if the move pans out, but for now, he gets a 2 year contract that’s easy to move on from if it doesn’t.
Carl Nassib (3 years, 20 mil, 5.5 mil hit). I think Nassib gets something between what William Gholston and Henry Anderson got, right around that 7 mil/yr sweet spot. He’s certainly not cheap, but Atlanta feels like a perfect fit for Nassib. He’s got plenty of skill setting the edge and has shown flashes as an edge rusher. With our DT group shaping up to be monstrous after the draft, Nassib is exactly what the doctor ordered to make our DL competitive.
Cap Space Pre-Draft: 6.9 million
Looking up rookie pay scale, this is enough to sign our draft class when accounting for only top 51 contracts counting towards the cap. With that said, let’s get into the draft!
I’ll admit it – for my pipe-dream mock to be a reality, I’m looking for a lot of stuff to fall our way. That said, I’m trying to be as realistic as I can while I do it. I’m putting myself in the shoes of different teams to see how they’d draft and who they’d be happiest coming away with.
PS: I’ll be accounting for projected comps, so if the time we pick seems strange in the 6th, that’s why.
1) Panthers select Joe Burrow, QB, LSU. The trade a lot of folks are talking about comes to pass. The Panthers trade an absurd amount of draft capital, but maybe not as much as others are expecting, given that it’s the first pick in the draft. Burrow’s possible lack of desire to be a Bengal factors in here. I’m seeing something like Newton, a 1st this year and next year, and maybe a 2nd or 3rd this year thrown in. Cheap, considering what they’re getting, but definitely a decent chunk.
2) Redskins select Chase Young, DE, OSU. No surprises here – there’s a shot someone tries to trade up for a QB, but who exactly would they be leap-frogging? Young has been linked with Washington for a while and I don’t see them budging.
3) Lions select Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson. A lot of people have been mocking Okudah here, but despite Slay leaving, I think Simmons may fit here even better. Okudah is phenomenal, but there’s more value at CB where the Lions pick in Round 2 than there is at LB. And with Patricia being a Beli disciple, the versatility Simmons offers is sure to be tantalizing.
4) Raiders select Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama. In the trade-up war for #4 that I predict is going to happen between the Chargers, Colts, and Raiders, the Raiders come out on top because of their two 1st rounders. All the accumulation of picks the Raiders have been doing finally comes to fruition.
5) Dolphins select Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon. I was tempted to give the Dolphins an offensive tackle here, but it just didn’t feel right. They have a gaping hole at QB and picks in the middle of the 1st that seem more suited to picking an OT. And hey – Dolphins gon’ Dolphin.
6) Chargers select Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia. Thomas is the single best left tackle in the draft and I don’t think the Chargers want to go QB here with how little value the position offers after 3 were selected in the top 5. They might, sure – but how likely is that, really? Instead, they pick smart, and maybe roll with the stopgap I imagine they grabbed in FA just in case the draft didn’t fall their way.
7) Bengals select Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville. Doesn’t this feel like a Bengals pick? It could be a WR to pair with Cam Newton, but WR talent is deeper in the draft and the raw potential Becton offers has to be exciting for the Bengals FO, regardless of red flags.
8) Cardinals select Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama. I kept bouncing between Jeudy and Wirfs here, but I think the Cardinals want to give Murray a weapon, and who better for Jeudy to learn from than Fitz? It’ll be exciting for the fanbase, especially since Jeudy is arguably a top 5 talent.
9) Jaguars select Jeffrey Okudah, CB, OSU. The Jags really luck out here with Okudah slipping all the way to No. 9 overall. The Chargers were the other place I could see Okudah going, but after trading for Trufant, I don’t think that appeals quite as much. The Jaguars landing Okudah is a coup in replacing Ramsey.
10) Browns select Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa. The Browns are in desperate need of an OT to protect Mayfield if he has any hope of lasting in the league. Wirfs tested phenomenally at the combine and can carve a path for Chubb on the way to the league rushing title.
11) Jets select K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU. The Jets are a perfect landing spot for Chaisson, and as much as I hate to admit it, this is where I think he winds up going draft night. With a creative DC putting Adams and Chaisson in the best spots to succeed, and a fiery defense with leadership on every level, this Jets defense will keep the team in games.
12) Giants select Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama. Gettleman considers Epenesa here, despite the poor Combine, because “analytics are for squares” or something along those lines. But with a crappy offensive line and the run on OTs recently, Wills is too good to pass up, and Epenesa may be there with the second 1st rounder accumulated with the Raiders trade up.
13) Colts select Jordan Love, QB, Utah State. While I don’t necessarily think this is the Colts first choice at QB, they failed to trade up, and this is a decent situation – have Brissett start for now while Love learns the ropes and the offense before gradually integrating him into the offense. Hard to imagine a better situation for Love.
14) Buccaneers select Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina. The Bucs are one of the trickiest teams to mock due to so much depending on what they do with their talent in FA. Ultimately, I think DT is one of their biggest needs, and Kinlaw feels very in line with Arians attitude and the way they want to build their team. Kinlaw’s rise post-Pro Day might suggest he goes higher, but I think this is a reasonable time to suggest he’s selected.
15) Broncos select Ceedee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma. The Broncos have been looking at WR for a while, and having Lamb fall to 15 is a dream come true. They run to the podium and get Lock a stellar target that could be era defining – if it pans out.
And that brings us to the Falcons…where all of a sudden, guess who’s somehow made it this far? That’s right. Thomas Dimitroff selects CJ Henderson.
Kidding! I kid. Oh God, I hope I’m kidding. Please don’t let this happen. We’ve suffered enough.
16) Falcons select Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn.
This is the dream situation – we land Brown, who has slipped after a less than stellar Combine and questions about his ability to rush the passer. Because of the QB selection frenzy and the cluster**** of trades early on, things are naturally a bit messy. Brown slots in next to Jarrett and we suddenly have one of the best DT tandems in the NFL. This improves the entire defense, particularly our edge rush, which has a much easier time getting to the QB when they have nowhere to step up.
37) Falcons select Cesar Ruiz, OC, Michigan.
The Falcons nab one of the best center prospects in the draft at 37 in Ruiz. I debated where to go here pretty heavily, especially since Hennessy is a big draft crush of mine, but I feel like Ruiz has the skillset to immediately compete at guard while learning from Mack and settling in more than Hennessy does. Ruiz is athletic, strong, smart, and by all accounts a great teammate. He plays hard every snap and has experience at guard before he transitioned to center his sophomore and junior year. And if he isn’t ready at guard right away, we have the depth to let everyone else duke it out for the spot.
47) Falcons select Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota.
Winfield Jr. might be the safest bet at safety in the draft to be a playmaker at the next level. Winfield’s combine seems to have cleared up a lot of the concerns on his athleticism, but he’s still likely a mid-late 2nd round pick in the eyes of a lot of evaluators due to his shorter stature and more limited versatility. That said, he’s a perfect fit for what the Falcons are doing and has an outside shot of taking a starting role year 1.
55) Falcons select Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia.
Hall might be my favorite CB this class not named Jeffery Okudah. Do you hate CBs that are tall and lanky but seem allergic to tackling? Do you hate CBs with physical traits that can’t seem to get their head around to intercept or bat down passes? Then look no further – Hall is your guy. If he’d been healthy for the rest of the year and had been able to attend the Combine fully, I have no doubt Hall would be a 1st rounder, but we luck out with his misfortune.
66) Falcons select Cam Akers, RB, Florida State.
Talented guy who fits what DK has succeeded at in the past to a “T.” Akers violent running style is a better blend of power, speed, and elusiveness than any guy we currently have on the roster. He’s a complete back, too – runs routes like a WR and loves to pass protect. Have a feeling the staff falls in love with either him or Dobbins this draft.
78) Falcons select Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State.
Harrison hasn’t received the same level of hype other OSU defenders have, but he’s a perfect Campbell replacement. Excellent tackler, plenty of range, better instincts, great blitzer. It’s hilarious seeing how divided scouting reports are on his athleticism – I think he just moves better than most expect a stocky guy like him should, and he tackles better than most LBs coming out do too. I’d take him in an instant if he’s there in the 3rd and we haven’t addressed the position in the draft. Irvin lets him take his time learning the position and acclimating but he’s a ST demon right off the bat.
182) Falcons select Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech.
The Falcons nab Rambo in the 6th to round out a stellar draft. Dude is a mean blocker who didn’t get the chances he deserved at VT, but he impressed in his limited reps receiving. He’s a nutty athlete who can contribute right away in the run game and with TE screens as a 3rd TE and fullback while learning the route tree.
All in all, we wind up with this…
Final Roster (retained FAs in italics, additions in bold):
QB: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Kurt Benkert, Danny Etling
RB: Cam Akers, Ito Smith, Quadree Ollison
FB: Keith Smith
WR: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheus, Christian Blake, Brandon Powell, Devin Gray
TE: David Njoku, Jaeden Graham, Dalton Keene, Carson Meier
OL: Jake Matthews, Cesar Ruiz, Alex Mack, Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary, Matt Gono, Wes Schweitzer, Jamon Brown, James Carpenter, Lukayus McNeil
DL: Grady Jarrett, Takk McKinley, Adrian Clayborn, Derrick Brown, Carl Nassib, John Cominsky, Tyeler Davison, Steven Means, Deadrin Senat, Jacob Tuoti-Mariner, Austin Larkin
LB: Deion Jones, Foye Oloukon, Bruce Irvin, Malik Harrison
CB: Bryce Hall, Kendall Sheffield, Tramon Williams, Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Fuller, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Jordan Miller
S: Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, Antoine Winfield Jr., Jayron Kearse, Damontae Kazee, Sharrod Neasman, Jamal Carter
LS: Josh Harris
K: Younghoe Koo
P: Ryan Allen
KR/PR: Kenjon Barner