2024 Atlanta Falcons 7-round mock draft: A shift to defense in first round

It’s a dubious streak the Falcons have, not only picking in the top 10 in each of the past three drafts, but using all three picks on offensive skill-position players. New quarterback Kirk Cousins can now enjoy that underutilized trifecta — tight end Kyle Pitts in 2021, receiver Drake London in 2022, running back Bijan Robinson in 2023 — but the streak really should end this month.

Atlanta is still picking in the top 10, but that penchant for offensive targets will probably shift with its No. 8 overall pick. With a heavy lean on offense at the top of the draft — quarterbacks, receivers and tackles — the Falcons could easily have their pick of any defensive player.

And even with a nice uptick in sacks this past season, Atlanta would do well to take a pass-rusher with its top pick, with most pundits favoring Alabama’s Dallas Turner over Florida State’s Jared Verse and UCLA’s Laiatu Latu for that honor. If there were still a QB-hungry team looking to move up, it wouldn’t be crazy for the Falcons to trade down a few spots, say to the Vikings at 11, perhaps still getting the first edge off the board and picking up an extra second-day pick.

Let’s take a look at how Atlanta’s draft might go.

First round, No. 8: OLB Dallas Turner, Alabama

Quick trivia question: Who was the last Falcons player to have 10 sacks in a season? It’s been a while. Atlanta hasn’t even had an eight-sack season since 2019, and to get double digits, you have to go back to Vic Beasley in 2016. That’s the longest drought of any NFL team — 27 of 32 teams have had a 10-sack season in the past three years. Atlanta has put just one first-round pick into an edge rusher in that span, taking Takk McKinley with the 26th pick in 2017. So this has been a neglected position recently for the Falcons.

Is Turner the guy to end that streak? He’s set up well for it. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year had 10 sacks last year and has a lean 6-foot-3, 247-pound frame and freak athletic skills, running the 40 in 4.46 seconds and showing off a 40.5-inch vertical leap. Turner makes the most sense for the Falcons, though we’ll mention in a trade-way-down scenario that Latu played for new Falcons defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake at Washington in 2019 before missing a couple of years due to injury and then transferring to UCLA.

Second round, No. 43: CB Kamari Lassiter, Georgia

The Falcons could go corner or safety here, with uncertain starters at each position opposite two stars in safety Jessie Bates and corner A.J. Terrell. We’ll go with corner, arguably the more important position, likely falling to 2023 fourth-round pick Clark Phillips as it stands. Lassiter had only one interception in three seasons at Georgia, but he’s physical and confident, with 8.5 tackles for loss in his last two seasons to go with solid overall pass coverage.

Could Atlanta look for more of a ballhawk? Perhaps. The Falcons totaled eight interceptions last year — only the Packers (7) and Titans (6) had fewer. And of those eight picks, zero came from corners, with six coming from Bates. That void could perhaps push Atlanta toward a prospect with better ball skills, like Missouri’s Kris Abrams-Draine, who had four interceptions last year and seven overall in college.

Is Kirk Cousins worth the money?

Is Kirk Cousins worth the money?

Third round, No. 74: OT Kiran Amegadjie, Yale

Amegadjie (pronounced “ah-meh-gah-G”) is a super-intriguing prospect, not just for the Ivy League background, but because both of his parents were born in Africa. He was limited to just four games last season by a quad injury, but he’s 6-foot-5, 323, with a ridiculous 85-inch wingpan and athleticism to match. The Falcons don’t need a starting tackle immediately, but Jake Matthews is 32 and Kaleb McGary has no guaranteed money left in his contract after this season, so this could be a path toward developing a 2025 starter.

Third round, No. 79: WR Roman Wilson, Michigan

This pick was acquired from the Jaguars in the Calvin Ridley trade, so it’s easy to look at receivers here, between the strong depth of this year’s class and the Falcons’ overall lack of depth behind London. They’ve traded for Rondale Moore and signed Darnell Mooney this offseason, but Wilson would upgrade that group nicely, with 12 touchdown catches last season and 4.39 speed in the 40. Cousins has shown he can hit it off with a rookie receiver, throwing seven touchdowns to Jordan Addison in the first eight games last season in Minnesota.

Does Drake London deserve to be on USC WRs Mt. Rushmore?

Does Drake London deserve to be on USC WRs Mt. Rushmore?

Fourth round, No. 109: DT Mekhi Wingo, LSU

The Falcons will get Grady Jarrett back up front this fall, but he turns 31 this month and is coming off a major injury, so it’s smart to restock the position. David Onyemata stepped in well last year, but there isn’t young depth on the defensive interior. Wingo is short at 6 feet but is only 20 and ran a 4.84 at 284 pounds at the combine. He’s nimble enough to have had a 40-yard pick-six at Missouri before he transferred to LSU.

Fifth round, No. 143: RB Isaac Guerendo, Louisville

With Cordarrelle Patterson not re-signed, the Falcons have an opening for a third running back, and Guerendo has some of the best speed in this draft class, running the 40 in 4.33 seconds at the combine. He had four unremarkable years at Wisconsin before breaking out last year at Louisville, rushing for 810 yards and 11 touchdowns. Return experience is a plus as well.

2024 NFL Draft prospect rankings | Top 10 QB prospects | Top 10 RB prospects | Top 10 WR prospects | Top 10 TE prospects | Top 10 OT prospects | Top 10 IOL prospects | Top 10 Edge prospects | Top 10 DT prospects | Joel Klatt’s mock draft

Sixth round, No. 187: LB Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington

Here’s another potential Lake connection. Ulofoshio played six years with the Huskies, limited by multiple injuries and not playing more than nine games in any season until 2023, when he had 94 tackles, including 8 TFLs, and a pick-six. He’s undersized at 6-foot, 236, but he’s the kind of player who can stick on a roster as a fourth inside linebacker and special-teams regular.

Sixth round, No. 197: S Jaylin Simpson, Auburn

Atlanta’s safety depth could use help, and Simpson had seven picks at Auburn, including four his senior year, one returned for a touchdown. He ran the 40 in 4.45 seconds at the combine and brings some positional flexibility, potentially helping out at corner in a pinch. He spoke with the Falcons at the Senior Bowl and is from Brunswick, Georgia, so this would be something of a homecoming for him.

Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.

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