2024 NFL Mock Draft: Atlanta Falcons full 7-round projection post-first wave free agency

Here is how the Atlanta Falcons can get better as a football team with a well-executed NFL Draft.

Dallas Turner, Alabama Crimson Tide
Dallas Turner, Alabama Crimson Tide / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

After crushing it in the first wave of NFL free agency, the Atlanta Falcons must turn their attention to all that lies ahead with the NFL Draft. Atlanta has eight picks to make in the 2024 draft, including No. 8 overall, four inside the top 100 and six inside the top 150. After landing Kirk Cousins, Darnell Mooney and others in free agency, Atlanta still has a few big needs to satisfy in the NFL Draft.

There is no need bigger than getting an edge rusher to star in their defensive front seven. Atlanta also needs to add another wide receiver to the room — led by third-year pro Drake London — that just got better with the addition of Mooney in free agency. The Falcons could also use a playmaker or two in the secondary to better complement Jessie Bates III at safety and A.J. Terrell over at cornerback.

This will be Terry Fontenot's fourth draft as the general manager. His previous three were defined by taking blue-chip offensive weapons inside the top 10. Atlanta has taken tight end Kyle Pitts out of Florida, London out of USC and running back Bijan Robinson out of Texas to kick off Fontenot's first three drafts at the helm. All signs point towards him going defense, but you never really know, do you?

Here is what I settled on as my first official NFL mock draft for the Falcons heading into early April.

Atlanta Falcons No. 8 overall pick: Alabama EDGE Dallas Turner

I couldn't go in good faith with anybody else with the No. 8 overall selection than Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner. This is the Falcons' most glaring need entering the offseason. He projects to be the first defensive player taken in this loaded quarterback and wide receiver draft. Turner may not be as skilled as his former Crimson Tide teammate Will Anderson Jr., but he is every bit the blue-chipper.

Just to be perfectly clear, I did not make any trades in this mock draft. I took the best player available I thought could help the team win the most games now, as well as slightly into the future. I am not asking for Turner to be a perennial Pro Bowler in the trenches for Atlanta. All he needs to do is be an effective playmaker when the game requires it, allowing defense opportunities to get off the field.

The growing consensus is that Turner will be the pick for the Falcons, so why mess with that trend?

Atlanta Falcons No. 43 overall pick: Florida State WR Keon Coleman

This one was a little harder. Ideally, I would have gone with a player in the secondary, but the board didn't really land that way for me in the mock draft process. There were other wide receivers I considering taking when it was my turn on the clock. I settled with Florida State star Keon Coleman to be my first pick of day two for the Dirty Birds. He was instrumental in the Seminoles' big year in 2023.

While I have said over and over that there is a precipitous drop-off from WR3 to WR4 in the 2024 NFL Draft, I think the next five or six wide receivers coming off the board really come down to preference. Conversely, I would be a fool to think LSU's Brian Thomas Jr. and Texas' Xavier Worthy will be available around when the Falcons are picking again at No. 43. Coleman would be a first-rounder in most years.

All things equal, I will take a player who has played at a big time program who has played in big games.

Atlanta Falcons No. 74 overall pick: Georgia S Javon Bullard

Again, the board did not land exactly how I would have preferred, which is why I suspect Terry Fontenot will be trading picks this year and not settling for the eight Atlanta already has. However, I could not help myself from drafting at least one Georgia Bulldog this spring. I went with safety Javon Bullard at No. 74 as the first of two third-round picks for the Falcons. Bullard loves to blow things up!

There is going to come a game where somebody in the secondary is going to have to make something happen. A.J. Terrell is more of the lockdown corner type. While Jessie Bates III certainly has a knack for finding and coming up with the ball, there has to be one more ballhawk in the Dirty Birds' secondary. Bullard has shown me plenty over the last few years at Georgia that he can do this.

I would have rather taken a cornerback here, but getting a defensive back in day two seems logical.

Atlanta Falcons No. 79 overall pick: South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler

This is without question one of my favorite picks the Falcons made in my mock draft. It may have been a bit of a reach since I think he is more of a fourth-rounder, but Spencer Rattler is an ideal candidate to serve as Atlanta's backup to Kirk Cousins for a few years. I understand that Taylor Heinicke is still under contract, but Atlanta will need some Cousins insurance as soon as 2025.

Rattler had the talent coming out of high school to be a No. 1 overall pick in an NFL Draft. It didn't work out for him in that regard after a rough ending to his Oklahoma tenure, as well as South Carolina only being so-so with him under center for the Gamecocks. Regardless, I recognize his maturation process over the last two years in Columbia, enough to the point where he is a future NFL starter.

The other quarterback candidate I really like for the Falcons is Michael Pratt coming out of Tulane.

Atlanta Falcons No. 109 overall pick: Oregon CB Khyree Jackson

I don't know if the draft board is going to fall this way, but getting Oregon cornerback Khryee Jackson in the fourth round at No. 109 overall sure feels like a steal to me! After playing for the Ducks, I know for a fact he was coached up playing for Dan Lanning in Eugene. Although Oregon has yet to make it to the College Football Playoff under its newish head coach, I love the players on Lanning's defense.

There was another Oregon player I contemplated taking in this mock draft, but I went with Florida State wide receiver Keon Coleman over Troy Franklin. That pick echoes how I went about making this selection. I was thrilled to see both Coleman and Jackson still available when it was my turn to pick on a draft simulator. Getting a cornerback who can compete with Clark Phillips III in Jackson feels huge.

The combination of Jackson and Georgia's Javon Bullard makes me confident about the secondary.

Atlanta Falcons No. 143 overall pick: Michigan IOL Zak Zinter

If not for injuries, Michigan offensive lineman Zak Zinter would have long been off the board. The good news for everybody involved is that he is going to a fantastic situation in Atlanta at No. 143 overall. The Falcons' best player on the offensive side of the ball is actually perennial Pro Bowl guard Chris Lindstrom. Zinter is not the prospect he was, but I love the idea of being able to run at will.

Given that Zinter was an integral piece on the last few Michigan offensive lines, I know that he understands the concept of the sum being greater than the individual parts. If Atlanta's offensive line continues to build off an underratedly good season a year ago, this could be a very difficult team to beat come January. Adding a player with championship pedigree and a chip on his shoulder is ideal.

Atlanta may not need an interior offensive lineman all that much, but Zinter is quite the get here.

Atlanta Falcons No. 187 overall pick: Iowa TE Erick All

You know what? Why not reunite Zak Zinter with his former Michigan teammate in Iowa tight end Erick All? It was quite literally All or nothing for the absolutely putrid Hawkeyes offense last year. Once All and fellow Michigan transfer Cade McNamara had their injuries, it was a lot of Deacon Hill throwing 'copters, Tory Taylor punting, Cooper DeJean doing everything and Brian Ferentz being so enabled.

All that aside, give me All to the Falcons at No. 187 overall, please. The Raheem Morris Falcons may not be as obsessed with tight ends like the Arthur Smith Falcons were to a T, but they will need more than just Kyle Pitts, Charlie Woerner and John FitzPatrick. That tight end room feels exceptionally Cocktail Party to me. Naturally, we have to inject some Big Ten Energy into that equation, alright...

I still expect for the Falcons to want to run the ball a ton, so adding a tight end like All should help.

Atlanta Falcons No. 197 overall pick: Houston EDGE Nelson Ceaser

At this point in the draft, I am just taking a shot in the dark. I could have gone with another former Georgia player in wide receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, but I thought getting another potential pass-rusher was probably the better way to go. In the end, I settled on Houston Cougars edge rusher Nelson Ceaser. This is me essentially throwing money at a problem and hoping that it will go away.

Because I don't know what to expect out of a Jimmy Lake defense, other than I will probably hate it, I am just basing this pick on trying to fix what the Falcons do the worst. Besides blowing leads, I would say rushing the passer is right up there, or down there. Whatever... The point is Atlanta has not been able to rush the passer consistently since I was in high school. That was nearly two decades ago...

All hail Ceaser in helping the Falcons' pass rush cease being the bane of Dirty Bird Nation's existence!

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