The Atlanta Falcons have a new head coach and new expectations. After three consecutive 7-10 seasons, Raheem Morris will be expected to do big things with this young and talented roster. They were 26th in scoring offense in 2023 and 22nd in passing yards. Quarterback is the biggest issue for the team right now.
The defense showed promise last year but still needs to add a couple of pieces to get to the next level. 31-year-old defensive lineman Grady Jarrett could be a cap casualty unless he restructures his contract which counts for $20.4 million against the cap in 2024. Jonnu Smith will also likely be cut.
AJ Terrell and Kyle Pitts are in the last years of their deals, so they will need extensions, or a succession plan needs to be drafted for both players. The team is slated to lose three defensive ends in free agency as well. The team could fill holes in free agency as well as make trades to get players they need, but this mock draft is being done with the current roster only in mind, and there will be no trades up or down. The Falcons will pick at 8, 43, 74, 109, 145, 189, 201, and 244.
Round 1, Pick 8: Drake Maye, Quarterback, North Carolina
In this full seven-round simulation, the Commanders take Jayden Daniels, the Patriots take Marvin Harrison, and because there are no trades, Drake Maye falls to No. 8, and lands right in the Falcons' lap. In order to get one of the top three quarterbacks, the Falcons would likely have to trade up, costing them very valuable current and future draft capital.
Drake Maye is the prototypical pocket passer. He’s 6-4 and 230 pounds. He has a rocket for an arm, and he’s not a statue in the pocket. He can get out and hurt you with his legs (he runs a 4.60 forty). In 2023, as a redshirt sophomore, Maye completed 63.3% of his passes for 3,608 yards and 24 touchdowns. His numbers were down from his freshman year (66.2% completion, 4,321 yards, 38 touchdowns) but he was also working with fewer weapons.
He has superb accuracy to all areas of the field and generates high velocity and tight spirals to receivers. Maye does need to speed up his decision-making in the pocket and be more of a game manager than a gunslinger if he wants to have a long NFL career. He will be an offensive rookie of the year candidate.
Round 2, Pick 43: Jermaine Burton, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Drake London saw a dip in his protection last season, and this can easily be attributed to the team's quarterback situation. He was targeted 110 times and pulled in 69 receptions for 905 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has all the physical tools of an elite receiver and needs someone on the other side to free him up, as well as open up the middle for Kyle Pitts.
Alabama’s Jermaine Burton is a fast receiver who could run a sub-4.30 second forty at the combine this year. He has good size at 6-0 and 194 pounds. In 2023 he had 39 receptions for 798 yards (20.5 yards per catch). He also had 8 touchdowns. He will have to answer questions about an incident in 2022 when he struck a female fan who was rushing the field after the Volunteers beat the Tide.
Burton can take the top off the defense and is a pro already at catching the deep ball. He shows late hands-on fade routes to keep defensive backs from swatting away the pass. He knows where the weak spots in a zone are, and he gets there. Burton does lack precise route running, and his hips stay a little tight when making cuts. He does need to show restraint on the field, as he plays like a bit of a hothead.