Atlanta Falcons NFL Draft Prospect Nolan Smith UGA - Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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Falcons get Pair of Dawgs in Kiper’s Latest Mock Draft

The Atlanta Falcons have been busy in free agency trying to reshape their defense. They get another chance to add talent to the roster on April 27th when the NFL Draft begins.

Mel Kiper Jr. is considered the godfather of NFL Draft Analysts, and he released his updated two-round NFL Mock Draft on ESPN+ on Tuesday.

He has the Falcons taking a pair of Georgia Bulldogs with their first two picks. As long as Kiper has been around, doesn’t he know the Falcons don’t take UGA players?… I kid.. I kid…

With the first pick at No. 8, Kiper has Atlanta taking edge rusher Nolan Smith who put on a show at the NFL Combine with a 4.39 forty and 41.5″ vertical jump at 6’2 and 238 pounds.

It’s edge rusher or cornerback here, as the Falcons have clear needs at both positions, even after all their signings in free agency. They had just 21 sacks last season, which ranked second-to-last in the league. While Smith would fit better in a 3-4 defense, I see new coordinator Ryan Nielsen — who came over from New Orleans — figuring out ways to get him on the field to rush passers. Nielsen could vary his fronts. Smith is an explosive player with a ton of upside, and people in the league rave about his leadership ability.

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN+

By taking Smith, Kiper has the Falcons passing on two popular players in recent mocks, edge Tyree Wilson and cornerback Christian Gonzalez. I think Kiper is right when he says edge or corner for the Falcons, and in his mock Atlanta has several players to choose from before settling on Smith.

The Falcons are on the clock again in the second round at No. 44 overall. They double down on Georgia players with cornerback Kelee Ringo.

Ringo has seen his stock fall the last several months but could be seen as excellent value in the second round.

Ringo looked at times like a potential top-10 pick in 2021, when he was starting as a redshirt freshman for the national champs. He took a step backward last season, however. He was inconsistent in coverage and too often got beat on double moves. He has a great frame (6-foot-2) and is incredibly fast (4.36 40-yard dash at the combine), but he can’t rely on his physical tools to get him by. He needs to clean up his technique. In Atlanta, he could stay local — this means I’m projecting the Falcons to get two Georgia guys in this mock — and compete for the No. 2 job opposite A.J. Terrell.

Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN+

The Falcons took two players from Georgia last year in the NFL Draft. They selected guard Justin Shaffer and tight end John Fitzpatrick in the sixth round. The last time they selected a player from UGA was Akeem Dent in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Dent is the only player from the University of Georgia the Falcons drafted in the second round or higher. Scott Woerner is the next highest UGA player draft by the Falcons, No. 80 overall in the third round of the 1981 draft.

Smith and Ringo would inject a large dose of athleticism into the Falcons defense. Would they pass on Gonzalez or Wilson in the first round? The Falcons hope all three players are there and have that option.

Scott Kennedy
Scott Kennedy is an Atlanta native and 20 year media veteran including time as Director of Scouting at, Managing Editor at 247Sports, VP Content Operations at Sports Illustrated and more. Scott has appeared as a recruiting and NFL Draft analyst on dozens of media including ESPN, NFL Network, USA Today, NY Times, and more.