Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft Dallas Turner Alabama Edge Rusher - Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Falcons

Falcons Go Defense in Mel Kiper’s Pre-Combine Mock Draft

The Atlanta Falcons can address their two biggest needs this offseason: quarterback and edge rusher.

It looks like they’re going to address the former in the next two weeks. Speculation is rampant that the Falcons will trade for Kennesaw native Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears. Bears general manager Ryan Poles said at the NFL Combine this week that they’d like to “do right by Justin.”

He said if they decide to move him, they’d like to do it before free agency starts on March 13th.

With quarterback addressed with likely a second-round or equivalent picks, the Falcons can use their No. 8 pick to continue building the roster.

Mel Kiper Jr. released his second mock draft this week on ESPN+, and he has the Falcons going with former Alabama Crimson Tide edge rusher Dallas Turner.

“The Falcons are the most interesting team this offseason with regard to the quarterback position,” wrote Kiper on ESPN+. “The decision will define new coach Raheem Morris‘ tenure, because the franchise has the skill-position talent to immediately compete in the NFC South. The problem here is I’m not ready to move J.J. McCarthy (Michigan) into the top 10, so Atlanta would either have to trade up — sacrificing much-needed draft capital — or reach a little bit for McCarthy or Michael Penix Jr. (Washington), who has a second-round grade in my rankings. This team might be better served using a significant chunk of its cap space on Kirk Cousins.”

News of Fields and the Falcons broke on Tuesday while Kiper was likely writing this. If the Falcons decide not to draft a quarterback at No. 8, Cousins is still an option, but Fields looks like the guy right now.

“So I’ll stick with the top edge rusher in the class to the Falcons, who ranked 32nd in pass rush win rate (30.9%) last season,” Kiper continued. “Turner had 10 sacks last season, taking his game to a new level as the Crimson Tide’s top defender. He has a really high ceiling.”

Yesterday on the Falcons Podcast, we did a 7-round mock draft with the Falcons trading the No. 43 overall pick (and Desmond Ridder) to the Bears for Fields. Turner was available, but we went with wide receiver Rome Odzunze.

We consider LSU receiver Malik Nabors and Odunze to be better prospects than Turner at this point, and the Falcons could target a veteran edge rusher like Danielle Hunter in free agency.

Hunter had 16.5 sacks last year for the Vikings. Odunze was gone to the Giants at No. 6 and Nabors went to the Bears at No. 9 in Kiper’s mock.

If the Falcons trade for Fields, he carries just a $3.2-million cap hit, assuming the Falcons pay his roster bonus. That would give Atlanta ample funds ($41.6 million cap space) to be a player in free agency and address some holes including edge, cornerback, safety, and wide receiver.

One of those spots is likely to be filled by the No. 8 pick if the Falcons address their quarterback need before the draft.

Scott Kennedy
Scott Kennedy is an Atlanta native and 20 year media veteran including time as Director of Scouting at Scout.com, 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.
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