Kiper has Falcons taking Iowa DE Epenesa in Mock 1.0

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Mock drafts before free agency starts make very little sense and essentially are an exercise at throwing darts at the board.

But since we like throwing darts at the board, we pay attention to some of them.

ESPN’s draft analyst Mel Kiper took his first shot at the 2020 NFL draft and has the Falcons selecting Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa, who had 22 sacks over the past two seasons.

At the Senior Bowl this week, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who currently holds the 16th pick, said the team is looking to improve the pass rush.

The top pass rusher in the draft is Ohio State’s Chase Young, who’s slotted to go second to the Redskins.

The Falcons had just 28 sacks last season, which ranked tied for 31st in the league out of 32 teams. The Dolphins were 32nd with 23 sacks. Vic Beasley (eight sacks) is set to become a free agent, and Takk McKinley (3.5 sacks) is recovering from shoulder surgery.

Dimitroff acknowledged that the Falcons likely can’t re-sign tight end Austin Hooper, linebacker DeVondre Campbell and Beasley this offseason.

Epenesa, who’s 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds, is much bigger than Beasley (6-3, 246) and McKinley (6-2, 265).

Here's what Kiper had to say about the Falcons' pick:

“Epenesa, who had 22 sacks over the past two seasons, is versatile enough to kick inside in (Dan) Quinn’s 4-3 defense, and I think he could be a dominant interior presence on passing downs. The Falcons’ 28 sacks this season tied for second-fewest in the league, and Epenesa would help.”

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