Cover 9@9: D. Led’s Mock Draft 1.0 – Falcons select Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner

1. The no-spin zone: In our mock draft there are no trades, so the Falcons are stuck in the eighth position.

They will be tempted to over-draft one of the second-tier quarterbacks, but general manager Terry Fontenot will turn in the card with the name of the best player available, former Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner.

They’ll have some options at the eighth spot. They’ll have to pick Turner over edge rusher UCLA’s Laiatu Latu, who we have going to the Saints at 14th, and Florida State’s Jared Verse, who we have going to Seattle at No. 16.

Turner, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida , played three seasons for the Crimson Tide. He finished his career with 22.5 sacks and had 15 tackles for losses last season. Turner, who’s 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, would fit into one of the Falcons’ outside linebackers spot in the 3-4 alignment.

Turner has a overall 6.71 grade by NFL.com, which projected him as a year-one starter. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and 4.46 seconds at the NFL scouting combine, which was faster than former Alabama running back Derrick Henry, who ran a 4.54 at the 2016 scouting combine.

Turner also had a 40.5-inch vertical jump.

“It would be an honor,” Turner said about possibly being the first edge rusher selected in the draft. “I talked to a lot of teams. I talked to the Jets, the Panthers, the Falcons and the Seahawks. I had 12 meetings on my first day.”

He enjoyed his meeting with the Falcons.

“The meeting with the Falcons was great,” Turner said. “I had a good conversation with coaches and stuff like that, so it would be a good experience.”

We’re projecting a run on the second-tier quarterbacks with Minnesota taking Michael Penix Jr. 11th, followed by Denver taking Oregon’s Bo Nix and the Raiders selecting Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy.

We have former Georgia tight end Brock Bowers going to the Jets with the 10th overall pick and offensive tackle Amarius Mims going to the Steelers with the 20th overall pick.

Here’s a look at the first round of Mock Draft 1.0:

1. Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers): Caleb Williams, QB, USC

2. Washington Commanders: Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

3. New England Patriots: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU

4. Arizona Cardinals: Malik Nabers, WR, LSU

5. Los Angeles Chargers: Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State

6. New York Giants: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State

7. Tennessee Titans: Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

8. Falcons: Dallas Turner, DE, Alabama

9. Chicago Bears: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

10. New York Jets: Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

11. Minnesota Vikings: Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington

12. Denver Broncos: Bo Nix, QB, Oregon

13. Las Vegas Raiders: J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

14. New Orleans Saints: Laiatu Latu, DE, UCLA

15. Indianapolis Colts: Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson

16. Seattle Seahawks: Jared Verse, DE, Florida State

17. Jacksonville Jaguars: Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, Penn State

18. Cincinnati Bengals: Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

19. Los Angeles Rams: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

21. Miami Dolphins: Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Jackson Powers-Johnson, G, Oregon

23. Houston Texans (via Cleveland Browns): Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU

24. Dallas Cowboys: Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington

25. Green Bay Packers: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bralen Trice, DE, Washington

27. Arizona Cardinals (via Houston Texans): Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas

28. Buffalo Bills: Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State

29. Detroit Lions: Chop Robinson, Edge, Penn State

30. Baltimore Ravens: Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona

31. San Francisco 49ers: Darius Robinson, DE, Missouri

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot talks about the team's quarterback situation while meeting with the media at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

2. Burner alert: Much is being made of Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy running the 40-yard dash in a combine-record 4.21 seconds.

We have him going to the Chiefs with the 32nd pick.

But John Ross, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds in 2017, did not have a long NFL career. The Bengals took Ross with the ninth overall pick in 2017.

Worthy is considered capable of running more than just go-routes.

Ross played in 37 games and made 21 starts. He finished with 11 career touchdowns after playing four seasons with the Bengals (2017-20) and one season with the Giants (2021).

3. Pitts encouraged the Bison: Before opening the 2022 season against Alabama State at Center Parc Stadium on Aug. 27, Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts spoke to the Howard football team.

“Kyle Pitts is great,” said Howard tackle Anim Dankwah at the NFL Scouting Combine. “My head coach (Larry Scott) coached him when he was at Florida. Kyle Pitts came and spoke with us. I remember having a conversation with him and taking a picture with him.”

The Bison lost 23-13 to the Hornets, but enjoyed their chat with Pitts.

“He really told us about taking care of our body and not giving up on yourself,” Dankwah said. “He told us about his journey and when he got to Florida, it wasn’t the best at first. He was struggling. It took him a while. Coach Scott was very hard on him and that helped him. That wasn’t a lie because coach Scott was hard on me as well. I can say that when Kyle Pitts came to talk with us, it definitely resonated. We all look up to him. He went top 10 in the NFL.”

4. Ivy League foes: In addition to playing their MEAC schedule, Howard has played against Ivy league schools in each of the past three seasons. They also ventured into the Big Ten and nearly upset Northwestern last season.

“I’ve been playing against Ivy League since I was a freshman,” Dankwah said. “My first start was against Harvard. That was the first team that I played against. I never got to beat Harvard, which I’m not happy about, but I’m sure we’ll get them very soon. The Ivy League is always a good game.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Watch: Howard's Anim Dankwah on his NFL journey

5. Falcons’ free agency: Backup guard/center Ryan Neuzil, who played in all 17 games and made four starts last season, was re-signed Monday.

He started three games at center and one at right guard, also playing on special teams. Neuzil, 26, was signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2021 NFL draft out of Appalachian State.

Long snapper Liam McCullough, linebacker Nate Landman and Neuzil are the Falcons’ only exclusive-rights free agents. McCullough and Neuzil have re-signed. Defensive tackle Albert Huggins, tight end Feleipe Franks and offensive lineman Ethan Greenidge are listed by Spotrac.com as the only restricted free agents.

The Falcons have 15 other players who can become unrestricted free agents if they are not re-signed by March 13. The Falcons met with several agents over the course of the NFL combine last week. Their top potential free agents include cornerback Jeff Okudah, defensive end Calais Campbell, outside linebacker Bud Dupree, running back Cordarrelle Patterson and fullback Keith Smith.

6. NFL calendar: The NFL’s legal tampering period – when teams can meet with agents – will start at noon Monday. The league’s new business year is set to start at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

7. Falcons’ 2024 opponents: The Falcons, who finished at 7-10 and in third place in the NFC South, are set to play the NFC East and AFC West during the 2024 season.

The home games include: Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Carolina, Dallas, New York Giants, Los Angles Chargers, Kansas City, Seattle and Pittsburgh.

The away games include: Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Carolina, Philadelphia, Washington, Las Vegas, Denver and Minnesota.

Qwan'Tez Stiggers was a standout of the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL.

Credit: Courtesy of the Toronto Argonau

icon to expand image

Credit: Courtesy of the Toronto Argonau

8. Quan’tez Stiggers’ Pro Day set: Former Canadian Football League rookie of the year Qwan’tez Stiggers will have his Pro Day at B.E.S.T Academy in Atlanta at 3:30 p.m. March 15.

A lot has happened since we did a feature on Stiggers in December. He was invited to the East-West Shrine game and clearly is on the radar for several NFL teams.

9. Falcons’ position-by-position analysis: Check out the stories in the Falcons’ 2023 season-review series:

Part 1: Running backs

Part 2: Quarterbacks

Part 3: Wide receivers/tight ends

Part 4: Offensive line

Part 5: Defensive line

Part 6: Linebackers

Part 7: Defensive backs

Part 8: Specialists

The Bow Tie Chronicles