Cover 9@9: D. Led’s Mock Draft 2.0 – Everything points to Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner

1. The no-spin zone: With the main part of free agency over, draft needs have become crystal clear for several teams.

For instance, the Falcons are out of the quarterback market at the top of the draft while the Vikings are now looking for a quarterback. They are amassing picks and may try to move up to get one in the first round of April’s draft.

The Falcons appear to have a good situation at No. 8 where the best player available also just so happens to fit their need for a pass-rusher. Therefore, in our Mock 2.0, we have them selecting Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner.

He’s a popular pick for the Falcons as NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. also have the Falcons taking the edge rusher in their latest mock drafts.

Jeremiah went with projected trades, while we don’t project trades as a hard-mock draft rule.

Here’s a look at the first-round of Mock Draft 2.0:

1. Chicago Bears (via Carolina Panthers): Caleb Williams, QB, USC – The Bears traded Justin Fields to the Steelers to clear the quarterback meeting room for Williams. Here are the Bears’ passing leaders since 2009: Fields (2021-22), Mitchell Trubisky (2017-20), Matt Barkley (2018) and Jay Cutler (2009-15). Falcons director of player personnel Ryan Pace was the GM when they took Trubisky over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes.

2. Washington Commanders: Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina – The Commanders have moved on from Sam Howell. He was traded to the Seahawks.

3. New England Patriots: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU – The Patriots traded Mac Jones to the Jaguars for a sixth-round pick.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Heisman Trophy winner from LSU will be one of the top quarterbacks available in April.

4. Arizona Cardinals: Marvin Harrison, Jr., WR, Ohio State – The Cardinals get a major weapon for quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Desmond Ridder. Jeremiah projects that the Vikings will trade up to this spot to get J.J. McCarthy. They can sit at 11 and get him.

5. Los Angeles Chargers: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington – The Chargers must replace Keenan Allen after trading him to Chicago. Odunze was magical last season for the Huskies.

6. New York Giants: Malik Nabers, WR, LSU – The Giants need offensive weapons after losing star running back Saquon Barkley in free agency.

7. Tennessee Titans: Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame – The Titans must fix the offensive line to continue to develop of quarterback Will Levis.

8. Falcons: Dallas Turner, OLB, Alabama – The Falcons tried to sign Danielle Hunter in free agency to spruce up the pass rush. Turner is a fit for the 3-4 scheme the Falcons plan to play under coach Raheem Morris.

9. Chicago Bears: Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State – The Bears added Allen and former Georgia standout D’Andre Swift in free agency to go with wide receiver D.J. Moore and tight end Cole Kmet. Fuaga gives them a cornerstone tackle.

10. New York Jets: Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia – He has been unable to work out, but his film speaks volumes.

11. Minnesota Vikings: J.J. McCarthy, QB, Minnesota – The Vikings need to replace Kirk Cousins, who signed with the Falcons in free agency.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Michigan quarterback is expected to be a high draft pick in April.

12. Denver Broncos: Bo Nix, QB, Oregon – Since Mock 1.0, the Broncos released Russell Wilson and need a quarterback. If Sean Payton likes Jared Stidham, he’ll love Bo Nix.

13. Las Vegas Raiders: Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington – Perfect match. Al Davis would be proud. Found a home for Penix. He can sling it.

14. New Orleans Saints: Olumuyiwa Fashanu, OT, Penn State – Had the Saints going DE in Mock 1.0, but after they gave Chase Young $13 million guaranteed, they can look to fix the offensive line. (Who’s Young’s agent? Good job.)

15. Indianapolis Colts: Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo – He has moved ahead of Alabama’s Terrion Arnold and Clemson’s Nate Wiggins as the top cornerback in the draft. He lifted 225 pounds 20 times on the bench press, which was tops among the cornerbacks at the combine.

16. Seattle Seahawks: Byron Murphy II, DT, Texas – New coach Mike Macdonald believes in being stout up the middle first. Murphy is 6-0.5 and 297 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.87 seconds.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama – Plays much faster than he ran at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash). He can play inside or outside for the Jags.

18. Cincinnati Bengals: Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas – Bengals need to keep the weapons stocked after putting the franchise tag on Tee Higgins.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Former Westlake star Nate Wiggins, who played collegiately at Clemson and is one of the top-rated cornerbacks in the 2024 NFL draft, talks about his home team.

19. Los Angeles Rams: Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson – The former Westlake High standout is considered the top cover corner in the draft by some.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia – The Steelers need to fortify their offensive line.

21. Miami Dolphins: Jared Verse, DE, Florida State – The Dolphins have been hit hard by free agency.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois – With the retirement of Fletcher Cox, the Eagles need some power up front.

23. Minnesota Vikings (via Houston from Cleveland Browns): Laiatu Latu, DE, UCLA – The Vikings also must replace defensive end Danielle Hunter, who signed with the Texans in free agency.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington – The often-injured Tyron Smith left in free agency and must be replaced.

25. Green Bay Packers: Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma – The Packers released tackle David Bakhtiari after 11 years of service.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chop Robinson, DE, Penn State – He’s quick off the ball and fits Todd Bowles’ defense.

27. Arizona Cardinals (via Houston Texans): Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon – He can anchor the offensive line for the next decade.

28. Buffalo Bills: Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU – The Bills eventually can part ways with the always temperamental Stefon Diggs, who continues to post nonsense on social media.

29. Detroit Lions: Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama – The Lions must fix their secondary.

30. Baltimore Ravens: Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State – At 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds, Coleman is a big target for quarterback Lamar Jackson.

31. San Francisco 49ers: Darius Robinson, DE, Missouri – The 49ers are looking for defensive line help after not signing Chase Young.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas – The Chiefs signed Marquise Brown in free agency, but need more receivers.

Credit: Kaylee Mansell

The AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter and DawgNation's Mike Griffith report on the highlights of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week.

2. Injury report: Quarterback Kirk Cousins (Achilles) addressed his timetable during his press conference, and it was pretty aggressive. If he’s back to full speed by the end of OTAs, that would put him at the eight-month recovery point.

It takes nine to 12 months to recover Achilles surgery and that would be a medical miracle.

We need to get injury report updates on defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (knee), linebacker Troy Andersen (pectoral), punt returner Avery Williams (knee), linebacker Kaden Elliss (knee) and defensive tackle Kentavius Street (pectoral).

3. Watson winners and losers: It was the two-year anniversary of the Falcons’ failure to make a deal with the Houston Texans for quarterback Deshaun Watson on Tuesday.

Did they win, by losing?

4. Post-free agency depth chart: The Falcons’ depth chart has undergone a seismic makeover in free agency.

In addition to landing the big fish – quarterback Kirk Cousins – general manager Terry Fontenot reshaped the wide receiver and tight end positions.

He also retained some depth along the offensive and defensive lines, in offensive tackle Storm Norton and defensive tackle Kentavius Street.

The Falcons signed wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Ray-Ray McCloud and traded quarterback Desmond Ridder for wide receiver Rondale Moore. They also re-signed KhaDarel Hodge.

Mack Hollins signed with Buffalo. Van Jefferson joined former coach Arthur Smith in Pittsburgh. Scotty Miller and Cordarrelle Patterson were not re-signed. Patterson issued a good-bye to Atlanta on social media.

At tight end, the Falcons essentially flipped pass-catching tight end Jonnu Smith for blocking tight end Charlie Woerner.

On defense, they re-signed linebacker Nate Landman.

Woerner, a Super 11 pick by the AJC in 2015 out of Rabun County, was elated to return home.

“I felt like my entire life, I’d never left the state of Georgia until I went to the 49ers,” Woerner said. “To be back and connected with everybody is so cool.”

Woerner, after a solid career at Georgia, was taken in the sixth round (190th overall) in the 2020 draft. He turned into an important part of the 49ers’ vaunted rushing attack as he played in 65 games and made seven starts. He was targeted only 15 times and made 11 catches.

Blocking is important, and the Falcons recognized that by giving him a three-year, $12 million contract. Smith signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Dolphins.

“First of all, we’re just excited to be back to play for the Falcons a team that I grew up (rooting) for,” Woerner said. “To be back closer to family. I’ve got six siblings. A lot of, so many friends and family who live in the area. Me and my wife, we live in Athens in the offseason already. I’m just so excited to be able to go to a birthday party.”

Woerner, 26, plans to get in more family quality time.

“It’s just like, everyone’s got kids and life,” Woerner said. “So, we’re super humbled to have families come to these games. We’ll figure out all that (the tickets) at a later date. But just to be able to have family come consistently to games is going to be really cool.”

Woerner is looking forward to his role in the offense. Tight end Kyle Pitts can presumably pick up some of Smith’s 50 catches, 582 yards and three touchdowns.

“(The Falcons) are changing now to more of a Rams’ style offense with it’s all underneath kind of the (Kyle) Shanahan tree,” Woerner said. “So, it’s not going to be quite like what I came from with the 49ers, but it’s going to be similar. So, I think I’ll definitely I find a role and contribute to help this team in a good way.”

Woerner credited Georgia coach Kirby Smart with giving him the foundational tools to help him succeed in the NFL. He noted that he played with three or four first-round running backs.

“We were going to run the ball,” Woerner said. “If you want to contribute, you’ve got to learn to do A, B, and C in the run game. So, I was like, hey, I want to do it. I can help the team win.”

He just had to learn how to block correctly.

“I always had the will and the want to do it,” Woerner said.

Overall, the Falcons have replaced three starters on offense who competed in the final regular-season game in Ridder, Jefferson and Smith. On defense, three starters in the final game no longer are on the roster in defensive end Calais Campbell, outside linebacker Bud Dupree and defensive tackle Albert Huggins.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

49ers’ Charlie Woerner on his journey to the Super Bowl

5. Depth chart: Here’s what the Falcons’ revised depth chart looks like after the early part of free agency. A total of 15 of 22 (68.2%) the projected starters were acquired through the draft:

OFFENSE

QB – Kirk Cousins, Taylor Heinicke

RB – Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Avery Williams, Carlos Washington Jr.

FB – Tucker Fisk, Robert Burns

WR – Drake London, Josh Ali, Austin Mack

Slot WR – Rondale Moore, Ray-Ray McCloud

TE – Kyle Pitts, Charlie Woerner, John FitzPatrick

LT – Jake Matthews, Tyler Vrabel, Barry Wesley

LG – Matthew Bergeron, Justin Shaffer, John Leglue

C – Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil, Jovaughn Gwyn

RG – Chris Lindstrom, Kyle Hinton

RT – Kaleb McGary, Storm Norton, Ryan Swoboda

WR – Darnell Mooney, KhaDarel Hodge, Chris Blair

DEFENSE 3-4 alignment

DE – Zach Harrison, Kentavius Street, Demone Harris

NT – David Onyemata, LaCale London, Tommy Togiai

DT – Grady Jarrett, Kentavius Street, Ta’Quon Graham, Willington Previlon

LOLB – Arnold Ebiketie, Ade Ogundeji, Ikenna Enechukwu,

LILB – Kaden Elliss, Donavan Mutin, Milo Eifler

RILB – Troy Andersen, Nate Landman

ROLB – Lorenzo Carter, DeAngelo Malone

CB – A.J. Terrell

Nickel CB – Mike Hughes, Dee Alford

FS – Jessie Bates III, Micah Abernathy, Tre Tarpley III

SS – DeMarcco Hellams, Richie Grant, Lukas Denis

CB – Clark Phillips III, Natrone Brooks

SPECIAL TEAMS

K – Younghoe Koo

P/H – Bradley Pinion

LS – Liam McCullough

PR – Ray-Ray McCloud or Avery Williams

KOR – Ray-Ray McCloud or Avery Williams

6. NFL owner’s meeting: The NFL owner’s meeting will be held Sunday through Wednesday in Orlando, Florida.

During the coming league meetings, clubs will discuss the following proposed rules changes. All proposals must be approved by 75% (24) of the owners to be adopted.

Here’s a look at the 2024 club rules change proposals.

  • By Detroit; amends Rule 15, Section 1, Article 1, to protect a club’s ability to challenge a third ruling following one successful challenge.
  • By Philadelphia; amends Rule 9, Section 2, Article 2, to eliminate the first touch spot after the receiving team possesses the ball.
  • By Philadelphia; amends Rule 6, Section 1, Article 1, to permit a team to maintain possession of the ball after a score by substituting one offensive play (fourth-and-20 from the kicking team’s 20-yard line) for an onside kickoff attempt.
  • By Indianapolis; amends Rule 15, Section 3, to permit a coach or replay official (inside of two minutes) to challenge any foul that has been called.

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.

Yes, Kirk Cousins returning to Minnesota is a candidate to be a nationally televised game.

8. Falcons favored: After signing quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Falcons are now the favorite to win the NFC South, according to betonline.com:

NFC South winner

Atlanta Falcons 2/3 (-150)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13/4 (+325)

New Orleans Saints 17/4 (+425)

Carolina Panthers 12/1 (+1200)

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

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