Mock Draft 3.0 has Falcons using No. 8 pick on …. a quarterback?

Will franchise use a first-round pick on a quarterback for the first time in 16 years, and who is it targeting?

FLOWERY BRANCH — If the Falcons think Michael Penix Jr. is their quarterback of the future, they should turn his name in with the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft, which is set for April 25-27 in Detroit.

The Falcons sent a sizable entourage, including general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Raheem Morris, to Seattle to hold a private workout with Penix Jr., according to

The Falcons signed veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins to a four-year contract worth up to $180 million. Cousins is coming off Achilles surgery and is set to turn 36 before the season starts.

Under this scenario, Penix, 23, would serve at least a couple of years under Cousins before taking over in a transition that’s similar to how the Green Bay Packers have stayed relevant since 1992.

After fleecing the Falcons that year in a trade for Brett Favre, they drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 to succeed Favre and developed him for two seasons. They did the same thing with Jordan Love, who was drafted in 2021 and led them to the playoffs and a loss in the divisional round last season, the team’s first without Rodgers.

The Falcons made a similar trip to Austin, Texas, before selecting running back Bijan Robinson with the eighth overall pick last season.

However, the Penix workout could be a smoke screen for the Falcons. They could be trying to get one of the quarterback-needy teams behind them – Minnesota, Denver or Las Vegas – to come up to get Penix or Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

“It’s a strong draft. … As a draft (it) is kind of what you expect to happen with quarterback position, right?” Fontenot said recently at the league meetings. “So, we’re going to be staring at some really good players at eight, or whether we’re up a little bit or whether we’re back a little bit, right? We’re going to be staring at some really good players.”

One of them is going to be Penix.

Other players include Alabama outside linebacker Dallas Turner, Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell, Florida State defensive end Jared Verse and UCLA defensive end Laiatu Latu.

“We have a lot of good young talent on offense,” Fontenot said. “We have a really good offensive line. It’s champing at the bit. Now, you bring in a player like (Cousins), we know he’s going to be a multiplier.

“So yes, there is excitement right now. And we still get to go through the draft, right. And even after the draft, there’s always some more work.”

The Falcons are down to $6.3 million under the cap. They would have to restructure some of their bigger contracts to come up with any major deals and fit in the rookie class.

“There’s like another wave of free agency after the draft,” Fontenot said. “I have a lot of confidence in our staff that we’re going to continue to find players and continue to improve our team.

“So yes, very excited going into the season. I know we still have a lot of work to do. We’re going to keep adding.”

The Falcons clearly have identified their needs and the profiles of the players they are looking for in the draft and free agency.

“When we jumped right into free agency, it was a really smooth process,” Fontenot said. “The communication has been outstanding.”

Penix, who is 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, started his career at Indiana before transferring to Washington. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting last season and eighth in 2022.

Penix passed for 13,741 yards, 96 touchdowns and 34 interceptions over his college career. He completed 63.6% of his passes and had a career passing rating of 146.6.

The private workout was a follow-up visit for the Falcons, who met with Penix at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“Yes I have,” Penix said when asked if he’d met with the Falcons. “I feel like it was great, we had a really good meeting. They asked me some questions, some tough questions, but (they were) just trying to get to know me.”

Penix felt like it was a positive meeting.

“I was definitely excited going into it,” Penix said.

Penix guided the Huskies to the College Football Playoff last season, as he had 36 touchdown passes. Like Cousins, he’s more a pocket passer.

“I’m just a leader, and I’m a guy that’s going to bring the best out of everybody around me,” Penix said. “I feel like in every aspect, I can elevate the guys around me and highlight them into becoming better people and players as well. I feel like that is a good thing for a quarterback.”

If Penix is the guy, take him.

If not, trade back, get some more picks and spend them all on defense.

Here’s a look at the first round of Mock Draft 3.0:

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.

4. Arizona Cardinals: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State. The Cardinals get a major weapon for quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Desmond Ridder. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel 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: Dallas Turner, OLB, Alabama. He’s considered the best edge rusher in the draft.

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

Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner (15) tracks the play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Credit: AP

icon to expand image

Credit: AP

8. Falcons: Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington. This maybe a little high for Penix, but the Vikings, Broncos and/or the Raiders could turn into trading partners for the Falcons.

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.

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

13. Las Vegas Raiders: Malik Nabers, WR, LSU. If the Falcons trade back with the Raiders, look for them to go cornerback and Quinyon Mitchell or Terrion Arnold.

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.

Credit: WSBTV Videos

Channel 2 goes 1-on-1 with Brock Bowers at the NFL 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.

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.

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.

24. Dallas Cowboys: Jackson Powers-Johnson, C, Oregon. He can anchor the offensive line for the next decade. They can find a tackle later.

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 coach Todd Bowles’ defense.

27. Arizona Cardinals (via Houston Texans): Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington. The Cardinals must solidify the line up front.

28. Buffalo Bills: Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU. The Bills parted ways with the temperamental Stefon Diggs in a trade with the Texans.

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 would provide 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 re-signing Chase Young.

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas. The Chiefs signed Marquise Brown in free agency, but need more receivers, especially in light of Rashee Rice’s problems with law enforcement in Texas. He likely is facing a league suspension.

The Bow Tie Chronicles