5 players on the Falcons’ first-round draft radar

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Former Gamecocks tight end Javon Kinlaw discusses struggles growing up in Washington, D.C., at the Senior Bowl. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff doesn’t really like his nickname, “Trader Thomas.”

But he’s earned it in part by making trades in the first round in five of 12 drafts. He’s made at least one trade in all 12 of his drafts and he could upend the this year’s draft, Thursday through Saturday, with another blockbuster move.

“I feel like they’ve been trying to find an edge rusher forever, so what the heck, let’s go up and just trade for Chase Young,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Thursday. “How high do you got to go? That would be fun.”

Young, who played at Ohio State, is the top defensive end in the draft and projects to likely go to the Redskins with the second overall pick. A move to get Young would be on par with Dimitroff’s 2011 move up 21 spots -- from 27th to sixth -- to get wide receiver Julio Jones.

But a more realistic move could be made to secure South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw or Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson. If the Falcons stay at 16, LSU defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton or Alabama safety Xavier McKinney likely will be available.

“I think (the Falcons) are looking for impact defensive players,” Jeremiah said. “We kicked this around the other day on ‘Path to the Draft,’ but to me the four players who made sense were you trade up for: (Ohio State cornerback Jeff) Okudah to give you a premier corner, or you trade up for Henderson, you wouldn’t have to go up as far, but you’d probably have to go up a little bit to get him.”

Derrick Brown and Kinlaw are the other players the Falcons could trade up to land, according to Jeremiah.

“If Brown or Kinlaw started to drop a little bit, you could go up in range and get them,” Jeremiah said. “And then the more that I thought about it, I thought, wait a second, sometimes we see these off-the-ball linebackers drift a little bit further than they should in terms of where they were rated, and Isaiah Simmons is the third-best player in the draft.”

Simmons is the largely position-less player from Clemson.

“If he were to start getting down into range where you had the ammunition there in Atlanta and you wanted to go up and get him, man, that would be fun to plug him into that defense, that scheme and let him run around,” Jeremiah said.

“When you’re in a division like they are and you’ve got to see (Saints running back Alvin) Kamara, and you’ve got to see (Panthers running back) Christian McCaffrey, having a guy like Isaiah Simmons can kind of help erase some of that.”

The Falcons lost linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, the team’s leading tackler over the past two seasons, in free agency. Foye Oluokun, a third-year player, will take over some of Campbell’s role.

“So that would be fun to see him get plugged in there and play next to Deion Jones,” Jeremiah said. “That would be a lot of speed out there.”

Falcons draft picks

Here’s a look at the five players on the Falcons’ first-round draft radar:

K’Lavon Chaisson, DE, LSU

He would help the Falcons’ pass rush.

“I look at a guy like K’Lavon Chaisson. ... he's not a complete package at this point in time,” Jeremiah said. “He's still got some development ahead of him. But he's interesting, and he got better and better as the year went along.”

Chaisson is versatile.

“He can do a lot of different things, and he’s got length,” Jeremiah said. “He can win with speed. He holds up well against the run.”

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LSU linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson talks about what separates him from other prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida 

The Falcons may have to trade up to get in front of the Raiders to select Henderson.

The Raiders have the 12th and 19th picks and could take a cornerback first and a wide receiver with the 19th pick.

There is a drop-off at the cornerback position after Okudah and Henderson.

“C.J. Henderson is clearly the second corner,” Jeremiah said. “Some teams think he’s right up there with Okudah.”

He was a three-year starter for the Gators.

“I have C.J. Henderson as my 22nd player, and I have Chaisson as my 25th player,” Jeremiah said. “So if I have needs at both those positions … I would take C.J. Henderson.”

Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina 

He was a first-team All-American and All-SEC last season, finishing with 35 tackles and six sacks. He was named the Gamecocks’ defensive player of the year.

He’s 6-foot-6 and weighed 324 pounds at the NFL scouting combine.

In South Carolina's 20-17 upset of Georgia on Oct. 12, Kinlaw was a disruptive force. He had four tackles, a tackle for a loss and a sack.

Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson 

He can rush as a defensive end, hit like a linebacker and cover like a safety.

He’s not likely to make it past Carolina, which has the seventh overall pick.

Last season, he recorded 107 tackles, 16 tackles for losses, eight sacks, three interceptions, 13 pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn 

Brown, who played at Lanier High, was the SEC defensive player of the year in 2019.

He had 55 tackles, 12.5 tackles for losses and four sacks for the Tigers last season.

Brown was versatile at Auburn and played several positions along the defensive line.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said there is depth at defensive tackle in this draft, which may point to the team focusing on cornerback early and defensive tackle later in the draft.

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Former Auburn star and metro Atlanta native Derrick Brown looks forward to life in the NFL. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter)


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