On our path to the draft, here’s the first mock draft from Atlanta Journal-Constitution Falcons beat writer D. Orlando Ledbetter. The NFL draft is set for April 23-25.
Through the first phase of free agency, the Falcons failed to address their offensive line, which gave up 50 sacks,135 quarterback hits and didn’t block well in the run game as they averaged a paltry 3.8 yards per carry (25th of 32nd in the league).
The Falcons can’t go into next season with the same group expecting different results.
That’s why with the 16th pick in the draft they will draft another interior offensive, LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry, the top interior prospect in the draft. Cushenberry could immediately plug in at left guard and serve as an understudy to Alex Mack for a year of two before he takes over at center.
As things stand, the Falcons have veterans James Carpenter, Jamon Brown and Matt Gono as left guard candidates. Carpenter, the preferred starter last season, was hurt and started just 11 games. His play was up and down.
Brown struggled and when the Falcons had a chance to play Gono, they elected to start Wes Schweitzer down the stretch.
Schweitzer signed with Washington in free agency.
With Cushenberry at left guard, Mack at center and last season’s first-round pick Chris Lindstrom at right guard, the Falcons could boast of a firm interior pocket that would allow quarterback Matt Ryan to step into his throws.
Here’s how the first round will shake out:
2020 NFL Draft Order
1. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14) – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU: He led the Tigers to the national champion with a spectacular season.
2. Washington Redskins (3-13) – Chase Young, DE, Ohio State: He’s the top pass rusher in the draft.
3. Detroit Lions (3-12-1) – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State: Look for a trade here. The Lions could trade back with the Chargers and still get Okudah if the Chargers are looking to move up in front of Miami to get Tua Tagovailo.
4. New York Giants (4-12) – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn: He was a force at Lanier High and at Auburn. He can help to anchor the Giants’ defense.
5. Miami Dolphins (5-11) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: The Dolphins’ alleged “Tanking for Tua” plans would be rewarded. They’d have their quarterback of the future and can allow him to get healthy while playing behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for a year.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11) – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon: Look for the move up here. They are not seriously looking to play Tyrod Taylor next season.
7. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson: The versatile defender can play all over the field for the Panthers.
8. Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1) – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia: He was the winner of the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy, UGA’s first recipient of the award in 21 years. He was an All-SEC first-team selection by the coaches and the Associated Press. He was a key player on Georgia teams that won 11 or more games three consecutive seasons, won three consecutive SEC Eastern Division titles, and played in three consecutive New Year’s Six Bowl game (2018 Rose, 2019 Sugar, 2020 Sugar). He was selected as a member of the AJC Super 11 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2016.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10) – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina: Kinlaw, who’s 6-foot-6 and 309 pounds, can play all spots along the defensive line. He’s probably too big to drop into coverage as a 3-4 outside linebacker, though. “He’s so versatile because he’s so big and athletic,” Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said. “You can move him all over the place.”
10. Cleveland Browns (6-10) – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa: The Browns signed Jack Conklin in free agency, but still need another tackle.
11. New York Jets (7-9) – Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville: He was the talk of the combine with his fast 40-yard dash time. At 364 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 5.1 seconds.
12.Las Vegas Raiders (7-9) – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama: The Raiders settle the debate on who’s the top receiver in the draft, Jeudy or Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb. “I think you can make a case for either guy,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “Jerry Jeudy, you're going to get a little bit more separation. You’re going to get a little bit more route polish, which you could say that fits (Las Vegas coach Jon) Gruden really well. I think he’s going to play primarily inside. I think he’s going to be a slot.”
13. San Francisco 49ers (from 7-9 Indianapolis Colts) - Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama: The 49ers have to replace Emmanuel Sanders, who was running the deep routes for them last season. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will know how to use Ruggs’ speed.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama: The former Roswell High standout was named second-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, Sporting News and Walter Camp. He selected as a third-team All-American at safety by the Associated Press and Pro Football Focus. He finished last season 10th in the SEC in tackles with 95 over 13 games. He was named the 2016 Georgia Class AAAAAAA defensive player of the year by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
15. Denver Broncos (7-9) – Jedrick Willis, OT, Alabama: The big fella (6-4, 312) had a 34.5 vertical jump at the scouting combine.
16. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) – Lloyd Cushenberry, C, LSU: He measured 6-3 and weight 312 pounds at the combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.27 seconds and bench pressed 225 pounds, 25 times. “Starting-caliber center with big hands, long arms and good core strength to match power on power when needed,” NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein said. “Cushenberry isn’t rigid or stiff, but he does have some limitations with lateral quickness, which show up against athletic edge rushers and with potential run game limitations in space. He’s extremely difficult to bull-rush and is rarely beaten to the punch in his pass sets.”
17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – Grant Delpit, S, LSU: He was was the ninth player in LSU history to be named a unanimous first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC selection with 74 tackles (9.5 for loss, five sacks), a conference-high five interceptions and nine pass breakups. Delpit’s reputation helped him win the Jim Thorpe Award as well as second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team all-conference honors in 2019.
18. Miami Dolphins (from 8-8 Pittsburgh) – D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia: Swift became the fifth running back in UGA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. He had 1,218 yards rushing and 216 receiving with a total of seven touchdowns. Those totals would have been much higher had Swift not been injured at the end of this season. He was limited to six touches and eight total plays in his final two games because of an injury described as a bruised shoulder. Swift left school with 2,885 yards rushing and 666 yards receiving. He ranks seventh on Georgia’s all-time rushing list, just behind Lars Tate (3,017) and just ahead of Knowshon Moreno (2,734).
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from 8-8 Chicago) – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma: The Raiders get some defensive help.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from 9-7 Rams) – C.J. Henderson, DB, Florida: The Jaguars have to replace Jalen Ramsey.
21. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma: The Eagles get some wide receiver help for quarterback Carson Wentz.
22. Minnesota Vikings (from 10-6 Buffalo) – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU: The Vikings must replace Stefon Diggs.
23. New England Patriots (12-4) – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: With Love still on the board, the Patriots take a shot at getting Tom Brady’s replacement.
24. New Orleans Saints (13-3) -- Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU: The Saints can pair him with newly signed Emmanuel Sanders.
25. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU: The Vikings continue to build up their already-stout defense.
26. Miami Dolphins (from 10-6 Houston) – Joshua Jones, OT, Houston: After trading Laremy Tunsil last season, the Dolphins must restock the tackle position.
27. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) – Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State: Like the Falcons, the Seahawks are looking for pass-rush help.
28. Baltimore Ravens (14-2) – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: The highly productive running back ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the combine.
29. Tennessee Titans (9-7) – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor: At 6-3 and 207 pounds, Mims ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds.
30. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – K’Lavon Chaisson, LB/DE, LSU: Chaisson measured at 6-foot-3 and weighed 253 pounds at the combine. “As you watched him through the season, you started to see him really pick it up and get better,” Jeremiah said.
31. San Francisco 49ers (13-3) -- Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU: The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder helps the 49ers fill a big need on the defensive line as they must replace DeForest Buckner. Blacklock ran the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds at the scouting combine and received a 6.4 grade from NFL.com, which means that he’s projected to be a NFL starter within his first two years in the league.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) – A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa: He’s stout at 6-6 and 280 pounds. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. He would add some bulk to the defensive line and has the ability to rush inside in some situations. He didn’t test well at the combine.
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