Thu, 22 Apr 2021

2021 NFL Draft: Top LB prospects who fit Falcons

Atlanta Falcons
06 Mar 2021, 17:57 GMT+10

A look at the top draft prospects at every position group who might fit with the Falcons Matthew Tabeek

Editor's note: This is the fifth installment of a 10-part series on top prospects who fit the Falcons based on positions of need.

The Atlanta Falcons have a new regime in place, beginning at the top with general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith. Not only have they been busy putting together their respective staffs, but they're also been evaluating every single player on this roster.

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Top draft prospects: Edge | QB | OL | CB | LB What are the Falcons' biggest roster concerns? How many draft picks do Falcons currently own? Mock drafts: 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 | 5.0 | 6.0 | 7.0 College pro day schedule | Mock draft tracker

The Falcons finished last season with a 4-12 mark, in last place of the NFC South and, as a result, hold the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL Draft. They've missed the postseason for three straight years. In short, there's some definite areas on this roster that will need to be addressed in the offseason.

The Falcons' four biggest needs heading into free agency and the NFL Draft right now appear to be at edge defender, secondary (cornerback and safety), running back and offensive line. Over the next several weeks we will look at the top draft prospects at every position group and how they might fit with the Falcons.

Micah Parsons, Penn State 2019 stats: 109 total tackles, 5.0 sacks, 5 PD, 4 FF Draft position in Matt Tabeek's latest mock draft: 10

Summary of big board rankings:

The Draft Scout: 8 Pro Football Focus: 6 Dane Brugler's top 100: 13 Daniel Jeremiah's top 50: 10

Brugler's analysis: "Parsons is an excellent ball hunter due to his vision and agility near the line of scrimmage, also displaying exceptional sideline range. He needs to improve his maturity (on and off the field), spacing and anticipation in coverage, but the athleticism and budding awareness are there."

Jeremiah's analysis: "Parsons has a big, athletic frame and possesses excellent speed and versatility. He is quick to key/read before attacking the line of scrimmage. He can defeat blocks with his hands or use his quickness to slip past them. He has the speed to make plays sideline to sideline, although there were a few occasions where he overran the football in the games I studied. He also had some issues sniffing out the ball on zone reads. He's very gifted in coverage versus tight ends and running backs. He has timing and burst as a blitzer off the edge. Overall, there aren't many holes in Parsons' game. It's difficult to find linebackers with his size and ability to impact the passing game."

Pro Football Focus: "The Penn State linebacker earned the second-highest run-defense grade we've ever given to a true sophomore. What the 240-plus-pounder can do as a blitzer is going to be a weapon in the NFL."

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame 2020 stats: 62 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 PD, 3 FF Draft position in Matt Tabeek's latest mock draft: 26

Summary of big board rankings:

The Draft Scout: 15 Pro Football Focus: 19 Dane Brugler's top 100: 14 Daniel Jeremiah's top 50: 17

Brugler's analysis: "With his explosive athleticism, Owusu-Koramoah will be a hot commodity this spring. He has terrific key, read and flow skills, showing the range and physicality to cover the slot receiver one play and rush off the edge the next play. His "fit" will be different from team-to-team."

Jeremiah's analysis: "Owusu-Koramoah starred as an athletic hybrid defender for the Fighting Irish. He can play Will linebacker, safety or even cover in the slot. He's very fluid and twitchy to mirror tight ends, backs or slot receivers. He's very aware as a zone dropper and he's an explosive blitzer off the edge. He is quick to key/read before dipping under blocks on the front side against the run. He flashes the ability to use his length to punch off blockers, but he is much more effective beating them to spots. He has big-time speed to chase from the back side. He needs to improve his consistency as a tackler in space, though, as he has too many fly-by misses. He brings outstanding leadership to the defense. Overall, Owusu-Koramoah might lack ideal size/bulk, but he's built for a pass-happy NFL."

Pro Football Focus: "The Butkus Award winner for the nation's best linebacker. JOK has elite short-area quicks for a linebacker, and while 215 pounds may seem tiny, it's the same weight that Darius Leonard played at this season for the Colts."

Nick Bolton, Missouri 2020 stats: 95 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, 5 PD Draft position in Matt Tabeek's latest mock draft: Day 2

Summary of big board rankings:

The Draft Scout: 35 Pro Football Focus: 22 Dane Brugler's top 100: 22 Daniel Jeremiah's top 50: 29

Brugler's analysis: "A hammer in search of a nail, Bolton is a forceful downhill defender with outstanding play speed and striking skills to put ball carriers on the ground before they can reach the line of scrimmage. His lack of size and length will show up, especially in coverage, but his fiery play personality is something that will endear him to NFL coaches."

Jeremiah's analysis: "Bolton is a slightly undersized linebacker with excellent speed and explosiveness. He has the lateral quicks to avoid blocks, fill and chest up running backs. He has stopping power as a tackler. He improved his take-on skills as the 2020 season progressed. He has big-time lateral range because of his burst/speed. He needs to improve as a zone dropper in coverage, though. He is late to anticipate and fill throwing windows. He's much more instinctive in the run game. However, he does have the athleticism to match up and mirror tight ends. He is a dynamic blitzer. Overall, I love Bolton's speed and energy, but he does need to improve in zone coverage. If he polishes that aspect of his game, he could emerge as a top-tier starter at the next level."

Pro Football Focus: "Bolton won't tick every box physically, but this is a guy you want in the middle of your defense. He led the SEC in defensive stops in each of the past two seasons."

Zaven Collins, Tulsa 2020 stats: 54 total tackles, 4.0 sacks, 4 INT, 2 PD, 2 FF Draft position in Matt Tabeek's latest mock draft: 29

Summary of big board rankings:

The Draft Scout: 31 Pro Football Focus: 31 Dane Brugler's top 100: 23 Daniel Jeremiah's top 50: 24

Brugler's analysis: "With the size of a defensive end and the athleticism of a safety, Collins offers every-down ability, ideally suited for a 3-4 scheme. He needs to be better with his take-on skills and run fits, but he flashes like a Dont'a Hightower starter kit."

Pro Football Focus: "At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Collins isn't your typical off-ball linebacker prospect. He dominates backs in blitz pickup and can chase them down in space, as well. His 91.1 overall grade this past season led all linebackers in college football."

Jabril Cox, LSU 2020 stats: 58 total tackles, 1.0 sack, 3 INT, 5 PD Draft position in Matt Tabeek's latest mock draft: Day 2

Summary of big board rankings:

The Draft Scout: 36 Pro Football Focus: 45 Dane Brugler's top 100: 80 Daniel Jeremiah's top 50: 43

Jeremiah's analysis: "Cox is a versatile second-level defender with outstanding range, coverage ability and character. He is at his best when lined up outside the box. He can mirror tight ends in coverage and can chase plays down from the back side. He is a little bit late to key/diagnose through the collection of bodies when he's lined up inside. When his sightlines are clear, he plays fast and physical. He is a very good change-of-direction athlete and has some upside as a rusher off the edge. Everyone at LSU raves about his leadership and character. Overall, Cox grew on me the more I studied him. He can serve as a box safety, outside linebacker or in a multitude of roles via sub packages."

Pro Football Focus: "Across two different schools/schemes and one week of practice at the Senior Bowl, Cox has proven one thing wholesale: the man can cover. He was the only linebacker to break up multiple passes in the one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl, and he had four throughout the week."

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