Kiper projects Falcons to go pass rusher at No. 16 in post free agency mock draft

Zach Hood

Mock drafts are starting to take shape as the evolution of rosters unfolds in NFL free agency. The 2020 NFL Draft is less than a month away, and with players not able to take visits with teams, it may be a little bit muddier than usual in terms of reporters and mock draft analysts being able to track down what teams are interested in who. 

Mel Kiper Jr. offered his latest mock for ESPN, tabbing the Falcons with OLB K'Lavon Chaisson from LSU with the No. 16 overall pick. Many mocks have been pegging cornerbacks to Atlanta in the first round following the Dante Fowler Jr. signing, but Kiper still has the Birds looking to address the pass rush early in the draft.

Chaisson was a key contributor for the National Champion LSU Tigers in 2020, a factor against both the run and the pass. He totaled 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in his junior season after battling injuries as a sophomore. Chaisson also batted down two passes in 2019, and racked up 60 (34 solo) tackles in his 13 games. 

Despite the presence of Fowler, the Falcons could still sorely use a presence like Chaisson in the pass rush rotation. Thomas Dimitroff + staff have shown an affinity for LSU linebackers in the recent past, as detailed by their selections of Deion Jones and Duke Riley in 2016 and 2017, respectively. 

Chaisson is a pure speed rusher with power to impact the run on the outside as well. He has the mobility to play downfield as well in certain roles. He's not someone who would slide inside in a 3-4 such as an A.J. Epenesa, but more of a finesse rusher like Bruce Irvin, or Fowler Jr. Dan Quinn has a history with players in this mold, Vic Beasley included.

What exactly Atlanta does on draft night will have to wait for late April, but all signs indicate another addition to the defense, whether it's a cornerback or pass rusher seems to be the only mystery at this point. The possibility of a trade (up or down) remains, though it may not make a ton of sense to trade up after already losing two picks for one in the Hayden Hurst trade.