The Atlanta Falcons were one of the biggest surprises of the NFL during the 2013 season, and not in a good way. Only the Houston Texans underwhelmed more than the dirty birds from the ATL. But there’s still a ton of talent on this roster, and a strong draft next May would certainly aid in righting all that was wrong. With the 6th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, what options do the Falcons have?
GM Thomas Dimitroff is one of the boldest and brightest personnel men in the business. When he finds a player he wants, he has no problem doing whatever it takes to get him. The perfect example of such was 2011, when he gave up two firsts, a second, and two fourths to be able to select WR Julio Jones with the 6th pick overall. There should be no doubt that if Dimitroff is in love with a prospect in this draft class, he’ll do what it takes to get him.
As a result of Dimitroff’s boldness, it’s certainly viable that he decides to trade up in the draft, potentially as high as first or second overall, currently held by the Texans and St. Louis Rams, two teams that have shown a willingness to move the pick. With that pick, the Falcons could land South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney, who’s long been rumored to be high on Dimitroff’s wish list, and who would immediately boost a stagnant pass rush.
The Falcons would likely have to give-up multiple second and third round draft picks in addition to the 6th pick, but that’s not as big of a price to pay as it is to some other teams. After all, they have a pretty loaded roster already, unlike many of the other teams picking in the top ten, so they don’t need huge quantities of draft picks like other teams do.
What could the Falcons options look like if they don’t trade up?
Defensive end is their biggest need, so if Clowney doesn’t fall to them, they could look to either Khalil Mack (Buffalo) or Anthony Barr (UCLA), two high end pass rushing options who can play both defensive end and outside linebacker. Current DE’s Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann will both be in the last year of their current deals in ’14, and the Falcons have long been looking for an upgrade at the position.
Interior help at defensive tackle could also be addressed by selecting Timmy Jernigan (Florida State). The 6th pick overall might be a little high for Jernigan, but his ability to penetrate and rush from the inside could be mighty attractive here, especially with Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters and Peria Jerry all set to hit the open market.
Help on the offensive line is also possible. The Falcons finished dead last in the league in rushing yards per game, which threw their entire offensive scheme out of whack. Yes, it’s easy to blame RB Steven Jackson, but the majority of the blame should rest with the offensive line. OT Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) could potentially fall this far, and they could also take Greg Robinson (Auburn), who’s been soaring up draft boards of late.
Tight end is also a big need, but it won’t be addressed in the first round, at least not with the 6th pick overall. If the Falcons truly want Eric Ebron (UNC), the highest ranked TE prospect of the class, they could trade down ten slots and take him, in addition to accruing a second and third round draft pick in the process.
Bottom line is that Dimitroff has plenty of options here. He’s a shrewd manipulator on draft day, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Falcons quite active moving up and down the draft board.