Atlanta Falcons 7-Round Mock Draft: Post-Combine Edition
Atlanta Falcons 7-Round Mock Draft: Post Combine Edition
The Atlanta Falcons need a lot of players in this year's draft to produce if they hope to get back to the playoffs. Injuries and inconsistency on both sides of the ball led to their 4-12 record last year and the sixth overall pick in this upcoming draft. Despite a lot of good players coming back from injury like Sean Weatherspoon and Julio Jones, the Falcons still need upgrades in major positions of need.
The Falcons got limited production out of their 2013 class. Out of the eight players they selected, only two (Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford) played significant snaps for the Falcons. The 2012 class also lacked any key contributors outside of center Peter Konz. For a team that normally gets it right in the draft, 2014 will be a pivotal year for this franchise.
The Falcons already have a good amount of talent on both sides of the ball. On offense, QB Matt Ryan leads the Falcons with great receivers like Roddy White, Jones, and Harry Douglas forming a great trio. Future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez has retired from the team, leaving a huge hole that will be impossible to fill completely. Their running game was poor last year.
On defense, the Falcons are led by veteran defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora, Weatherspoon and former Pro Bowl safety William Moore. Injuries to several key starters like Weatherspoon and slow development from Trufant and Alford slowed a very talented yet highly inconsistent defense. On special teams, the kicking game is solid with Matt Bryant and Matt Bosher, but their return game last year was a non-factor, often giving the Falcons offense bad field position.
The following is my first seven-round mock projection of what and who the Falcons address or target heading into the draft on May 8. While most of these players fill positions of need, some are wild-cards whom if drafted by the Falcons could give the team some explosive plays.
7. Seventh Round: Justin Britt, Tackle, Missouri
I will start here on the offensive line with former Missouri tackle Justin Britt. Britt was part of a very underrated Missouri offensive line that helped the Tigers reach the SEC Championship game last year. The year before, Britt suffered a major knee injury, but this season the big tackle started all 14 games for the Tigers, showing he can recover from serious injuries.
Britt would be a developmental player that the Falcons hopefully can turn into a good player -- but in the last round of the draft, this would be a good player not to pass on.
6. Sixth Round: Dri Archer, Wide Receiver, Kent State
The wild-card of this draft for the Falcons, Kent State's Dri Archer can do it all. Archer clocked the fastest at the Combine with a 4.26 40-yard dash, but Archer can do more than just run fast in a straight line. Archer accumulated 40 total touchdowns at Kent State in his four-year career in different ways. A total of 24 touchdowns came on the ground, 12 came through the air and four came from the special teams.
The Falcons desperately need a playmaker on offense who can turn a five-yard gain into an 80-yard touchdown. Archer would provide that, and on special teams, Archer would contribute immediately. Archer would be a major improvement over the likes of Jacquizz Rodgers and Robert McClain, who failed to make any big plays in that department.
5. Fifth Round: Xavier Grimble, Tight End, USC
Tight End Xavier Grimble from USC has the talent to be a second or third-round pick, but his inability to stay healthy and declining production would make him fall to the third day of the draft. Grimble and the rest of the Trojans team was amidst distractions all year as Lane Kiffin was fired and the major controversy surrounding players lobbying the program to keep Ed Orgeron. Grimble did not put up game-changing statistics as the Trojans had so many great playmakers on offense at USC with the likes of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
The Falcons will not adequately replace what Tony Gonzalez has done for the organization the past five seasons. As a late-round pick, Grimble wouldn't have the weight of expectations on his shoulders in trying to replace Gonzalez. Surrounding Grimble with the playmakers that the Falcons already have, the tight end would get plenty of chances to show off what he can do.
4. Fourth Round: Andre Williams, Running Back, Boston College
The Falcons tried to go with veteran running back Steven Jackson last year, but things just did not work out. Jackson was injured or hobbled for most of the season and the Falcons offense struggled running the ball all season long. There is not much left in the Falcons' backfield to pass on selecting a running back. In Boston College running back Andre Williams, the Falcons would get their running back of the future and a physical presence who can help a stagnant running game.
Outside of Jackson, the Falcons would have to hope that either Rodgers or Jason Snelling can be effective backs, but Rodgers hasn't gotten the job done, and Snelling is likely to be gone after an embarrassing arrest last season.
3. Third Round: Keith McGill, CB, Utah
The Falcons, despite drafting two corners last year with high picks in Trufant and Alford, could use a taller corner to compete with the tall receivers in the NFC South. In Utah corner Keith McGill, the Falcons would get a player who has the prototypical size for a corner in today's game (6-foot-3, 205 pounds). With the NFC South having good and tall receivers in Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson, and New Orleans' receiver Marques Colston, McGill could be a major contributor for the team right away.
The Falcons decided to cut their ties with Asante Samuel a few weeks ago, making their cornerback position a true need in free agency and the draft. McGill's injury history will scare teams away from drafting him, but in the third round, Atlanta can't pass on this talented player.
2. Second Round: Xavier Su'a-Filo, Guard, UCLA
The most crucial part of Atlanta's offensive line woes last year was the interior offensive lineman rather than their tackles. Injuries forced tackle Sam Baker to miss most of the season, thus shifting right tackle Lamar Holmes to the left side, which he struggled at. On the inside, guards Justin Blalock and Garrett Reynolds struggled all season to make inside rushing lanes for Jackson and Rodgers, thus the team had the worst rushing offense in the league. To fix this, the Atlanta Flacons in the second round should select UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo.
Su'a-Filo is a nasty lineman who loves to run block. With the Bruins the past two seasons, Su'a-Filo paved lanes for rushers like Johnathan Franklin, QB Brett Hundley, and Myles Jack, who all had success running the football.
1. First Round Round: Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina
Defensive End Jadeveon Clowney has the talent to be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, but character and motor concerns are making some people disregard him as a top-five pick. In Clowney's defense, he was constantly double and triple-teamed on almost every play last year, thus his statistics weren't up to par. In Mike Nolan's defense, Clowney will line up everywhere and do what he does best, rushing the passer.
Clowney has previously stated that he wants the Falcons to trade up to get him, and that he wants to play in Atlanta. The Falcons won't have to do this as the five teams ahead of them have major needs other than defensive end that they will have to address in May. With the division having two great quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Cam Newton, the Falcons have to draft Clowney to get past two playoff teams from a year ago.
Note: Compensatory picks were not taken into consideration as they have not been handed out yet.