The 2014 NFL Draft is getting closer by the minute, and for the Atlanta Falcons, that day cannot come soon enough. Owner Arthur Blank, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, and the remaining staff have been busy bees this offseason, and so far, are off to a solid start by first toughening up both the offensive and defensive lines on the first day of free agency. Then, out of nowhere, they surprised most Atlanta fans by recently snagging former kick-returner Devin Hester to a three-year deal.
So now that the storm of free agent signings has most likely subsided for the Falcons, what will they do next? Well, especially for the Falcons, it is pretty much just as unpredictable as filling out an NCAA tournament bracket for March Madness. First, it appeared to be all about trading up for DE Jadeveon Clowney, as his exposure reached an all time high right before the 2014 NFL Combine. Another possibility was of course drafting top OT Greg Robinson to solidify an offensive line for quarterback Matt Ryan as the sixth pick. Then, out of nowhere, LB Khalil Mack surpassed the hype of Clowney, and as of now it appears draft experts are picking Mack as either the first pick, or the fourth pick in the first-round. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah was recently interviewed on the NFL Network, and stated Mack is “just more of a violent football player.” But after this week, it is not Mack that has captured the attention of the Falcons, it is UCLA LB Anthony Barr.
According to a source from ESPN, Barr, who is slated to be a top-10 pick in the first round, is scheduled to work out with the Falcons before the end of this month. Even though Mack seemed to outperform Barr in some categories of the Combine, Barr’s latest performance at UCLA’s pro day was pretty impressive, according to UCLA head coach Jim Mora. That day, Barr ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds, which was considerably better than his 4.66 time at the Combine one month ago.
At this moment in time, even after the latest free agent signings, the Falcons are a team that avoids the glamour, but are still able to fill the holes with less-known, but solid players. Barr appears to be that type of guy. Despite being rated lower than Mack, Barr is still very athletic, his work-ethic is clearly there, and he can still make a huge contribution in the pass-rush category. Jeremiah also described Barr as having great burst off the edge, and being a blitz-type player, so I feel Barr would still be a good option.
Of course, nothing is set in stone, even if the Falcons are taking a peek at Barr. Anything could happen at this point. Given the quality of offensive linemen in the draft, it would be more beneficial if the Falcons should focus on drafting an offensive tackle in the first round. But I would also be satisfied if the Falcons pass on Clowney and instead go after either Mack or Barr. The most important thing people need to realize can be taken from Pat Kirwan’s book, Take Your Eye Off The Ball: “If a general Manager thinks like a fan, talks like a fan, and acts like a fan, he’s going to be sitting with one in the stands soon enough.”
Be sure to get your Falcons tickets for the upcoming 2014 season now before they sell out.