2014 NFL Draft: Atlanta Falcons’ 5 Dark Horse 1st-Round Targets

2014 NFL Draft: Atlanta Falcons' 5 Dark Horse 1st-Round Targets

Calvin Pryor Atlanta Falcons
David Manning-USA Today Sports

After a 4-12 season in 2013, the Atlanta Falcons have no shortage of needs to fill. Trading up on draft day in 2011 to take Julio Jones shows that the team can go out on the limb. Conventional wisdom would say that the Falcons should take one of the top-rated offensive linemen or pass rushers with the sixth overall pick, but they've certainly surprised before.

Here are five dark horse candidates to be taken by the Falcons in the first round.

5. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Aaron Donald Atlanta Falcons
Andrew Weber-USA Today Sports

5. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Aaron Donald Atlanta Falcons
Andrew Weber-USA Today Sports

Most have Donald as the premier defensive tackle in the draft class. The Falcons signed Paul Soliai to plug up the middle and help stop the run, but Soliai doesn't often get to the quarterback. Donald would provide more of a pass rush up the middle and help the defense flex seamlessly between the 3-4 and 4-3.

4. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Brandin Cooks Atlanta Falcons
Jaime Valdez-USA Today Sports

4. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Brandin Cooks Atlanta Falcons
Jaime Valdez-USA Today Sports

It's no secret that Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff has been using the Patriots as a blueprint for building the roster. The one piece that's been missing from the Falcons' passing game is a slot receiver in the mold of Wes Welker, someone who can catch passes underneath and create big plays. Cooks fits that mold perfectly, running a 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine and catching 128 passes in his senior season.

3. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Eric Ebron Atlanta Falcons
Jeremy Brevard-USA Today Sports

3. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Eric Ebron UNC
Jeremy Brevard-USA Today Sports

Tony Gonzalez is gone for good this time, and he leaves a substantial hole in the Falcons' passing game. Ebron is physically gifted with size and speed, and already has great route running ability. With Julio Jones and Roddy White commanding attention on the outside, Ebron would be in a perfect situation to thrive in one-on-one matchups against linebackers and safeties.

2. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Zack Martin Atlanta Falcons
Joe Camporeale-USA Today Sports

2. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Zack Martin Atlanta Falcons
Joe Camporeale-USA Today Sports

If Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews are off the board before Atlanta's pick, Martin is in the next tier of offensive linemen. He has experience as a four-year starter at Notre Dame, and could shore up the hole at right tackle on the Falcons line. His athleticism would help boost the rushing attack, and he can slide over to left tackle if Sam Baker continues to battle injuries.

1. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Calvin Pryor Atlanta Falcons
Andrew Weber-USA Today Sports

1. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Calvin Pryor Atlanta Falcons
Andrew Weber-USA Today Sports

Thomas Decoud's release left a hole in the Atlanta secondary, and Pryor could take that spot right away. Pryor's strengths are his aggressiveness and physicality, traits that were lacking in the Falcons' secondary last season. William Moore and Pryor would form one of the hardest-hitting safety tandems in the league, and provide an upgrade against the run.

Walter Bergeson is a writer for Rantsports.com.  Follow him on twitter @WalterBSports or add him to your network on Google

 


Around the Web