Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft: How to Fix Biggest Problems in 7 Rounds
The Atlanta Falcons have some holes despite their 12-2 record and already having the division title and a top three seed in the NFC playoffs locked up.
First off, the running game needs work. The blocking looked much better in the game versus the Giants, but overall, the running backs need to hit the hole much harder than they have been. A talented hungry running back would always be a good idea to bring in.
In pass protection, the Falcons also have been doing much better as the year has run along. Sam Baker has been a nice surprise, but he is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and tackle depth is needed at a minimum even if he is retained.
The Falcons also need some more options in the passing game. Competition for Harry Douglas in the slot and someone to eventually or even initially replace Tony Gonzalez should be of high priority. A guy who can backup at quarterback and also act as a Brian Finneran-clone wouldn't be a bad idea to have either.
After that, the Falcons need a true pass-rusher. Someone who can line up anywhere on the front seven and just get after the quarterback. Some defensive depth wouldn't hurt either in the defensive tackle and linebacker groups.
Overall, the Falcons' main needs are all depth. They have a ton of talent in the starting groups, but they could use some more depth all over the team. The good teams keep their starting talent. The best teams also build depth behind that talent.
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University of Texas
6'4" 265 pounds, projected 40 time: 4.65-4.70
2012: 12 Games Played, 53 Tackles, 11.5 Tackles for Loss, 8.0 Sacks, 9 QB Hurries, 3 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Blocked Kick
2011: 13 Games Played, 52 Tackles, 12.5 Tackles for Loss, 6.0 Sacks, 13 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 3 Pass Deflections
2010: 12 Games Played, 27 Tackles, 3.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.5 Sacks, 7 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced
2009: 14 Games Played, 18 Tackles, 2.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries
Atlanta needs someone who can rush the passer from a multitude of spots and learn how to play the game from John Abraham. It needs someone who can line up and be used just like Kroy Biermann and Abraham are currently used.
Alex Okafor is an Abraham clone in every sense of how they play. He's fast, strong and versatile. He's not just good against the run; he's talented as a pass-rusher as well. Oh, and he can line up anywhere in the front seven, so he would be able to help Atlanta continue their multiple look defense.
Okafor's also a leader on and off the field. However, he was arrested, and this would be the first time Dimitroff took a player who had been arrested. But looking into the arrest, it looks like it was something small and menial that has since been dropped and shouldn't be held against him.
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University of Tennessee
6'3" 205 pounds, projected 40 time: 4.35-4.40
2012: 12 Games Played, 46 Catches, 778 Yards, 5 Touchdowns, 25 Carries, 308 Yards, 3 Touchdowns, 1-of-1 (100.0), 28 yards, 4 Punt Returns, 101 Yards, 1 Touchdowns, 24 Kick Returns, 671 Yards, 1 Touchdowns
Yes, for those keeping score, Cordarrelle Patterson's stats add up to 100 touches, 1,886 yards and 10 touchdowns. What kind of offense wouldn't want that kind of production in it? What kind of coach wouldn't want a player who could explode like this?
Atlanta could surely use another option in the passing game whether or not Tony Gonzalez comes back. He could step right in as a third option in the passing game, create explosive running plays and give Atlanta its own Percy Harvin/Julio Jones style combination player.
His return ability would be a welcome addition as well. He's able to score from any spot on the field at any given time, so maximizing his usage will be the ultimate goal. But it's going to be good for the Falcons if they can get him and line him up with Roddy White, Jones and a big-bodied tight end.
University of North Carolina
6'7" 310 pounds, projected 40 time: 5.00-5.05
2012: 8 Games Played
2011: 13 Games Played
2010: 10 Games Played
2009: 6 Games Played
A third-round flyer on a guy who can play either tackle spot and potentially even slide inside to guard? Yes, the Falcons did it in 2010 and in 2012. They brought in Mike Johnson and Lamar Holmes, and neither of those guys have really gotten a shot. So why again in 2013?
It's simple really. Brennan Williams is a guy who is coming off a season-ending injury. By taking him with the depth the Falcons have, they can have him sit and learn if need be. If Lamar Holmes pans out and is an excellent left tackle, Williams is still someone who could eventually take over for Clabo at right tackle.
If Mike Johnson ends up taking that job, then Williams is still the ever valuable swing tackle. But this all buys into one theory that I have. You can never get enough good offensive linemen. Especially with the injuries the big men up front sustain every single season.
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University of California - Los Angeles
6'7" 255 pounds, projected 40 time: 4.75-4.80
2012: 13 Games Played, 40 Catches, 561 Yards, 11 Touchdowns
2011: 14 Games Played, 39 Catches, 481 Yards, 6 Touchdowns
2010: 12 Games Played, 3 Catches, 21 Yards, 2 Touchdowns
2008-2009: Redshirted due to transferring in from Notre Dame after not playing a snap as a true freshman there
Tony Gonzalez has said that he is 95 percent sure that he will not be returning to the NFL in 2013. He will end his career this year unless something drastic happens. That's a shame considering he is on pace for his first-ever 100-catch, 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown year.
That will leave a huge hole, and the Falcons will need to fill his roles of third-down No. 1 option, a big red-zone target and top tight end. Here is where Joseph Fauria can fill both roles. He may not be the fastest or the strongest.
But Fauria is a touchdown magnet in the red zone. He's also a solid blocker and can line up at wide receiver if need be. While he may never match what Tony Gonzalez could do, he should at least be able to at least partially fill the holes to the offense that Gonzalez retiring would open.
4th Round (Projected Compensatory Selection for Curtis Lofton)
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5'11" 215 pounds, projected 40 time: 4.55-4.60
2012: 13 Games Played, 302 Carries, 1442 Yards, 12 Touchdowns, 38 Catches, 270 Yards, 2 Touchdowns
2011: 13 Games Played, 242 Carries, 1330 Yards, 10 Touchdowns, 25 Catches, 182 Yards, 2 Touchdowns
2010: 13 Games Played, 223 Carries, 1137 Yards, 15 Touchdowns, 28 Catches, 266 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 1 Kick Returns, 17 Yards
2009: 12 Games Played, 56 Carries, 306 Yards, 2 Touchdowns, 3 Catches, 43 Yards
Michael Turner is on his last legs. And Jacquizz Rodgers, while a fan favorite, is not someone who should be carrying the load for 16 games. The Falcons really need someone who can be a Pierre Thomas of sorts. Someone who can run hard but may not have all the physical tools.
Stepfan Taylor is exactly that guy. He's not the biggest. He's not the fastest. He's not the strongest. He doesn't have the best hands catching the ball. Yeah, but—as my good friend Emory Hunt would say—he still gets yards. He still moves the ball in crucial situations.
He's the best kind of back. The one that no one sees coming and no one game-plans for. But he's a tough instinctual runner with great vision and a good all around ability to contribute the offense. He's a Pierre Thomas clone, and that's exactly what Atlanta needs right now.
University of Tennessee
6'6" 377 pounds, projected 40 time: 5.35-5.40
2012: 12 Games Played, 39 Tackles, 5.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick
At this point in the draft, well-built teams look to themselves and say, "who is a good project to take?" Atlanta did it in the 2011 draft taking Cliff Matthews in the seventh, and he has already beaten out Ray Edwards and Lawrence Sidbury for the third spot in the defensive end rotation.
So why not take a shot on massive Daniel McCullers from Tennessee? He's got a humongous frame and is very quick too. Very few men who are 377 pounds can move faster than 6.00 seconds in the 40-yard dash let alone the projected 5.35 he is being projected at.
Add in his ability to stick his arms up and be almost 10 feet tall to throw over, and quarterbacks like Drew Brees will have trouble against Atlanta. Bringing him in would signify that the Falcons also want some more size on the defensive line. It would also be smart to bring McCullers as a nose tackle anchor for when Atlanta runs their three-man sets.
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Quarterback/Wide Receiver/Joker Tight End
Kansas State University
6'5" 225 pounds, projected 40 time: 4.65-4.70
2012: 12 Games Played, 180-of-272 (66.2 percent), 2495 Yards, 15 Touchdowns, 7 Interceptions, 194 Carries, 895 Yards, 22 Touchdowns
2011: 13 Games Played, 161-of-281 (57.3 percent), 1918 Yards, 13 Touchdowns, 6 Interceptions, 317 Carries, 1141 Yards, 27 Touchdowns
2010: 10 Games Played, 11-of-18 (61.1 percent), 138 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 76 Carries, 432 Yards, 6 Touchdowns
2009: 12 Games Played, 1-of-1 (100.0 percent), 27 Yards, 1 Carries, -8 Yards, 6 Catches, 38 Yards, 1 Touchdown
With Tony Gonzalez leaving, the Falcons not really having a good fifth option at wide receiver assuming the rest of this draft comes to fruition and Luke McCown not being a great backup, why not bring in a Heisman finalist like Collin Klein?
He could easily fill three roles on game day. The first is obviously what I like to call the Brian Finneran role. It's a special teams gunner, combined with a guy who plays randomly everywhere on offense on third downs.
When he's in, the ball will definitely come to him somehow, and he will almost always get the first down. Add in Klein's prowess at running the ball in short yardage situations, and he could end up being the short-yardage option in a Wildcat-style package.
Kansas State University
6'3" 237 pounds, projected 40 time: 4.50-4.55
2012: 12 Games Played, 18 Tackles, 4.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 1 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
2011: 4 Games Played, 1 Tackle
2010: Played at the JUCO level
2009: 4 Games Played, 13-of-37 (35.1 percent), 229 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 3 Interceptions, 11 Carries, 35 Yards
Yes, Justin Tuggle. As in Jessie Tuggle's son. It's not a popular name around draft circles right now, but his all-around physical talents and athleticism combined with his ability to rush the passer from the linebacker spot makes him a good value here.
Add in that his father is a legendary Falcon, and he plays the same position as his father, and little Tuggle could end up being a true steal. How many 6'3" 237-pound linebackers run a 4.50, can blitz off the edge and know how to read running plays well?
Not many. His biggest improvements would need to come in coverage. However, with his size and speed, he could end up giving the Falcons someone who would be able to cover the Jimmy Grahams of the world. That alone would make him worth the pick.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.