Who Are the Experts Predicting to Atlanta in the First Round of the NFL Draft?

Al BruceContributor IMarch 29, 2013

Who Are the Experts Predicting to Atlanta in the First Round of the NFL Draft?

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    We're less than a month away from the start of the 2013 NFL draft and as usual, we're no closer to an agreement as to who the Atlanta Falcons (or any team for that matter) should take with their first-round selection.

    The Falcons' draft needs may have been easy to project before they convinced Tony Gonzalez to return for another season and brought in Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora, but those moves have made Atlanta's draft forecast a bit more interesting.

    Will Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff go defense with his first pick in April, or will he go all-in on offense and add another weapon for Matt Ryan?

    Join me as I take a look around the web to see what draft experts are predicting for Atlanta and give my take on each prospect who's being linked to the Falcons

    Note: Expert mocks denoted with an asterisk (*) were completed after the signing of Osi Umenyiora.

Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE Florida State

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    Experts Mocking Him to Atlanta in Round 1:

    Todd McShay, ESPN* (Insider subscription required); Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

    First off, I agree with the notion that the Falcons still need to take a pass-rusher with one of their first three picks of the draft—despite Osi Umenyiora's arrival.

    Carradine tore his ACL against Florida in November, but he is still expected to come off of the board in the first or second round of the draft.  I think he could be a real impact player once he fully recovers from his injury.

    I like that he plays with a low pad level and has displayed the ability to get to the quarterback as a speed-rusher and bull-rusher. 

    I've also seen him show good awareness against the run on misdirection plays, and that trait could resonate with a team like the Falcons that's concerned about defending the read-option.

Bjoern Werner, DE Florida State

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    Experts Mocking Him to Atlanta in Round 1:

    Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN (Insider subscription required)

    Although Werner's stock seems to have dropped due to concerns about his athleticism, I think he'd benefit from landing with a contending team like the Falcons since Atlanta wouldn't be relying on him to generate all of the pass rush.

    Two traits really stand out to me about Werner:  His persistence as a pass-rusher, and his ability to play parallel to the line of scrimmage to prevent cutbacks when teams run away from his side.

Desmond Trufant, CB Washington

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    Experts Mocking Him to Atlanta in Round 1:

    Don Banks, CNNSI, WalterFootball.com, Charley Casserly, NFL.com, Nate Davis, USA Today and D. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Desmond Trufant has been gaining a lot of steam as a potential pick since it appears that Brent Grimes won't be back in Atlanta. 

    I like that Trufant has played a lot of football in college (35 starts), and that he played against a variety of offenses in the Pac-12. 

    I believe that experience will serve him well at the next level because young cornerbacks have to be confident if they're going to succeed and experience tends to help breed confidence.

    Interestingly enough, the main thing that impressed me on film about Trufant was his willingness to come up and make tackles in run support. He doesn't just dive at guys, he actually hits, wraps up and brings opponents to the ground like a strong safety. 

    Trufant's tackling skills should keep NFL receivers from getting a lot of extra yards after the catch, even if they do manage to get free against his coverage.

Tyler Eifert, TE Notre Dame

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    Experts Mocking Him to Atlanta in Round 1:

    Rob Rang, CBSSports.com, Gil Brandt, NFL.com

    I get the reasoning behind why some fans still want the Falcons to go with a tight end in the first-round despite Tony Gonzalez's return to the lineup. After all, why should Atlanta take the fourth or fifth best defensive end or third best cornerback when they could draft the best tight end?

    The idea of lining up in a two tight end formation with Tony Gonzalez and Tyler Eifert intrigues me since Steven Jackson is very comfortable operating out of a single-back set.

    I'm just not sure spending their first pick on a tight end for that purpose is something that the Falcons' braintrust is intent on doing.

    However, if Atlanta did opt for a tight end, I'm very high on Eifert and wouldn't be shocked if he didn't make it to the 30th pick anyway.

    He has soft hands, runs well and he wins when going up for jump balls in traffic.

Zach Ertz, TE Stanford

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    Experts Mocking Him to Atlanta in Round 1:

    Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com, Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com

    I haven't been as high on Ertz as I've been on Eifert mainly because Eifert looks more athletic on film even though he and Ertz put up comparable numbers at the combine.

    It's also been documented that Ertz had some issues with drops at Stanford, and he doesn't come down with as many contested receptions as Eifert.

    If Atlanta goes tight end in Round 1 I'd prefer Tyler Eifert over Zach Ertz.

Alex Okafor, DE Texas

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    Experts Mocking Him to Atlanta in Round 1:

    Pat Kirwan, CBSSports.com

    I don't know if Alex Okafor is the kind of explosive athlete that GM Thomas Dimitroff has preferred to draft lately (see Julio Jones and Sean Weatherspoon). He plays a little high and appears to be a bit stiff on film.

    Despite that, if you look at what he did against Oregon State in the Holiday Bowl (4.5 sacks), you will understand why Okafor is projected by some scouts to go in the early rounds of the draft. 

    However, without the speed and explosiveness, I'm not convinced that Okafor brings anything to the table that Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi and Cliff Matthews don't have.

Jamar Taylor, CB Boise State

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    Experts Mocking Him to Atlanta in Round 1:

    Russ Lande, National Football Post, Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com

    Taylor played a lot of press coverage at Boise, so I question whether or not he fits in Atlanta schematically since the Falcons don't press a lot.

    Like Desmond Trufant, Taylor isn't shy about sticking his nose into the mix in run support. 

    Taylor also ran well at the combine and demonstrated that he knows how to react to the ball in the air during his time with the Broncos.

    However, I just don't know that his style fits the mold at corner in Atlanta (see Asante Samuel, Brent Grimes and Chris Owens).

Trade Down

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    Peter Schrager of Foxsports.com projects that the Falcons will trade down with the New York Jets in his latest mock—allowing the Jets to take Florida State QB E.J. Manuel with the 30th pick of the first round.

    A team has traded back into the first-round in each of the last three drafts (Detroit in 2010, New Orleans in 2011 and Tampa Bay in 2012) and with so many quarterback needy teams being wary of spending a high pick on a signal-caller in this year's class I wouldn't be shocked to see a trade like this happening.

    Even though Atlanta currently has 11 picks in this draft, we all know that GM Thomas Dimitroff isn't afraid to move around on draft day. 

    This is something to really keep an eye on depending on how the picks ahead of Atlanta play out in April.

Who Do You Want the Falcons To Draft In the First Round?

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    Now it's your turn. Which way do you want the Falcons to go?