Atlanta enters the draft with perceived needs at cornerback, defensive end, outside linebacker and tight end.
Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes, Washington CB Desmond Trufant, Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree and Stanford tight end Zach Ertz are rumored (via D. Orlando Ledbetter of ajc.com) to be at the top of Atlanta's draft board, but each of them could be gone by the time Roger Goodell puts the Falcons on the clock at the back end of the first round.
Which position will the Falcons choose to address first? How might a first-round trade scenario involving one of these players impact Atlanta's draft?
This mock will examine the implications of one possible trade scenario that could play out Thursday night if the Falcons decide to target Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree in the first round.
Here are three things that would need to happen before a deal between Atlanta and Chicago is discussed:
- Alec Ogletree has to make it past the St. Louis Rams at No. 16, and the New York Giants at No. 19.
- Chicago must decide to spend its first-round pick on tight end Zach Ertz instead of drafting a defensive player like Ogletree. Once that decision is made, the Bears could be inclined to trade down and pick up a couple of draft picks since 20 may be a little high for Ertz. (Remember, Chicago doesn't have a third-round pick this year because of the Brandon Marshall trade).
- Atlanta must elect to target Alec Ogletree in the first round rather than drafting a cornerback or waiting for Ertz at pick 30.
Here's a proposed trade that Thomas Dimitroff and Bears general manager Phil Emery could hammer out on draft night. You can check out the values of the picks involved in the proposed deal on this trade value chart; of course NFL general managers ultimately make their own subjective decisions, regardless of what any chart says.
First Round, No. 20 (CHI)
Fourth Round, No. 117 (CHI)
Sixth Round, No. 188 (CHI, Swap)
First Round, No. 30 (ATL)
Second Round, No. 60 (ATL)
Sixth Round, No. 198 (ATL, Swap)
Seventh Round, No. 236 (ATL)
After the trade, the Falcons hurry to podium to select their target, Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree.
Ogletree's selection wouldn't necessarily be an indictment of Stephen Nicholas' performance in the NFC Championship Game. But it the Falcons way of acknowledging that they need to move on from Stephen Nicholas in the same way they needed to move on from Michael Jenkins after the 2010 season. That realization led Atlanta to aggressively pursue Jenkins' replacement, Julio Jones.
Ogletree has a much higher ceiling than Nicholas ever did, and Atlanta could believe that pairing his playmaking ability with Sean Weatherspoon is what its defense needs to compete with the top-tier offenses that the Falcons are going to face in the NFC.
Moreover, Falcon fans shouldn't forget that teams often draft for their divisions. The Falcons have to face Jimmy Graham twice a year, and Ogletree is the only linebacker in this class who may be athletic enough to cover Graham in man coverage.
Yes, Alec Ogletree has had some off-field issues, but before you conclude that Ogletree's indiscretions should discourage the Falcons from drafting him, consider what Thomas Dimitroff said during his pre-draft press conference.
Would the Falcons be more lenient toward any character issues linked to Ogletree because of the talent he brings to the linebacker position?
In this scenario, the answer is yes.
After sending their second-round pick to the Bears to move up for Ogletree, the Falcons address their need at cornerback by snatching San Diego State's Leon McFadden off of the board.
A team captain and three-year starter at San Diego State, McFadden's fluid hips, quick feet and ball skills should get him on the field early in the NFL.
The big knock on McFadden is his size (5'10", 193 lbs.), but that's unlikely to discourage the Falcons after the success that the similarly proportioned Brent Grimes enjoyed during his time in Atlanta.
Atlanta doubles down at the cornerback position in the fourth round with the pick it obtained from Chicago in the trade.
Darius Slay has some impressive physical tools, but he could slip on draft day in favor of other corners because the junior college transfer had only one season as a full-time starter at Mississippi State.
Thomas Dimitroff's draft history suggests that he likes to use Rounds 3-5 to acquire players who need to backup for a year or two before competing for starting positions (see Lamar Holmes, Akeem Dent, Joe Hawley, Mike Johnson, Dominique Franks, Lawrence Sidbury and Chris Owens), and Slay fits that mold here in Round 4 in this scenario.
The Falcons use the second of their three fourth-round picks to acquire a tight end that they've spent been connected to during the pre-draft process.
Like Leon McFadden, Otten lettered three years at San Jose State and was a team captain in his senior season.
Otten does a nice job of attacking the seam whether he's lined up on the line of scrimmage or split out wide like a receiver.
Even though he's a little light (6'5", 240 lbs.), Otten is also a willing blocker.
Atlanta finishes the fourth round by adding defensive end Malliciah Goodman from Clemson.
Goodman put on quite show against LSU in the Peach Bowl, but he never received as much hype as Da'Quan Bowers or Andre Branch at Clemson because of his inconsistency.
Nevertheless, Goodman provides good value at this point in the draft, and he could become part of Atlanta's defensive end rotation in his rookie season because of his size (6'4", 275 lbs.) and aggressive, physical style of play.
Atlanta opts to add some depth to its wide receiving corps in the fifth round with Aaron Dobson out of Marshall.
Dobson would add some much-needed size and speed to Atlanta's receiver group behind Roddy White and Julio Jones, and his ability to excel in the screen game could further help the evolution of the Falcons offense under coordinator Dirk Koetter.
Like Ryan Otten, Dobson isn't afraid to block downfield in the running game.
Every year it seems like Thomas Dimitroff is good for a pick that makes you ask yourself, "Who is that and why did he take him there?"
Consider Robert James in 2008, William Middleton in 2009, Corey Peters in 2010 (more so "why there?" than "who is he?" in Peters' case) and Lamar Holmes in 2012.
That's where Dewayne Cherrington comes into the picture in this scenario. You won't find Cherrington in your favorite NFL draft prospect classifieds, but he's had pre-draft contact with the Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.
Like Darius Slay, the 6'3", 335-pound Cherrington came to Mississippi State from junior college, so scouts didn't get a ton of film of him playing against SEC competition.
Still, Cherrington flashed enough talent in limited playing time to merit consideration as a space-eating nose tackle prospect at this point in the draft.
The Falcons use the first of their three compensatory seventh round picks to bolster their depth on the interior of the offensive line.
Johnson is a veteran SEC performer, and at 6'4", 310 pounds, he has NFL size.
Like Vance Walker in 2009, Johnson is a high-floor choice in Round 7 who could prove to be a reliable backup for the Falcons.
The Falcons use back-to-back picks on offensive linemen in this case and select SWAC product Jamaal Johnson-Webb with their second compensatory pick in Round 7.
An Atlanta native, Johnson-Webb played guard and tackle during his college career for Alabama A&M.
His size (6'5", 315 lbs.) and lateral quickness make him a viable option as a late-round developmental prospect for Atlanta.
Atlanta closes out its draft by adding a safety on the last day of the draft for the second year in a row.
Rashard Hall is a three-year letterman and team co-captain.
Hall will probably be a Day 3 selection because he doesn't have elite speed, but he was productive during his career at Clemson, and he could be a nice asset for Atlanta's special teams unit.