Atlanta Falcons Big Board: Final Pre-Draft Update
If you remember the days of waking up and pouring a bowl of cereal to watch the first round of the NFL draft like a child preparing to watch Saturday morning cartoons, you may be a true "draftnik".
It's finally here. For those of us who follow the NFL draft closely, this weekend is better than the Super Bowl.
The Atlanta Falcons have 11 total picks in this year's draft, and Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff knows that his team is close to reaching its ultimate goal of bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Atlanta after coming up about 10 yards shy of a Super Bowl berth last year.
By now you're probably familiar with the Falcons' primary draft needs at cornerback, defensive end, linebacker, tight end and defensive tackle.
In addition to those areas, you can expect the Falcons to consider adding depth at running back, wide receiver and along the offensive line during the draft.
As we gear up for the first round of the draft tonight, let's take a look at how the Falcons' big board may look like inside of their war room at Flowery Branch.
After looking at the team's overall big board, we'll project the team's top five targets at cornerback, defensive end, linebacker, tight end and defensive tackle.
Overall Big Board
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1) Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
2) Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
3) Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE, Florida State
4) Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
5) Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
6) Desmond Trufant/Jamar Taylor, CB, Washington/Boise State
7) Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
8) Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
9) Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
10) Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
The Falcons may need a cornerback more than they need a pass-rushing defensive end since they were able to add Osi Umenyiora in free agency, but the draft is much deeper at cornerback than it is at defensive end. If the Falcons decide that they want a pass-rusher, they're probably going to have to target one in the first round.
That's why you would probably find pass-rushers at the top of Dimitroff's board at this point. The Falcons would have to make a Julio Jones-type trade to get Dion Jordan, but if Cornellius Carradine or Bjoern Werner slip into late teens/early 20s, you could see Atlanta make a move to get them.
The Falcons likely have Xavier Rhodes, Desmond Trufant and Jamar Taylor ranked very closely at cornerback, and I could see the team being elated to get anyone of them at or near the 30th pick.
Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree probably tops the team's board at linebacker because of his potential to be a three-down linebacker with Sean Weatherspoon.
If the Falcons pull a surprise and draft a defensive tackle in Round 1, look out for Sheldon Richardson and Datone Jones because both players are nice scheme fits.
Stanford tight end Zach Ertz likely sits atop the board if offense is the direction Atlanta chooses to go in Round 1 since Tyler Eifert will probably be off of the board by pick 30.
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1) Dee Milliner, Alabama
2) Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
3) Desmond Trufant/Jamar Taylor, Washington/Boise State
4) Leon McFadden, San Diego State
5) Darius Slay, Mississippi State
The Falcons must come away from this draft with a starting-caliber cornerback. Desmond Trufant, Jamar Taylor, Leon McFadden and Darius Slay have all had significant pre-draft contact with the Falcons.
If the Falcons decide to go cornerback in Round 1, Trufant and Taylor will most likely be available near the 30th pick. Both prospects have experience playing in man and zone schemes, and they each have the swagger that NFL cornerbacks need to succeed.
Leon McFadden and Darius Slay are good Round 2 prospects who share some of the same characteristics as Trufant and Taylor if Atlanta decides to go for a defensive end or linebacker in Round 1.
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1) Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, Florida State
2) Bjoern Werner, Florida State
3) Margus Hunt, Southern Methodist
4) Corey Lemonier, Auburn
5) Cornelius Washington, Georgia
The Falcons were one of 11 teams that reportedly sent representatives to see Carradine work out recently. Carradine, who would have probably been a top-10 selection this year if not for a torn ACL he suffered last season, is a powerful rusher who would fit nicely on Atlanta's left side opposite Osi Umenyiora.
Bjoern Werner's stock has fluctuated throughout the draft process, but there's little doubt that he knows how to get to the quarterback when you turn on his film.
Margus Hunt is a borderline first-round prospect, while Corey Lemonier and Cornelius Washington could both be candidates in Round 2 since they have had private workouts with the Falcons.
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1) Alec Ogletree, Georgia
2) Arthur Brown, Kansas State
3) Sean Porter, Texas A&M
4) Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
5) Zaviar Gooden, Missouri
You will likely find speedy, coverage linebackers atop the Falcons' board at linebacker because the team's need at the position stems from a desire to find someone who can be a consistent, three-down linebacker like Sean Weatherspoon.
Beyond that, the Falcons simply need depth at the position since they only carried five linebackers on their active roster for most of last season.
Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree is probably the most intriguing option because of his freakish athleticism, but he does have some off-field baggage that could be problematic for the Falcons.
Coverage/blitz savvy linebacker Sean Porter has worked out for the team and presents a solid alternative in the second or third round.
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1) Zach Ertz, Stanford
2) Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
3) Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
4) Ryan Otten, San Jose State
5) Levine Toilolo, Stanford
The Falcons have Tony Gonzalez back for another year, but they need to start grooming a replacement. Falcons beat writer D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution recently mocked Zach Ertz to Atlanta in the first round after revealing that the team liked what they saw out of the Stanford product during his workout.
The Falcons have also spent time with Gavin Escobar and Ryan Otten, both of whom could come off of the board on day two or three of the draft.
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1) Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
2) Datone Jones, DT/DE, UCLA
3) Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
4) T.J. Barnes, DT, Georgia Tech
5) Nick Williams, DT, Samford
The defensive tackle position could be a wild card for Atlanta in this draft. The Falcons lost Vance Walker in free agency, and Peria Jerry has continued to underachieve. Moreover, Jonathan Babineaux is on the other side of 30, and Corey Peters struggled with injuries last season.
Sheldon Richardson is a rare prospect because he is a true 3-technique tackle who would fit perfectly into Atlanta's base 4-3 set. If the Falcons truly want to improve the pass rush, Richardson could be in play because he impact the pocket from the middle of the defensive line.
Datone Jones is also a name to watch because of his versatility. He can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4, and his game is a lot like Jonathan Babineaux's. The Falcons were present at his UCLA pro day.
If the Falcons wait until the later rounds to address the defensive tackle position, they could opt to add a space-eating nose tackle like T.J. Barnes to anchor their hybrid 3-4 set.
Who Do You Think the Falcons Will Pick Tonight?
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Which direction do you think Atlanta will go with their first selection tonight?