2014 Atlanta Falcons Draft: Projecting Picks After the Green Bay Loss
The Atlanta Falcons losing closely to Green Bay was not welcome by the team, but it may be the best thing for Atlanta in the long run because it gives them a higher draft pick. The Falcons can use the higher pick to get the best talent on the field for the 2014 season.
Atlanta has had multiple close games in 2013 that make it seem like they need just one or two more explosive top talents to help bring them over the hump. And that's true, but the Falcons also have to shore up both the offensive line and pass rush, so those will be the focuses of the draft.
Round 1: DE Jadeveon Clowney, University of South Carolina
Junior, 6'6", 274 pounds
Despite battling injuries that should be healed by the time the 2014 season rolls around, Jadeveon Clowney has been criticized for a drop in production. Don't let that fool you. Clowney is still the prototype 4-3 coaches look for at defensive end.
He's one heck of a pass-rusher, but his real value comes in his versatility on the field and his ability to stuff the run. He's not just some one-trick pony. Clowney is a complete package on the edge. When he's compared to other defensive ends, names like Bruce Smith and Julius Peppers pop up.
Atlanta would be able to use him much like how Buffalo uses Mario Williams. They could have him as a defensive end on either side. Honestly, he would be able to line up anywhere in the front seven as a pass-rusher and cause havoc like he did in 2012.
It'd be a role that should make him happier than just lining up at right defensive end every play like he has in 2013. With a team like the Falcons, he should see quite a few less double teams as well. That alone should allow him to get back to his 2012 form.
Comrade Filter Fit
While there's rumors of his motor not being up to par and Clowney having red flags to explore, the Falcons will likely not take him off the board once they do their due diligence. Even a speeding ticket from December 9 won't take him off the board, as it hasn't taken other players off the board in the past.
Clowney is the kind of player who may come off poorly in the press, but when all is said and done, the Falcons should end up seeing his character similarly to Julio Jones' character.
2013: 10 Games Played, 35 Tackles, 10.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 8 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 2 Pass Deflections
2012: 12 Games Played, 54 Tackles, 23.5 Tackles for Loss, 13.0 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 3 Fumbles Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 2 Pass Deflections
2011: 13 Games Played, 36 Tackles, 12.0 Tackles for Loss, 8.0 Sacks, 6 QB Hurries, 5 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
Round 2: OL David Yankey, Stanford University
Junior (Redshirted), 6'5", 311 pounds
David Yankey is the type of player Atlanta needs on its offensive line. Not only can he play offensive guard, he can also play tackle. He can play the left side or the right, and he has a mean streak that the Falcons have been missing for a while.
With Lamar Holmes looking like a legitimate starter and if Sam Baker can return healthy, then the Falcons should be able to finish off their offensive line with Yankey. The starting Falcons offensive line would then project to be the following:
Left Tackle: Sam Baker (6'5", 301 pounds)
Left Guard: Justin Blalock (6'4", 326 pounds)
Center: Joe Hawley (6'3", 302 pounds)
Right Guard: David Yankey (6'5", 311 pounds)
Right Tackle: Lamar Holmes (6'6", 333 pounds)
They would then have reserves under contract of center/guard Peter Konz, guard Harland Gunn, guard/tackle Garrett Reynolds and tackles Terren Jones and Ryan Schraeder for both depth and competition. That's a much deeper, better offensive line by getting healthy and adding one talent.
Comrade Filter Fit
As a current Stanford team captain, it's tough to think that Yankey isn't going to fit into the Falcons, especially since they need someone with leadership on the line outside of Hawley. As a Centennial High School graduate, Yankey would also be coming home to Atlanta.
Add in the fact that he's never been in trouble off the field in any way, and Yankey will be a welcome addition for a Falcons team that needs a mean streak on the field while they maintain their image off of it.
2013: 12 Games Played at Left Guard
2012: 14 Games Started at Left Tackle
2011: 13 Games Started at Left Guard
2010: 2 Games Played before Redshirt Season
Round 3: OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Institute of Technology
Senior, 6'3", 242 pounds
Kroy Biermann may never be back to what he was in 2012 after an Achilles tendon injury, so the Falcons need to bring in someone who can play the same role as a hybrid linebacker and defensive end and do it well. That guy is Jeremiah Attaochu of local Georgia Tech.
This isn't a homer-style pick for the Falcons. This is a legitimate talent as a pass-rusher who is very similar to Biermann. Attaochu is a much more athletic version of Biermann, though. As you can see in the video above, he flies around the field.
His ability as a linebacker allows him to line up in either the 3-4 or 4-3 formation on the strong side. With his pass-rushing ability off the edge combined with the pick of Jadeveon Clowney earlier, the Falcons would have multiple pass-rushers they could rely on to generate pressure.
Comrade Filter Fit
As a senior team leader for the Yellow Jackets, Attaochu has shown that he's great to have in a locker room. The Falcons would love that he was a team captain in high school and that he hasn't been in any trouble off the field.
2013: 12 Games Played, 33 Tackles, 15.5 Tackles for Loss, 12.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 2 Pass Deflections
2012: 13 Games Played, 69 Tackles, 12.0 Tackles for Loss, 10.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
2011: 11 Games Played, 59 Tackles, 11.5 Tackles for Loss, 6.0 Sacks, 1 Interception, 2 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections
2010: 12 Games Played, 23 Tackles, 4.0 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry
Round 4: NT Ryan Carrethers, Arkansas State University
Senior (Redshirt), 6'2", 310 pounds
Atlanta needs a great athlete at nose tackle. That isn't to say Corey Peters isn't doing a great job there, but he's better suited to play the 3-technique under tackle role than the 1-technique spot. The Falcons would be wise to bring in a guy who can be that big body in the middle and help the run defense.
In Ryan Carrethers, they get someone who is just an athletic freak. As a former state champion wrestler, the Falcons would be bringing in a defensive tackle who understands concepts like leverage and proper hand usage while engaged.
Carrethers could be the guy Atlanta needs. He is good as both a run defender and a pass-rusher who can help collapse the pocket in the A-gap. With Carrethers and Peters taking on double teams on the inside, Paul Worrilow could be even more effective as a middle linebacker.
Comrade Filter Fit
He's a gym rat who has no off-field issues and is known as a team player. As a defensive tackle, he's not going to be a glamour player. He flies under the radar and seemingly embraces his role as the gritty man in the middle. Comrade will fall in love with his intangibles just as much as his on-field play.
2013: 12 Games Played, 87 Tackles, 8.0 Tackles for Loss, 4.0 Sacks, 3 QB Hurries, 1 Blocked Kicks, 1 Carry, 1 Yard, 1 Touchdown
2012: 13 Games Played, 68 Tackles, 3.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sacks
2011: 13 Games Played, 29 Tackles, 3.0 Tackles for Loss, 1.5 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry
2010: 10 Games Played, 6 Tackles
Round 5: WR/RB/RS Dri Archer, Kent State University
Senior (Redshirt), 5'8", 175 pounds
The Falcons are missing explosion from the offense without Julio Jones in it, so they need to find a way to add an explosive element to the offense while also upgrading their kick and punt returning. Dri Archer is that guy and more.
He's got all the explosive potential that Darren Sproles can bring to an offense as a rusher or receiver who could take the ball to the house at any time; however, he's also got 4.3 speed and has two things that just can't be taught—balance and vision.
To have him play running back or line up in the slot next to Jones would cause defenses to have to worry about two explosive options. A team like the Falcons could be the perfect place for Archer to start his career and develop into that Sproles-esque every down back.
Comrade Filter Fit
Archer's only real issue off the field came by the way of academics. Apparently, it was because a course he had to re-take didn't count, so he had to sit the season out; however, outside of that, he's a team-oriented player who doesn't create trouble off the field. Also, the NFL has no academics to worry about.
2013: 10 Games Played, 25 Catches, 327 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 68 Carries, 527 Yards, 6 Touchdowns, 2 Kick Returns, 128 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 2 Tackles
2012: 14 Games Played, 39 Catches, 561 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 159 Carries, 1,429 Yards, 16 Touchdowns, 1 Punt Returns, -4 Yards, 17 Kick Returns, 591 Yards, 3 Touchdowns, 1-of-1 passing, 24 yards, 1 Touchdown
2011: Redshirted due to an academic eligibility issue
2010: 12 Games Played, 16 Catches, 75 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 40 Carries, 140 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 5 Punt Returns, 12 Yards, 22 Kick Returns, 451 Yards
2009: 11 Games Played, 19 Catches, 231 Yards, 3 Touchdowns, 58 Carries, 246 Yards, 1 Touchdowns, 11 Kick Returns, 266 Yards, 1 Tackle
Round 6: QB Aaron Murray, University of Georgia
Senior (Redshirt), 6'1", 208 pounds
A quarterback? Why in the world do the Falcons need to take a quarterback? Well, it's pretty simple. Sean Renfree isn't very good and Dominique Davis played poorly in his limited action against the Buccaneers, so the Falcons need a legitimately talented quarterback behind Matt Ryan.
In Aaron Murray, the Falcons would have that. While he's not really the kind of guy who will make a great long-term starter in the NFL, Murray has a moxie to him that makes teammates want to rally behind him.
He also has an excellent arm and has Tony Romo-level potential long term. While he was never the second- or third-round pick that he was touted as, he certainly isn't a sixth-round guy now. The only reason why he could fall is the ACL injury that he suffered versus Kentucky.
Comrade Filter Fit
A fifth-year senior captain of his SEC team at quarterback is pretty much the exact guy Comrade looks for off the field. Add in that he's a charitable man as well—as seen by his 2012 AFCA Good Works team addition—and the Falcons have the exact guy owner Arthur Blank wants in red and black.
2013: 11 Games Played, 225-of-347 (64.8 percent), 3,075 Yards, 26 Touchdowns, 9 Interceptions, 53 Carries, 186 Yards, 7 Touchdowns
2012: 14 Games Played, 249-of-386 (64.5 percent), 3,893 Yards, 36 Touchdowns, 10 Interceptions, 59 Carries, -68 Yards, 3 Touchdowns
2011: 14 Games Played, 238-of-403 (59.1 percent), 3,149 Yards, 35 Touchdowns, 14 Interceptions, 87 Carries, 111 Yards, 2 Touchdowns, 1 Catches, -3 Yards
2010: 13 Games Played, 209-of-342 (61.1 percent), 3,049 Yards, 24 Touchdowns, 8 Interceptions, 87 Carries, 167 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
Round 7: TE Jacob Pedersen, University of Wisconsin
Senior (Redshirt), 6'4", 241 pounds
Tony Gonzalez is gone after the 2013 season. They did take Levine Toilolo to be his heir apparent and still have the ability to bring back Chase Coffman as a free agent, but adding competition in the form of Jacob Pedersen would be wise for the Falcons.
Pedersen could stand to gain five to 10 pounds, but his overall talent is exactly what Atlanta needs from its second- or third-string tight end. He's a great run blocker from a Wisconsin system that has him perform the task often.
He's also, however, a talented pass-catcher and understands how to find the holes in underneath zones. His limitations are that he isn't the most athletically gifted player in the draft at the position, but that shouldn't stop the Wisconsin tight end from making an impact in the pros.
Comrade Filter Fit
Pedersen has never been arrested or suspended, making him clean off the field. In the locker room, he may not have been a captain for the Badgers, but he was a captain on his high school team. Pedersen fits the great locker room, senior leader-type for which Comrade looks.
2013: 11 Games Played, 36 Catches, 501 Yards, 3 Touchdowns
2012: 14 Games Played, 27 Catches, 355 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 1 Carry, 10 Yards, 1 Tackle
2011: 14 Games Played, 30 Catches, 356 Yards, 8 Touchdowns, 1 Kick Returns, 0 Yards, 2 Tackles
2010: 13 Games Played, 8 Catches, 132 Yards, 2 Touchdowns, 15 Tackles
Priority Undrafted Free Agent: DL/LB Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest University
Senior (Redshirt), 5'11", 250 pounds
Atlanta needs someone who can provide pass rush from the rotation. They need someone who can play in the Amoeba and contribute in whatever way the coaches ask. Most of all, they need someone who can allow Mike Nolan to run the multiple-front scheme exactly how he wants.
Whitlock can do exactly that. He can line up at inside at linebacker in the 3-4 and then drop his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 1-technique at the last second. He can line up at the 3-technique as a defensive tackle, then slide over to the 5-technique as an end.
He allows more disguise than the average current defender does because of how versatile he is, but it's not just his versatility that's great. He can rush the passer from anywhere and would be a great third-down option for the Falcons on defense.
Comrade Filter Fit
The Falcons want a guy who will be like Paul Worrilow every year and rise from undrafted free agent to starting-caliber. Much like Worrilow, Whitlock wasn't a 5-star recruit. Whitlock also shares Worrilow's lunchpail-style personality. That's the kind of character Comrade wants.
2013: 12 Games Played, 82 Tackles, 18.0 Tackles for Loss, 9.0 Sacks, 7 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 3 Pass Deflections, 2 Blocked Kicks, 1 Punt Return, 25 Yards
2012: 10 Games Played, 51 Tackles, 5.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries
2011: 13 Games Played, 64 Tackles, 14.0 Tackles for Loss, 3.5 Sacks, 3 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
2010: 12 Games Played, 44 Tackles, 10.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 3 Pass Deflections
Scott Carasik is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.