Atlanta needs talent. They need it infused into the core of the team on the lines. They need bigger, stronger, better players to create an ideal team that will actually be able to win a potential NFL championship. In order to do that, the Falcons need to have the ideal draft this offseason.
We'll be basing this off of Matt Miller's latest 7-round mock draft located here. We'll take a look at each one of his picks and adjust them with the ideal Falcons pick. Let's see just how the Falcons could be improved with this ideal mock draft.
Matt Miller's Pick: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
While Matt's pick of Matthews makes a ton of sense, it's tough to fathom the Falcons going with the lesser talented player at offensive tackle with a once in a decade talent there at defensive end in Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney may not have had a greatly productive junior year, but he was schemed against.
Because he's not a leader, the Falcons would have to make sure he has someone to guide him. However, with Osi Umenyiora, Kroy Biermann, Jonathan Massaquoi and Malliciah Goodman all coming from backgrounds as captains, Clowney should have the right kinds of mentors around him.
Add in excellent coaches in Bryan Cox—who will hold him to a higher standard than he has been held at—and Mike Nolan—who will scheme for his best talents, and Clowney would be in the perfect place to succeed. Nolan would gladly use Clowney similar to how Lorenzo Ward used him in 2011 and 2012.
By aligning him at defensive end, stand-up outside linebacker, inside linebacker and even defensive tackle, the Falcons will not just keep Clowney moving; they will keep him attacking quarterbacks and running backs in the backfield. With moving parts like Biermann, Clowney, Massaquoi and Osi, Atlanta could finally have the edge rush it has needed for the past few seasons.
2013: 11 Games Played, 40 Tackles, 11.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks, 9 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 4 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
Matt Miller's Pick: DE Michael Sam, Missouri
While Matt's pick of Sam makes a good bit of sense, it only makes sense if the Falcons don't take Clowney in the first. Honestly, the Falcons' biggest hole on the offensive line is at right guard, not offensive tackle. Sam Baker should be coming back from injury and a free agent to compete with him makes more sense.
So when looking at the best fits for a right guard, it makes sense to look at Senior Bowl prospects Zack Martin and Cyril Richardson. Richardson has better size and strength and would be more likely to be the pick than Martin in this situation.
New offensive line coach Mike Tice will fall in love with his aggression and powerful punch. But Matt Ryan will enjoy having a pocket to step up into for the first time since 2010. Richardson has the ability to maintain the depth of the pocket, and, combined with Justin Blalock, interior pass rush should be neutralized.
2013: 13 Games Played at Left Guard, 13 Games Started at Left Guard
2012: 13 Games Played at Left Guard, 12 Games Started at Left Guard
2011: 13 Games Played at Left Tackle, 13 Games Started at Left Tackle
2010: 12 Games Played at Guard and Tackle, 4 Games Started at Guard
Matt Miller's Pick: TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
Fiedorowicz would be a good pick for the Falcons if they hadn't selected Levine Toilolo and the value matched up to take him this early. However, Atlanta needs some more push in the middle of its defense. Re-signing Corey Peters is the ideal first move for defensive tackle, but they need a true pass-rusher inside.
That guy is Kelcy Quarles. While most of his sacks in 2013 could be attributed as "Clowney cleanup," the Falcons would replicate the situation he had in college. The only difference is that Peters blows away J.T. Surratt on a talent level and Massaquoi and Goodman have shown legitimate promise where Chaz Sutton didn't.
On top of that, Quarles was a captain for the Gamecocks and would be a welcome addition based on the Comrade Filter. Quarles primarily played 1-technique nose tackle in Columbia, but in Atlanta, he'd be asked to play both under tackle (3-technique) and nose.
2013: 12 Games Played, 39 Tackles, 13.5 Tackles for Loss, 9.5 Sacks, 3 QB Hurries, 1 Pass Deflection
2012: 11 Games Played, 38 Tackles, 8.0 Tackles for Loss, 3.5 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry
2011: 12 Games Played, 28 Tackles, 2.0 Tackles for Loss, 4 QB Hurries
Matt Miller's Pick: RB Marion Grice, Arizona State
Matt's pick at running back is unique, but unneeded at this point. Atlanta needs to continue to build their defensive front seven and offensive line. The best fit for the Falcons front seven would be Carl Bradford. He's a tremendous pass-rusher standing up or with his hand in the dirt.
If he wasn't undersized, he'd go a lot higher. He's also very solid in coverage and has shown that he can contribute on special teams. When it comes to the Falcons looking for a guy on and off the field, Bradford could be another fiery leader to add to the locker room.
Atlanta would have a ton of fun using him in a similar role to what Kroy Biermann played in 2012. The fact that he can float around the Amoeba alignment and either blitz or drop deep will make Mike Nolan love him. And with his ability to put his hand in the dirt, he could even provide more versatility in the pass rush.
2013: 14 Games Played, 61 Tackles, 19.0 Tackles for Loss, 8.5 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 1 Interceptions, 3 Fumbles Forced, 4 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown, 1 Carry, 20 Yards
2012: 13 Games Played, 80 Tackles, 21.5 Tackles for Loss, 11.5 Sacks, 1 QB Hurry, 1 Interception, 3 Fumbles Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 4 Pass Deflections
2011: 12 Games Played, 12 Tackles, 3.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.5 Sacks
Matt Miller's Pick: OG Jon Halapio, Florida
While the pick of Halapio would be good for depth, the Falcons would have already addressed guard earlier in the draft. Going with a tackle here makes a bit more sense and with Tennessee's talented and experienced Ja'Wuan James available, he's the perfect pick.
James may not be the starter right away, but he has long-term potential to be that starter at either tackle spot. In his rookie season, he should at least be in the competition at tackle with Sam Baker, Lamar Holmes, Ryan Schraeder and Terren Jones.
Scheme-wise, the Falcons are looking at someone who would fit perfectly here. James is a nasty, mauling type that will fit into the new attitude that Mike Tice wants on the line. His versatility should allow him to at least claim a roster spot and role as an extra lineman in short yardage sets.
2013: 12 Games Played at Right Tackle, 12 Games Started at Right Tackle
2012: 12 Games Played at Right Tackle, 12 Games Started at Right Tackle
2011: 12 Games Played at Right Tackle, 12 Games Started at Right Tackle
2010: 13 Games Played at Right Tackle, 13 Games Started at Right Tackle
Matt Miller's Pick: OLB Christian Kirksey, Iowa
This is another situation where the Falcons would have already addressed this spot in the ideal situation. So instead, they have to look at a spot that isn't a major need but does need some better depth. That spot is wide receiver.
The kind of wide receiver they need is someone who can play an explosive role in the offense while also being able to run the same underneath routes that Roddy White does. That guy is Jeremy Gallon. Gallon is very similar to Steve Smith in build, speed and overall style.
He may be a diminutive receiver, but he's also someone who can easily go over the middle. On top of that, he has a tough mentality about him that makes him an ideal upgrade on special teams over the current Falcons reserves, who have proven to be nothing but special teams players.
2013: 13 Games Played, 89 Catches, 1,373 Yards, 9 Touchdowns, 3 Carries, 4 Yards, 7 Punt Returns, 32 Yards, 0-of-1 Passing, 3 Tackles
2012: 13 Games Played, 49 Catches, 829 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 11 Carries, 67 Yards, 12 Punt Returns, 66 Yards, 2 Kick Returns, 23 Yards, 3 Tackles
2011: 13 Games Played, 31 Catches, 453 Yards, 3 Touchdowns, 3 Carries, 26 Yards, 19 Punt Returns, 192 Yards, 3 Kick Returns, 46 Yards, 2 Tackles
2010: 12 Games Played, 4 Catches, 49 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 10 Punt Returns, 43 Yards, 27 Kick Returns, 589 Yards
Matt Miller's Pick: WR Tevin Reese, Baylor
And here we go again. Another situation where the ideal has already addressed the need that Matt's pick addresses. It's not that Matt has made bad picks. It's that I was attempting to show a new scenario that would have been different from his.
In this ideal scenario, Jacob Pedersen would be selected as a tight end who could also line up as a fullback and slot receiver in addition to playing an in-line role on either side. He's shown to be a talented underneath option and could end up as a good red-zone option as well.
He'll start out as a special teams player and reserve, but he could eventually end up as the starter. The only reason why he should fall this far is the deep group of tight ends that have been supplemented by the large amount of underclassmen.
2013: 12 Games Played, 39 Catches, 551 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, 2 Tackles
2010: 13 Games Played, 8 Catches, 132 Yards, 2 Touchdowns, 15 Tackles
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.