Atlanta Falcons' Initial 2014 Round-by-Round Draft Big Board
The Atlanta Falcons need to focus on a best-player-available-by-positions-of-need big-board philosophy for the 2014 NFL draft. By doing that, they can get the best prospects possible to help a team that needs both depth and starting talent.
For each pick, we'll create a top-five big board so that we can get an idea of what the Falcons' draft board could potentially look like. Follow along as we go over the potential picks for each round.
1. DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Clowney is a true freak athlete and would be a dynamic addition to the Falcons defense. He would allow even more versatility in the Falcons' defensive scheme than they currently have. With Bryan Cox at defensive line coach, there should be no worry about his motor, either.
2. OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
If Clowney isn't there, that's where things get interesting. Adding an offensive tackle of Jake Matthew's caliber and ability would be wise. He could start on either side of the line and improve the overall line as a whole by allowing Lamar Holmes to slide over to the right side.
3. OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Atlanta needs a mauler at offensive tackle if they can't bring in either Matthews or Clowney. So in that respect, they need to look at a potential Walter Jones- or Orlando Pace-level talent in Robinson. He's got great athleticism and is a tremendous run blocker. However, he needs to refine his pass blocking.
4. DE/OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Mack or Barr will be a question even if Robinson is on the board. Mack is the safer of the two prospects, as he has much more definition to his game. He's instinctual and understands how to use his hands when shedding blocks and directing traffic.
5. DE/OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Barr is potentially the best athlete in the class at edge-rusher not named Clowney. He's very raw, though, as he hasn't played on defense but for two seasons. His experience in offenses have helped his rapid development, but he still needs a lot of coaching. Even raw, he should contribute early in his career.
1. OL Zack Martin, Notre Dame
Martin would be a day one starter for the Falcons. The question is where along the line that would be. He could legitimately project to either guard or tackle spot. He may even have a future at center. However, his long-term fit for the Falcons looks to be at their weakest spot at right guard.
2. DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
When the Falcons passed on Geno Atkins in 2010, the fans almost had a complete revolt. The Falcons can make up for it here with Donald. He's a bit undersized, but he could easily add another 15-20 pounds to his frame to become a top-level 3-technique defensive tackle.
3. DE/OLB Trent Murphy, Stanford
Atlanta needs a great edge-rusher, and Murphy could be a good fit for the Falcons scheme. They got a good look at him in the Senior Bowl, and if he falls to the second round, they could easily take the versatile edge-rusher.
4. OG David Yankey, Stanford
Speaking of right-guard need, the best guard in the draft for the Falcons usage is Yankey. He's a graduate of Centennial High School in Alpharetta and would be the big upgrade Atlanta has needed at right guard for years. He's the perfect Mike Tice offensive lineman with his combination of toughness and technique.
5. OG Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
Su'a-Filo is another choir boy for a team full of them. However, when he straps on his helmet and pads, the UCLA product becomes a different, angry person. His nastiness on the line next to either Joe Hawley or Peter Konz would be more than welcomed.
1. DT/DE Dominique Easley, Florida
Atlanta needs someone to play the role Jonathan Babineaux played in 2012 and 2013. Whether they bring back Babineaux or replace him with someone better will depend on how they think the draft will go. Easley would be an upgrade from what Babineaux was in 2013 and could be explosive on the interior.
2. DE/OLB Dee Ford, Auburn
If you want a dominant pass-rusher, Ford could be a true steal in the third round. While he's undersized at just 6'2", 240 pounds, he plays bigger and has the frame to add more weight. He can line up as a strong-side linebacker in base sets and could play well in the Kroy Biermann role.
3. DT DaQuan Jones, Penn State
Atlanta needs a bigger defensive tackle to team and rotate with Corey Peters in the middle. DaQuan Jones is a very talented interior defender who can play the 1-technique or the 3-technique for Mike Nolan. His wide body could help out quite a bit in the run game, and he understands how to collapse a pocket.
4. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Replacing Tony Gonzalez is going to be tough. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has all the skills to be a great tight end in the NFL. He's a great blocker, has a large body to box out defenders and enough speed to stretch the seam and extend the interior of the defenses more.
5. OG Jon Halapio, Florida
This could be a surprising pick, but Halapio is an excellent fit for the Falcons' new coaching staff. He's nasty as a run blocker and at least serviceable early as a pass blocker. His selection would signify an added emphasis on the run game and a return to a smashmouth-based running attack.
1. LB Telvin Smith, Florida State
While Smith's talent level suggests that he should go much higher, his lack of a position in the NFL will drive some teams crazy. That's where Mike Nolan would come in and say that this is the guy he wants. Smith could be the guy who finally starts covering tight ends all the time.
2. OT Seantrel Henderson, Miami
If there's a mid-round offensive tackle who could be taken because Mike Tice just really likes the guy, it's Henderson. He's a big-bodied player who is known for his powerful punch. However, he's very slow off the line and has a ton of technical work in his game that needs to happen before he starts.
3. NT Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
McCullers is a unique player because of just how massive he is. He's got some leverage issues in his game, but he could provide a big body in the middle the Falcons haven't had since Grady Jackson. He can take double-teams in the run game and has potential to collapse the pocket in the passing game.
4. S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
If Atlanta wants a poor man's version of the Honey Badger without off-field issues, they should look no further than Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner is an insane talent at safety who could even eventually start for the Falcons on the final level of the defense.
5. RB Marion Grice, Arizona State
Atlanta doesn't have a great stable of running backs after Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers. They could easily upgrade this spot with a draft pick. Grice is a great all-around running back who understands a lot of the simple intricacies of the position.
1. TE Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State
Gillmore is a tall, quick tight end who projects best as an in-line tight end. He would be a good complement to Levine Toilolo and Chase Coffman in the offense. His blocking is a work in progress, but he's willing and has shown improvement over the past two seasons.
2. OT Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
If Atlanta doesn't take a tackle until this point, it means that they have either re-signed Michael Johnson or signed someone along the lines of Eugene Monroe. Either way, depth is always good, and Mewhort can provide it at both tackle spots.
3. C Weston Richburg, Colorado State
Atlanta's center situation was laughable at times in 2013 with Konz playing there. Adding Richburg would be helpful if they decide to not re-sign Joe Hawley for 2014. Atlanta needs someone who can outperform Konz, and Richburg has the attitude and instinct Konz didn't bring to the table.
4. WR/RB/RS Dri Archer, Kent State
If Atlanta wants to get serious about fixing their returning game, they'll bring in Archer. He's got ridiculously good breakaway speed and vision that allows him to be a threat at more than just returner. He's got talent as a runner and receiver as well and should get a shot early to make an impact.
5. RB De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Thomas is Archer but slower. He's also got a bit more size than the Kent State product. The only reason why Thomas is projected this low at this point is because the combine hasn't happened yet. Once it does, don't be shocked to see both Archer and Thomas projected as second day prospects.
1. S Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama
Sunseri has first-round talent, but his injury history should cause him to fall. He's a prototype free safety at the NFL level and would be a great complement to William Moore. The Falcons could have an eventual starter in the former Alabama captain if they select him.
2. RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, Coastal Carolina
Despite being from a small school, Taliaferro is similar to Alfred Morris in his abilities, but he's much bigger and could project to fullback as well. If the Falcons select him, it's because they think he could provide Jason Snelling-type abilities in the offense.
3. DE Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M
If the Falcons don't take an end before this point, it is likely they try to bring in a talent who can develop into something great while providing some special teams ability. Westbrooks has a skill set similar to Greg Hardy, but he needs the right coaching and mentors to harness it.
4. LB Boseko Lokombo, Oregon
Atlanta needs a linebacker who can cover tight ends and provide special-teams abilities. Boseko Lokombo could possibly compete for long snapper on top of his natural abilities at linebacker. He's good in coverage and has a long-term role in the NFL.
5. CB Ross Cockrell, Duke
Cockrell didn't have a great year for the Blue Devils, but as a prospect has shown that he can be a good nickel competitor. Atlanta needs someone to challenge Dominique Franks, Robert Alford and other corners for the nickel role in the defense.
1. DL/LB Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest
Want a pass-rushing chess piece for Mike Nolan? Look no further than the highly athletic, albeit undersized, Whitlock. He can play defensive end, defensive tackle or even linebacker. His quickness, hand usage and intelligence will allow him to provide a legitimate impact at the next level.
2. TE Jacob Pederson, Wisconsin
Atlanta needs an H-back to complement their in-line talent in Levine Toilolo. Pederson is unique in that he can play that H-back role, but he can also line up as an in-line guy next to Toilolo or in Ace formations across from him. The versatility would be welcomed in the Falcons offense.
3. QB Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
While most expect Lynch to go higher, he hasn't shown anything at quarterback that breeds any confidence into a selection like that. Atlanta would be wise to take on the project and allow him the room to grow into a talented backup.
4. C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
Depth is what the seventh round is all about, and Gabe Ikard could start out as the backup center for a few years. He does have Todd McClure-level potential and could be a surprising long term starter for the Falcons if they don't re-sign Joe Hawley.
5. DE/OLB Tyler Starr, South Dakota
Another unique player who could be considered in the seventh round is a project from South Dakota in Tyler Starr. He's extremely athletic and has ridiculous size for it at 6'5", 250 pounds. He could end up as a defensive end, but his best fit might just be as a linebacker in the 3-4.
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.