10 Late-Round Sleepers Who Would Be Perfect for the Atlanta Falcons
In 2014, Atlanta needs to hit on more sleepers like Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu. If the Falcons want to return to prominence, they should take a look at guys who are perfect for their schemes and locker room attitude.
Quite a few prospects would fit. However, these 10 late-round sleepers really stand out for the Falcons. They all have the skills to provide what Atlanta has been missing. And they all have the leadership qualities that Atlanta values most in its players.
L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri, 6'4", 205 Pounds
Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and then no one. Atlanta needs a wideout who has the height, jumping ability and willingness to go up and get the ball. The Falcons could get that in Missouri's L'Damian Washington—a 6'4" receiver who can high point a ball better than most pass-catchers.
He is underrated at this point in the process but has shown against SEC competition that he belongs in the NFL. The biggest hole in his game is route running, but with Terry Robiskie as his coach and Roddy White as his mentor, he easily develop into a solid No. 2 long term.
2013: 14 games played, 50 catches, 893 yards, 10 touchdowns, six tackles
2012: 12 games played, 25 catches, 443 yards, two touchdowns, two tackles
2011: 13 games played, 20 catches, 364 yards, three touchdowns, three carries, five yards
2010: 12 games played, five catches, 35 yards, one tackle, one forced fumble
Kona Schwenke, DT, Notre Dame, 6'4", 303 Pounds
Kona Schwenke is unique in that he was a defensive end in the 3-4 and then moved inside to nose tackle when he was asked to. Even playing out of position, he showed some raw abilities that would be useful for Bryan Cox to mold into a decent NFL player.
He has a few similarities to Atlanta's Corey Peters in that he might project better to a 5-technique 3-4 defensive end. However, he can also play a 1-technique 4-3 nose tackle or a 3-technique and create pressure. He should be able to provide a Vance Walker-type impact for the Falcons if they get him late.
2013: 10 games played, 23 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, one QB hurry
2012: 11 games played, five tackles, one tackle for loss, 0.5 sacks
2011: Three games played
2010: Four games played, two tackles, one QB hurry
Brandon Thomas, OL, Clemson, 6'3", 315 Pounds
While at just 6'3" it's unlikely he will start at left tackle in the NFL, Brandon Thomas could break the mold. That or he will provide some talent on the inside of the offensive line at right guard—the Falcons' biggest hole in their offense since Harvey Dahl left after 2010.
Thomas has experience at both guard and tackle. He has most played at left tackle, though. The Falcons could use someone with his versatility for depth purposes. And if he shows that he can be the starter, his nastiness and agility will be welcome additions at right guard.
2013: 13 games started at left tackle
2012: 13 games started at left tackle
2011: 10 games started, 13 games played at both guard and tackle
2010: 10 games played at both guard and tackle
Christian Bryant, S, Ohio State, 5'10", 193 Pounds
Atlanta needs better depth at safety than what it had in Shann Schillinger, Zeke Motta and Kemal Ishmael. While they are talented special teams players, they are limited at safety. Christian Bryant can provide special teams depth, but at one time, he looked like a potential first-round safety.
He's intelligent in the secondary and understands how to read a quarterback's eyes to make a play on the ball. Due to an injury in his senior year and a deep mid-round group of safeties, he should likely fall to the middle to late rounds. Atlanta should pounce on him due to his potential.
2013: Five games played, 22 tackles, one interception, two pass deflections
2012: 12 games played, 70 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, one interception, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovered, 12 pass deflections, one kick return, 25 yards
2011: 12 games played, 70 tackles, one forced fumble, eight pass deflections
2010: Seven games played, one pass deflection
Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse, 6'0", 226 Pounds
For the last two years, Syracuse's running game has been led by a powerful running back who has a running style similar to the Falcons' Steven Jackson when he was younger. Jerome Smith would be a great fit for what the Falcons need in their running game.
While he isn't the receiver that Jacquizz Rodgers is, he has the potential to at least be what Jason Snelling has been in that aspect. On top of that, he'd provide the depth at running back and special teams that Josh Vaughan failed to provide in 2013.
2013: 13 games played, 200 carries, 914 yards, 12 touchdowns, eight catches, 74 yards, one touchdown
2012: 13 games played, 228 carries, 1,176 yards, three touchdowns, eight catches, 83 yards
2011: 12 games played, 37 carries, 134 yards, one touchdown, one catch, four yards
2010: Two games played, injury redshirt
Terrance Bullitt, LB, Texas Tech, 6'3", 220 Pounds
Atlanta needs someone who can actually cover a tight end. One of the best guys in the college ranks to do that has been Terrance Bullitt, a linebacker and former safety from Texas Tech.
He has seen a tremendous drop in his tackle production due to a role change in 2012; however, he excelled in the new role of covering tight ends with his safety-type athleticism and linebacker-esque size. The Falcons could instantly start him in a role where he focuses on tight end coverage and blitzes. He could be a more athletic, bigger version of what Joplo Bartu was in 2013.
2013: 12 games played, 37 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one QB hurry, nine pass deflections
2012: Nine games played, 19 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, three QB hurries, two pass deflections
2011: 12 games played, 56 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, one QB hurry, one forced fumble, four pass deflections, one blocked kick
2010: 11 games played, 23 tackles, two tackles for loss, one forced fumble, one pass deflection
Ted Bolser, TE, Indiana, 6'6", 252 Pounds
When it comes to replacing Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons will have to get creative. They won't be able to do it with one guy, so bringing in Ted Bolser to compete for the starting tight end role makes a ton of sense.
He has Gonzalez's size and agility and is sneaky fast. Since he was the third-best option in the passing game at Indiana, the Falcons would be a good fit because he won't be expected to be the top option in the offense.
2013: 12 games played, 35 catches, 320 yards, six touchdowns, five tackles
2012: 12 games played, 41 catches, 445 yards, three touchdowns, four tackles
2011: 12 games played, 14 catches, 165 yards, one touchdown
2010: 12 games played, 27 catches, 407 yards, five touchdowns
Jemea Thomas, CB, Georgia Tech, 5'10", 195 Pounds
Atlanta needs some help in the secondary with its cornerback depth. Jemea Thomas would be a unique fit for the Falcons who could compete for the nickel with Robert McClain. His abilities also translate well to an outside role if they decide he's one of their top three cornerbacks.
But ideally, the team would bring him in to compete as a special teams ace and depth guy early. After 2014 he could compete for the nickel role if the Falcons lose McClain, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2015.
2013: 13 games played, 88 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, eight pass deflections, eight kick returns, 188 yards
2012: 14 games played, 86 tackles, three tackles for loss, four interceptions, six pass deflections, two punt returns, three yards
2011: 13 games played, 50 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, three interceptions, one forced fumble, six pass deflections, three punt returns, 31 yards, one kick return, 16 yards, two carries, 29 yards
2009: 13 games played, 10 tackles, one pass deflection
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech, 6'6", 254 Pounds
Yes, the Falcons took a quarterback in the 2013 draft. And yes, Logan Thomas has been very underwhelming as the starter in Blacksburg the past two seasons. However, if the Falcons want someone who could develop into a good long-term backup for Matt Ryan, he has the tools to do it.
He has a good arm, great size and excellent mobility. While he shouldn't be expected to step in and connect with the receivers right away, there's no question that he could potentially develop into a long-term star at the position with the proper coaching and scheme.
2013: 13 games played, 228-of-403 (56.6 percent), 2,909 yards, 16 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 162 carries, 344 yards, four touchdowns, one catch, nine yards
2012: 13 games played, 220-of-429 (51.3 percent), 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 173 carries, 527 yards, nine touchdowns, one tackle
2011: 14 games played, 234-of-391 (59.8 percent), 3,013 yards, 19 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 153 carries, 469 yards, 11 touchdowns, four tackles
2010: Seven games played, 12-of-26 (46.2 percent), 107 yards, six carries, 22 yards, one catch, two yards, one touchdown
Nikita Whitlock, DL/LB/FB, Wake Forest, 5'10", 250 Pounds
Nikita Whitlock is a unique player that any defense would love to have. While he is undersized, he plays with a ton of quickness and heart. If he was used more as an outside linebacker or defensive end, the Demon Deacons defensive tackle could have had improved sack totals.
He has excellent quickness and linebacker size. However, if there was a possible position switch in the future for him, it would be at fullback. His potential fit as a situational pass-rusher and as a fullback could make him a chess piece that would make both Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan happy late in the draft.
2013: 12 games played, 82 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, nine sacks, seven QB hurries, two forced fumbles, three pass deflections, two blocked kicks, one punt return, 25 yards
2012: 10 games played, 51 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two QB hurries
2011: 13 games played, 64 tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, three QB hurries, one forced fumble, one pass deflection
2010: 12 games played, 44 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two QB hurries, two forced fumbles, three 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.