Since 1998, every Atlanta fan has wanted to see the Falcons go back to the Super Bowl. The only way to get there is to have a great draft in 2014. The Falcons need to follow a blueprint that will allow them to get bigger, stronger, faster and just plain better overall.
The plan to follow should address the lines and combination positions heavily. However, they shouldn't forget about the receiver or running back spots. Atlanta could have a great draft with the largest underclassmen crop in NFL history declaring.
This underclassmen-heavy idea would be brilliant for the Falcons to execute. They could really improve overall depth along the defensive line and bring in a versatile offensive line talent to compete.
Atlanta could very easily cut Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora this offseason—especially since they each carry cap hits over $3.05 million, per Spotrac, that would be saved by their cuts. While Atlanta should look at Michael Johnson and Greg Hardy to fill one of the voids left, a top draft pick could be used on a pass-rusher.
Khalil Mack is one of the absolute best pass-rushers in this entire draft. He's aggressive, strong and has the perfect frame for a defensive end/linebacker hybrid position. The Falcons could use his versatility the same way they used Kroy Biermann's as he has shown flashes in underneath coverage as well.
He's one of the most complete prospects in the draft as a pass-rusher and would be ideal for a pass-rushing group that had Bryan Cox brought in for talent development. A combination of Mack, Jonathan Massaquoi and Malliciah Goodman off the edge could be surprisingly good.
At his best, Mack has potential to look like Brian Orakpo as a world wrecking pass-rusher. He is a much better run defender than the former Texas product though. If the Falcons can get Mack and continue to develop Massaquoi into a guy who can reach 10 sacks, they could really improve the defense.
Comrade Filter Fit
Outside of a one game suspension early in his college career for fighting with a wide receiver, Mack has shown the toughness, aggression and leadership that Cox would love from his premier pass-rusher. On top of that, he was a team captain for the Bulls and would be a positive influence in the Falcons locker room.
2013: 13 Games Played, 100 Tackles, 19.0 Tackles for Loss, 10.5 Sacks, 6 QB Hurries, 3 Interceptions, 5 Fumbles Forced, 7 Pass Deflections, 2 Defensive Touchdowns
2012: 11 Games Played, 94 Tackles, 20.0 Tackles for Loss, 8.0 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 4 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick
2011: 12 Games Played, 65 Tackles, 20.5 Tackles for Loss, 5.5 Sacks, 13 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 5 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick
2010: 12 Games Played, 68 Tackles, 14.5 Tackles for Loss, 4.5 Sacks, 8 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 10 Pass Deflections
Cyrus Kouandjio is being touted as the next great left tackle by some analysts. Sadly, this isn't the real case of his talent. Honestly, Kouandjio is too clunky with his footwork and hand technique to play left tackle in the NFL. In all likelihood, his best NFL fit will be as a guard.
And there's no shame in that. Kouandjio could be a top 10 guard in the NFL from day one. He's got the build, strength and quickness to effectively dominate the competition at right guard. That's the one position Atlanta could really have used some talent at in 2013.
If Kouandjio is tried out at left tackle, he honestly couldn't be much worse than what Lamar Holmes and Sam Baker combined for on that side in 2013. They were awful there cumulatively allowing nine sacks, 16 hits and 56 hurries from the blind side. They also combined for a -46.7 Pro Football Focus grade—good enough for last in the NFL.
Holmes is better suited for the right side of the field and if Kouandjio comes in and can perform at even an NFL average level for his career at either left tackle or right guard, he'll be a massive upgrade over what Atlanta had at either spot in 2013.
Comrade Filter Fit
As a younger player, Kouandjio isn't normally what the Falcons look for. However, he's never been arrested nor has he been suspended. He's also been willing to work to be one of the better offensive linemen of the Alabama offensive line.
2013: 13 Games Started at Left Tackle
2012: 14 Games Started at Left Tackle
2011: 8 Games Played at Tackle
Tony Gonzalez is gone. The man who has accounted for 409 catches, 4,187 yards and 35 touchdowns over the past five seasons will have to have his production replaced. On the bright side, Atlanta already has 2013 fourth-round pick Levine Toilolo on the roster to compete for the job.
However, if someone as talented as Austin Seferian-Jenkins is there in the third round, Atlanta needs to scoop him up. He's got the ability to be a dominant player in the NFL as both a blocker and receiver. He can line up at tight end in-line and provide an NFL-average level blocker—something he does better than Gonzalez.
On top of that, he can line up in the slot as a massive receiver who could provide mismatches. Atlanta needs to focus on their best options. That would include having a 6'6" Seferian-Jenkins and a 6'8" Toilolo on the field in the red zone.
It would include making sure they had their best all-around guys on the field at all times. Seferian-Jenkins has the all-around abilities to eventually compete with Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham for the best tight end in the NFL title. And if he shows his full potential, Atlanta will have a steal here.
Comrade Filter Fit
Seferian-Jenkins may not pass the Comrade Filter because of his DUI arrest leading to a one-game suspension. However, it was one minor incident and guys like Desmond Trufant are on the roster who know ASJ and could go to bat for him as a person. If Trufant does give him a great recommendation, the Falcons could be more forgiving for the possibly dominant tight end.
2013: 12 Games Played, 36 Catches, 450 Yards, 8 Touchdowns, 1 Tackle
2012: 13 Games Played, 69 Catches, 852 Yards, 7 Touchdowns, 1 Fumble Recovered
2011: 13 Games Played, 41 Catches, 538 Yards, 6 Touchdowns, 1 Tackle
Atlanta could use a big-bodied defensive tackle in the middle to eat up blockers and help keep Paul Worrilow clean so that he can be a playmaker. They also need someone who can push Corey Peters to the 1-technique and eat up blockers in the pass rush.
They could focus on this in free agency by trying to bring in Linval Joseph or they could look to the mid-rounds of the draft where they might be better served. In this scenario, the mid-rounds of the draft are kind and the massive Daniel McCullers is available in the fourth.
Atlanta picking McCullers would help the interior of the defensive line tremendously as he's a mountain of a man with excellent strength and better agility than anyone would expect for a man of his size. His best role is as a block eater similar to what John Henderson did for the Jaguars in his prime.
McCullers could be scary good in that role eventually. However, he does have leverage issues sometimes that will force him to slip to the middle of the draft. Atlanta would be wise to add another defensive tackle in free agency because they rotate their defensive tackles heavily.
Comrade Filter Fit
As another player who has been no trouble off the field, McCullers was a captain for the Volunteers in his time in Tennessee. He's not the smartest player academically—as seen by being forced to go to a Junior College—but the Falcons are more worried about football IQ than book smarts.
2013: 12 Games Played, 33 Tackles, 4.5 Tackles for Loss, 0.5 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Blocked Kick
2012: 12 Games Played, 39 Tackles, 5.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 1 Fumble Forced, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Blocked Kick
2011: Played at Georgia Military College
2010: Played at Georgia Military College
When looking at defensive tackles Mike Nolan has loved in the past, he tends to focus on 330-pound guys more than 350-pound guys for his scheme. However, he does like to have a pair of guys he can rotate at the 1-technique so they can stay fresh.
With Daniel McCullers already in the fold in this situation, Atlanta goes with the former wrestling champion in Ryan Carrethers to team with him. On passing downs and 4-3 sets, the duo could flip with one another and create depth at a spot where the Falcons need it.
On running downs, they could play some 3-4 sets where Carrethers is in a weak-side 3-technique, McCullers is in a strong-side 1-technique and Corey Peters or Jonathan Babineaux can play the strong-side 5-technique. This would free up the linebackers to make plays.
The pairing would be a better fit for the space eating 1-technique role that Peters has played. It would allow Peters to play more from the 3-technique, which would help the defense overall. There's also more depth at the 3-technique spot as Carrethers can also play there should Peters' ankle be an issue.
Comrade Filter Fit
Carrethers has never been arrested or suspended. He's also one of the leaders for the Red Wolves in the weight room as he's got a 16 percent body fat percentage on a 330-pound frame according to CBS Sports. You don't get that unless you work tremendously hard for it.
2013: 13 Games Played, 93 Tackles, 8.0 Tackles for Loss, 4.0 Sacks, 3 QB Hurries, Interceptions, Fumbles Forced, Fumbles Recovered, Pass Deflections, Blocked Kicks, Defensive Touchdowns
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
Sure, the Falcons have arguably the best starting wide receiver duo in the NFL in Julio Jones and Roddy White. Toss in Harry Douglas and his 1,000-yard performance from 2013, and they have a trio of very talented receivers. So why do they draft one?
Depth. Atlanta needs depth. They need someone who can learn from the 30-year-old Douglas and 32-year-old White. Martavis Bryant is the ideal prospect for a team needing a future complement to Jones. He's got a long frame, a willingness to go out and get the tough passes and top-level speed.
On the flip side, he has issues with his hands, his route-running and a need to gain at least 15 more pounds on his lean frame. So Atlanta would be perfect for him. He'd have multiple mentors in White, receivers coach Terry Robiskie and Douglas, and he'd have less pressure to get ready early.
Comrade Filter Fit
While Bryant has been a model citizen off the field, on the field he has been suspended for a throat-slashing gesture he made. The suspension lasted part of one game. He also missed the Chick-Fil-A bowl game after the 2012 season due to an academic issue.
Outside of those situations, he's been everything that Dabo Swinney has wanted him to be. Take out the academic struggles and you have a man who's a father off the field and only wants to be the best player he can be. Atlanta will love his perfectionist attitude and willingness to be the best.
2013: 13 Games Played, 42 Catches, 828 Yards, 7 Touchdowns, 2 Kick Returns, 36 Yards
2012: 10 Games Played, 10 Catches, 305 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 1 Carry, 17 Yards, 10 Kick Returns, 210 Yards
2011: 14 Games Played, 9 Catches, 221 Yards, 2 Touchdowns, 2 Kick Returns, 45 Yards
Stopping Jimmy Graham is the name of the game for the Falcons defense. If they could have one guy who's job it was to do just that, and they could somehow get him by spending just one seventh-round pick on him, they would do it.
That's where Texas Tech's Terrance Bullitt comes in. He's a former safety with great coverage instincts. He's also got the frame that would allow him to be an ideal fit for the "Wolverine" role—a hybrid linebacker and safety role—in Mike Nolan's defense.
Atlanta could easily fit him in to the scheme early as the tight end stopper. However, he could be a shockingly good strong-side linebacker in the long term after he adds some more weight to his frame, improves against the run and learns better blitz techniques.
Comrade Filter Fit
When guys go this late in the draft, Atlanta focuses mainly on former team captains who can contribute on special teams and provide a niche role in the defense. Bullitt can do all of the above and has been a great off-field influence for his team by keeping out of trouble. He was a team captain for the Red Raiders and Falcons coaches would love his abilities on and off the field.
2013: 12 games played, 37 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, 1 QB hurry, 9 pass deflections
2012: 9 games played, 19 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, 3 QB hurries, 2 pass deflections
2011: 12 games played, 56 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 1 QB hurry, 1 forced fumble, 4 pass deflections, 1 blocked kick
2010: 11 games played, 23 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass deflection
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.