2014 Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft: What Happens with a Curveball at the Top?
When Julio Jones was taken No. 6 overall, the Falcons offense took another step. A unique scenario for Atlanta that is very possible would be for them to re-sign Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters to start at defensive tackle.
In this scenario, assume the Falcons have signed Jairus Byrd, an offensive guard like Geoff Schwartz and a pair of pass rushers like Brian Orakpo and Michael Johnson in free agency. It's a bit of a haul in free agency, but with over 23 million in cap space, the Falcons could legitimately make the signings.
Also, this is a completely speculative free-agency scenario, but one that needs to be kicked around. It's one where Atlanta would be able to go with an almost ideal "Best Player Available" philosophy in the draft. This is what that scenario could wind up looking like.
Round 1: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson, 6'1", 205 Pounds
Yes, Roddy White, Harry Douglas and Julio Jones have all posted up seasons with over 75 catches and 1,000 yards. However, when looking in a pure best player available model, Sammy Watkins has to be considered. One big complaint about Watkins' game is the amount of screens he sees.
That won't be a problem if he came to Atlanta, though. Matt Ryan and Dirk Koetter love to take advantage of screens in the offense. Jones and Watkins both have ridiculous speed that can stretch defenses, and the Falcons could move White into the slot in three-wide receiver sets.
With Tony Gonzalez retiring, Atlanta would need to make sure they have a legitimate way to replace him. Adding a talented receiver who can play anywhere, as well as stretch the field, would not only be prudent, it'd expand the offense tremendously.
2013: 13 Games Played, 101 Catches, 1,464 Yards, 12 Touchdowns, 6 Carries, 11 Yards, 1 Punt Return, 0 Yards, 14 Kick Returns, 293 Yards, 0-of-2 Passing (0.0 percent), 1 Interception
2012: 10 Games Played, 57 Catches, 708 Yards, 3 Touchdowns, 14 Carries, 97 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 3 Punt Returns, 11 Yards, 13 Kick Returns, 257 Yards, 1-of-2 Passing (50.0 percent), 52 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 1 Tackle
2011: 13 Games Played, 83 Catches, 1,225 Yards, 12 Touchdowns, 32 Carries, 231 Yards, 2 Punt Returns, 12 Yards, 33 Kick Returns, 826 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 1-of-1 Passing (100.0 percent), 9 Yards, 2 Tackles
Round 2: TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech, 6'5", 260 Pounds
How does a team replace the best tight end to ever play the game? Ideally, they do it by bringing in someone who can duplicate his receiving abilities while also providing similar size. Jace Amaro of Texas Tech is a Jordan Cameron clone who could provide that receiver over the middle.
He doesn't just provide that, though. He's someone who can stretch the seam, line up outside and even provide a great red-zone target that Atlanta could have used in 2013. A healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White, combined with Amaro and Sammy Watkins, could be the best offense in the NFL by far.
And yes, I realize that a wide receiver in the first round and a tight end in the second round is a bit much. However, with the scenario being the offensive line and defensive line having been fixed in free agency, Atlanta needs to make sure they upgrade the playmakers on the roster.
2013: 13 Games Played, 106 Catches, 1,352 Yards, 7 Touchdowns, 2 Tackles
2012: 7 Games Played, 25 Catches, 409 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
2011: 12 Games Played, 7 Catches, 57 Yards, 2 Touchdowns
Round 3: DE/OLB Marcus Smith, Louisville, 6'3", 252 Pounds
When it comes to edge rushers, Marcus Smith is very unique. He lines up both like a linebacker and like a standard defensive end. He's from a scheme that's very similar to what Mike Nolan runs in Atlanta because Louisville's last head coach, Charlie Strong, has always favored multiple fronts.
Nolan will get a great idea of what he could do in Atlanta's scheme just by watching him in the multiple looks Louisville uses. Smith creates a ton of pressure and is an extremely athletic talent. He's also a solid run defender who understands how to take proper angles to the ball.
Atlanta has needed someone like him who can set the edge, rush the passer and line up in multiple spots. With Smith, Nolan could have a dark-horse candidate for defensive rookie of the year in his scheme. New defensive line coach Bryan Cox would just need to make sure he helps improve Smith's hand usage.
2013: 13 Games Played, 42 Tackles, 18.5 Tackles for Loss, 14.5 Sacks, 12 QB Hurries, 4 Fumbles Forced, 3 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick
2012: 13 Games Played, 29 Tackles, 7.0 Tackles for Loss, 4.0 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 2 Fumbles Forced, 2 Pass Deflections
2011: 10 Games Played, 12 Tackles, 6.5 Tackles for Loss, 5.5 Sacks, 2 Fumbles Forced, 1 Pass Deflection
2010: 9 Games Played, 3 Tackles, 1.0 Tackles for Loss
Round 4: DT DaQuan Jones, Penn State, 6'3", 318 Pounds
The Falcons want a bigger bodied defensive tackle who can collapse the pocket from the inside and take on double teams. DaQuan Jones can do all of that and more. He's a tremendous run defender who could help keep Paul Worrilow clean in the middle.
With his taking on double teams in pass rushing, it would also allow guys like Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux or whomever they wind up with at 3-technique to get after the passer. Jones is a piece that has been missing from the Falcons defense for years.
2013: 12 Games Played, 56 Tackles, 11.5 Tackles for Loss, 3.0 Sacks
2012: 12 Games Played, 22 Tackles, 2.0 Tackles for Loss, 0.5 Sacks, 1 Pass Deflection
2011: 13 Games Played, 8 Tackles, 1 QB Hurry
2010: 9 Games Played, 6 Tackles, 2.0 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sack
Round 5: OT Seantrel Henderson, Miami, 6'8", 345 Pounds
Atlanta needs as much competition along their offensive line as they can get. Seantrel Henderson has potential to turn into a franchise left tackle. However, he'd currently become a competitor for starting right tackle in Atlanta. The Falcons need someone to challenge Lamar Holmes.
And when it comes to pure potential at tackle, Henderson is about as high-potential as you can get. The biggest issues that come from Henderson relate to his immaturity in college. The Falcons would be wise to keep a veteran mentor on the roster to make sure Henderson can develop properly.
At the very worst, Henderson could provide top-level depth for the Falcons and someone who is a good fit as a sixth offensive lineman on game days. As the third tackle on the depth chart, he could be a vital backup on both sides of the line.
2013: 12 Games Played, 8 Games Started at Right Tackle
2012: 11 Games Played, 7 Games Started at Right Tackle
2011: 8 Games Played, 2 Games Started at Right Tackle
2010: 12 Games Played, 9 Games Started at Right Tackle
Round 6: RB Storm Johnson, Central Florida, 6'0", 215 Pounds
Steven Jackson may be back in 2014 for the Falcons. However, that doesn't mean Atlanta shouldn't look into another option to both team with him and eventually replace him. Storm Johnson from Central Florida is a very good, high-vision back who understands how to explode through the hole.
While he doesn't have the instant receiving ability that most running backs would need for the Falcons system, he's shown an ability to have solid hands and produce yardage after he catches the ball. Johnson also has a knack for big plays that the run game was sorely missing in 2013.
One thing that Johnson does that Atlanta didn't have in 2013 is break tackles. Michael Turner was great at breaking tackles during his five years in Atlanta, and Johnson has a similar ability to power through would-be tacklers with his leg drive and strong frame.
2013: 13 Games Played, 213 Carries, 1,139 Yards, 14 Touchdowns, 30 Catches, 260 Yards, 3 Touchdowns
2012: 13 Games Played, 113 Carries, 507 Yards, 4 Touchdowns, 10 Catches, 20 Yards
2011: Redshirted due to transfer from Miami to Central Florida
2010: 9 Games Played, 9 Carries, 119 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 1 Catch, 9 Yards, 9 Kick Returns, 194 Yards, 1 Tackle
Round 7: DT Jay Bromley, Syracuse, 6'4", 285 Pounds
Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry are both free agents this offseason. Without either one re-signing, the Falcons would definitely need depth at the 3-technique spot at a minimum. Jay Bromley is an underrated player who can align at 3-technique, 5-technique and, even, 1-technique in some sets.
Atlanta needs someone with his versatility on defense. With his ability to line up anywhere, Mike Nolan could have a legitimate depth option even if Babineaux re-signs to play the same role he did in 2012 and 2013. Ideally, though, Bromley plays an almost pure 3-technique.
He's extremely underrated there as he understands how to use his size and speed off of the line to penetrate opposing offensive lines. If he lives up to his potential in the NFL, he could be an every-down talent who surpasses six sacks in a season on a regular basis.
2013: 13 Games Played, 41 Tackles, 13.5 Tackles for Loss, 9.0 Sacks, 3 QB Hurries, 3 Fumbles Forced
2012: 13 Games Played, 41 Tackles, 7.0 Tackles for Loss, 2.5 Sacks, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Blocked Kick
2011: 12 Games Played, 32 Tackles, 5.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.5 Sacks
2010: 12 Games Played, 8 Tackles, 2 QB Hurries
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.