2014 Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft: Last One Before Free Agency
Free agency is right around the corner, and it could tremendously change the Atlanta Falcons' draft plans. Nonetheless, we'll take a look at what the Falcons should do if the NFL draft was held today.
Ideally, they will address their biggest needs early on. Then, they will go after players who can fill depth roles with the later rounds. On top of that, they will need to focus on who might be the best player for their particular schemes at certain points during the draft. Because if one of those players does happen to fall into their laps, the Falcons will need to pounce.
Round 1: EP Khalil Mack, Buffalo
After the Falcons finished nearly dead-last in the NFL in pass-rushing, they need to address their need for a primary pass-rushing talent.
Khalil Mack from Buffalo has been one of the best natural pass-rushers to even play in college football over the past three seasons. He's an athletic specimen who understands how to read defenses and attack the quarterback. He's not just a pass-rusher, though. He's an ideal fit for Mike Nolan's scheme. He should be able to play Kroy Biermann's hybrid linebacker/defensive end role better than Biermann ever could.
The benefit that Mack brings to the Falcons isn't just as a football player on the field. He's also a captain and a leader off of it. For a team that needs some guys to step up and replace lost leaders like John Abraham and Tony Gonzalez, Mack will be a welcome addition to the clubhouse.
Height: 6'2.625" Weight: 251 pounds
Arm Length: 33.25" Hand Measurement: 10.25"
40-Yard Dash: 4.65 sec. 10-Yard Split: 1.56 sec.
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.18 sec. Three-Cone Drill: 7.08 sec. Bench Reps: 23 reps
Vertical Jump: 40.0" Broad Jump: 10'8"
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
Round 2: OG David Yankey, Stanford
Atlanta's worst player along its offensive line has been at right guard. The Falcons could really use a talented player to start there instead of the combination of Peter Konz, Garrett Reynolds and Harland Gunn that failed there last season.
The Falcons have brought in Gabe Carimi to compete, but they really need someone who understands how to play football. In this case, they should take David Yankey. He's a two-time consensus All-American at both tackle and guard.
There are very few players who have ever completed that feat. His powerful, nasty play shows it on the field. Atlanta would be wise to plug Yankey in as an instant starter to at least shore up its guard positions with Justin Blalock.
Height: 6'5.625" Weight: 315 pounds
Arm Length: 34" Hand Measurement: 9.5"
40-Yard Dash: 5.48 sec. 10-Yard Split: 1.81 sec.
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.86 sec. Three-Cone Drill: 7.81 sec. Bench Reps: 22 reps
Vertical Jump: 28.5" Broad Jump: 8'7"
2013: 13 games started at left guard (consensus All-American)
2012: 14 games started at left tackle (consensus All-American)
2011: 13 Games Started at Left Guard
2010: 2 Games Played before a season-ending injury forced a redshirt
Round 3: LB/S Telvin Smith, Florida State
It may seem to be early for a linebacker. However, the only way to win in the NFL is to compete to beat your division. The Falcons need to keep this in mind, as they haven't been able to stop tight ends from gouging them up the seams since Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith have taken the reins.
That stops now with a "Spur" type of linebacker here in Telvin Smith. He's very similar to the average safety in terms of athleticism and quickness. However, he's an excellent coverage linebacker who can keep up with almost any tight end in the game.
He uses his long frame to keep up with the Jimmy Grahams and Greg Olsens of college football. If the Falcons did select him, he would also allow Mike Nolan to run his three-safety packages without even switching out of his base 4-3 or 3-4 personnel groups.
Height: 6'3" Weight: 218 pounds
Arm Length: 32.5" Hand Measurement: 10.25"
40-Yard dash: 4.52 sec. 10-Yard Split: 1.53 sec.
Vertical Jump: 31.5" Broad Jump: 9'11"
2013: 14 games played, 90 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sack, 2 QB hurries, 3 interception, 1 fumble forced, 4 pass deflections, 2 defensive touchdowns
2012: 14 games played, 64 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, 2 QB hurries, 1 fumble forced, 3 pass deflections
2011: 12 games played, 42 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sack, 2 QB hurries, 1 interception, 1 fumble forced, 3 pass deflections
2010: 14 games played, 18 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack
Round 4: DT Ego Ferguson, LSU
Ego Ferguson is very similar to the Falcons' own Corey Peters. He's a guy who plays both a 1-technique and a 3-technique defensive tackle role in his college scheme. He eats a ton of double-teams but is still able to produce as a pass-rusher and run-stuffer.
The Falcons could use his abilities as the primary backup to Peters early in the year. However, if Ferguson winds up starting at 1-technique, it would be best for everyone involved, as he would allow Peters to play the 3-technique role in base downs.
By allowing Peters to play his more natural 3-technique role, the Falcons defensive line should be able to keep its young, talented linebacking corps clean on run downs. More than that, it should finally be able to create an interior push in passing downs.
Height: 6'3" Weight: 315 pounds
Arm Length: 32.25" Hand Measurement: 10.75"
Bench Reps: 24 reps
2013: 12 games played, 58 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, 3 QB hurries, 3 pass deflections, 1 blocked kick
2012: 13 games played, 14 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, 1 pass deflection
2011: 13 games played, 13 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass deflection
Round 5: DT Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
Daniel McCullers is by far the most massive man in the 2014 NFL draft. After selecting Ego Ferguson with an earlier selection, McCullers will have the benefit of being a backup run-stuffer and three-man front defensive tackle for the Falcons' defensive schemes.
In addition to his size, McCullers has the potential to be a dominant pass-rusher inside once he puts all of his natural physical tools together. He's still new to playing against top competition, but at just 22 years old when the season starts, he'll be a worthy project who could contribute as a run-stuffer early.
With his experience in both three-man and four-man fronts, McCullers should be an asset in a defensive tackle rotation. And Atlanta could really use his bulk with Ferguson and the recently re-signed Corey Peters in short-yardage and goal-line sets to create a blubber wall that's tough to push through.
Height: 6'7" Weight: 352 pounds
Arm Length: 36.625" Hand Measurement: 11"
Bench Reps: 27 reps
Vertical Jump: 20.5" Broad Jump: 8'1"
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 sack, 2 QB hurries, 1 fumble forced, 1 pass deflection, 1 blocked kick
2011: Played at Georgia Military College (JUCO)
2010: Played at Georgia Military College (JUCO)
Round 6: WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
When Roddy White retires, Atlanta needs someone to eventually take over the starting wide receiver role across from Julio Jones. Cody Latimer from Indiana has all the tools to do so. He's got a long, tall frame and excellent hands.
On top of that, Latimer understands how to sit into zones effectively. He can create separation effectively, but his biggest asset comes in his ability to bring in a contested catch. He has excellent jumping ability and understands how to use body positioning and body control to come down with the ball.
In his releases off the line, he uses his hands effectively to pop a defender off of him. The biggest issue in Latimer's game is his route-running. However, with Terry Robiskie and White teaching him how to play the position, his worst case scenario will be Brian Finneran's role from 2010 as a third-down specialist.
Height: 6'2" Weight: 215 pounds
Arm Length: 32.625" Hand Measurement: 9.625"
Bench Reps: 23 reps
2013: 12 games played, 72 catches, 1,096 yards, 9 touchdowns, 8 tackles, 1 fumble recovery
2012: 12 games played, 51 catches, 805 yards, 6 touchdowns, 1 tackle, 1 pass deflection
2011: 8 games played, 12 catches, 141 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 carries, 3 yards, 1 tackle
Round 7: RB/WR/RS Dri Archer, Kent State
Dri Archer is the Mighty Mouse-type running back/wide receiver/kick returner that the Falcons have seen the New Orleans Saints take advantage of since Darren Sproles was signed in 2010. Archer has the breakaway ability to take one to the house at any time.
His 4.26 speed at the combine definitely shows up on the field. He would be an explosive element who could be added to an offense that needs one if Julio Jones can't fully recover from the foot injury that he sustained in the middle of last season.
Atlanta could easily have Archer play the slot receiver role in addition to having change-of-pace running back and kick returner as his primary titles. Imagining an offensive set with Archer, Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas and the previously selected Latimer should be enough to give any opposing defensive coordinator headaches.
Height: 5'7.375" Weight: 173 pounds
Arm Length: 31" Hand Measurement: 8.875"
40-Yard Dash: 4.26 sec. 10-Yard Split: 1.46 sec.
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.06 sec. Three-Cone Drill: 6.86 sec. Bench Reps: 20 reps
Vertical Jump: 38.0" Broad Jump: 10'2"
2013: 10 games played, 68 carries, 527 yards, 6 touchdowns, 25 catches, 327 yards, 4 touchdowns, 2 kick returns, 128 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 tackles
2012: 14 games played, 159 carries, 1,429 yards, 16 touchdowns, 39 catches, 561 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 punt return, minus-4 yards, 17 kick returns, 591 yards, 3 touchdowns
2011: Redshirted for a season due to academic ineligibility
2010: 12 games played, 40 carries, 140 yards, 1 touchdown, 16 catches, 75 yards, 1 touchdown, 5 punt returns, 12 yards, 22 kick returns, 451 yards
2009: 11 Games Played, 58 Carries, 246 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 19 Catches, 231 Yards, 1 Touchdown, 11 Kick Returns, 266 Yards, 1 Tackle
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.
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