2014 Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft: Scenario with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at the Top
A team’s first-round pick either needs to be a game-changer or someone who will be a Pro Bowl-caliber player for more than 1,000 snaps every year. The Atlanta Falcons should find that with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 draft.
However, if they can’t get any of the top five talents on the offensive line like Greg Robinson or a pass-rusher in Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack, then they need to bring in someone who will start and give them 1,000-plus snaps worth of solid, NFL-caliber play as a rookie.
So how does it change the draft if the Falcons took a safety instead of a lineman with their first pick? How exactly will they be able to fill all of their depth needs?
Round 1: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
With the Saints matching the offer for Rafael Bush, the Falcons are now in a situation where their starting safety will be Kemal Ishmael, Zeke Motta or Sean Baker. That’s not a good situation in any way, shape or form. So they have to address it at some point.
In this scenario, Houston takes Jadeveon Clowney No. 1 overall, St. Louis takes Greg Robinson at No. 2, and Oakland takes Khalil Mack at No. 5. This leaves Atlanta with none of the top three targets that it should want. The team is left to choose between Jake Matthews and a starting free safety.
That’s where Ha Ha Clinton-Dix comes in. Sure, he’s probably not worth this pick in this draft, but with no one wanting to trade up to No. 6, Atlanta needs to improve its defense with someone who can allow 2013 first-round pick Desmond Trufant some protection behind him.
Clinton-Dix would also be a great fit for Mike Nolan’s defense, as he can play a center fielder role when the Falcons need him to and come up in the run and short zones when necessary. He would be a massive upgrade over Thomas DeCoud and could be a rookie of the year candidate by year’s end.
2013: 11 games played, 51 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 4 pass deflections
2012: 14 games played, 37 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 1 fumble forced, 4 pass deflections
2011: 13 games played, 11 tackles, 2 pass deflections
Round 2: DE Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
The Falcons need a great pass-rusher to help take the pressure off their secondary. Jeremiah Attaochu is one of the best in the draft. The 6’3”, 252-pound Georgia Tech product has been the ACC’s best edge-rusher over the past two seasons.
He has experience in both the 3-4 and the 4-3 and would be an ideal fit for the Falcons’ multiple front scheme that is run by defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. He could play linebacker in either set as well as end in the 4-3. He has the strength and speed to be an impact player.
In Nolan’s scheme, Attaochu could be a 10-sack guy his first season. After that, he could be the premier pass-rusher that Atlanta has needed for years. Add in Jonathan Massaquoi, Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora, and the Falcons pass rush should be much better than it was in 2013.
2013: 13 games played, 45 tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 3 QB hurries, 1 fumble forced, 2 pass deflections
2012: 13 games played, 69 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss, 10.0 sacks, 2 QB hurries, 1 fumble forced, 1 pass deflection
2011: 11 games played, 59 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, 1 interception, 2 fumbles forced, 2 pass deflections
2010: 12 games played, 23 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 1 QB hurry
Round 3: TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
When looking for someone to replace Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons need to make sure that the player can win over the middle with his size and strength. They also need to make sure he can improve the blocking that Gonzalez gave them in 2013.
Troy Niklas will do both. He has potential to be a first-round pick at tight end in this year’s draft if a team really falls in love with him. However, should he slip this far, he’s the perfect fit for both an in-line (traditional) tight end and a joker-style (splits out at wide receiver and in the slot) tight end.
Atlanta could pair him with Levine Toilolo and have one of the tallest, strongest duos of tight ends in the league. This could be a great advantage in the red zone, especially when you consider Roddy White and Julio Jones should be fully healthy.
2013: 13 games played, 32 catches, 498 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 tackle
2012: 13 games played, 5 catches, 75 yards, 1 touchdown
2011: 12 games played, 20 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss, 2 QB hurries
Round 4: RB Bishop Sankey, Washington
Atlanta has a long-term need for a starting running back and a short-term need for someone who can step in and replace Jason Snelling. His retirement left a hole in the offense that needs to be filled with someone who could potentially be better.
Bishop Sankey is a perfect fit for the Falcons both on and off the field. He could start if Steven Jackson goes down again and provide a back with 1,000-yard potential as a rookie. On top of that, he's excellent in the red zone and can slip in for touchdowns around the goal line.
He also has dangerous breakaway speed. Sankey wouldn't just replace Snelling in the offense at running back; he would provide an explosive threat that the Falcons need.
2013: 13 games played, 327 carries, 1,870 yards, 20 touchdowns; 28 catches, 304 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 tackle
2012: 13 games played, 289 carries, 1,439 yards, 16 touchdowns; 33 catches, 249 yards, 1 tackle
2011: 12 games played, 28 carries, 187 yards, 1 touchdown; 6 catches, 14 yards; 7 kick returns, 134 yards
Round 4 (Comp): DT Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech
Sure, the Falcons brought in Paul Soliai to be the starter at nose tackle for the next five years. At least, that's what his contract suggests. However, he isn't a 1,000-snap guy at nose tackle and will need to be rotated out with someone who can be developed into basically his replacement.
Justin Ellis of Louisiana Tech is similar to what Soliai was coming out of college. He's a 1-technique defensive tackle who can play nose in either the 4-3 or 3-4. Soliai may have had a bit more athleticism when he was younger, but Ellis is a bit stronger.
The rotation of Ellis and Soliai at 1-technique will give Atlanta a pair of guys who can eat double-teams in the middle and allow the 3-technique tackles like Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters to see more worn-down offensive linemen when they come in for pass-rush sets.
2013: 12 games played, 48 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 QB hurries, 1 pass deflection
2012: 10 games played, 21 tackles, 2 fumbles forced, 1 pass deflection
2011: 13 games played, 28 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, 1 QB hurry, 1 pass deflection
2010: 4 games played, 4 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss
Round 5: QB Aaron Murray, Georgia
Yes, the Falcons need a quarterback. No, it's not a starting quarterback but a reserve. The Falcons bringing in Aaron Murray would make a lot of Georgia Bulldogs fans happy. However, he would be forced to sit for a few seasons behind Matt Ryan before he got any sort of opportunity.
And that's perfectly fine for both parties. Murray is just 23 years old. And for a position where guys last until their late 30s, he should be more than fine with sitting on a bench and learning the NFL game for a couple of seasons. Once he's ready, the Falcons could trade him for draft picks.
More than that, should Ryan ever get injured, Murray would provide a solid backup who could be a reliable passer in spot duty. In the best-case scenario, the Falcons give him an early shot before he starts for another team. In the worst case, he is a long-term backup like Jason Garrett was for Dallas when he played.
2013: 11 games played, 225-of-347 (64.8 percent), 3,075 yards, 26 touchdowns, 9 interceptions; 53 carries, 186 yards, 7 touchdowns
2012: 14 games played, 249-of-386 (64.5 percent), 3,893 yards, 36 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 59 carries, minus-68 yards, 3 touchdowns
2011: 14 games played, 238-of-403 (59.1 percent), 3,149 yards, 35 touchdowns, 14 interceptions; 87 carries, 111 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 catch, minus-3 yards
2010: 13 games played, 209-of-342 (61.1 percent), 3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns, 8 interceptions; 87 carries, 167 yards, 4 touchdowns
Round 6: WR Shaquelle Evans, UCLA
Despite having arguably the best wide receiving corps in the NFL with Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester, the Falcons need to bring in some depth that can eventually become a slot receiver or even a starter.
Shaquelle Evans of UCLA is a unique fit for the Falcons because he has the deep-ball ability that they get from White when he is healthy. However, he's a precise route-runner who understands how to find the seams in coverage on intermediate routes.
He could earn a roster spot in Atlanta with his special teams prowess as well. The Falcons would finally have a group that is NFL-caliber from top to bottom and provides Matt Ryan with competent options in the passing game.
2013: 13 games played, 47 catches, 709 yards, 9 touchdowns; 17 punt returns, 115 yards, 1 tackle
2012: 14 games played, 60 catches, 877 yards, 3 touchdowns; 2 carries, 6 yards; 8 punt returns, 85 yards; 1 kick return, 22 yards, 3 tackles
2011: 13 games played, 19 catches, 309 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 punt return, 0 yards, 2 tackles
2010: Transferred from Notre Dame to UCLA and had to sit a season
2009: 6 games played, 7 catches, 61 yards
Round 7: TE Ted Bolser, Indiana
Solid and reliable depth at tight end is needed. Troy Niklas earlier in the draft would definitely be someone who could start, and Levine Toilolo is a good No. 2, but adding more depth should always be considered with just Mickey Shuler Jr. and Andrew Szczerba as the only other tight ends on the roster.
Ted Bolser would be able to win the third tight end job, as he's a solid blocker and good receiver. He could provide depth on offense and is a willing special teamer who isn't afraid to mix it up and hit someone when needed.
2013: 12 games played, 35 catches, 320 yards, 6 touchdowns, 5 tackles
2012: 12 games played, 41 catches, 445 yards, 3 touchdowns, 4 tackles
2011: 12 games played, 14 catches, 165 yards, 1 touchdown
2010: 12 games played, 27 catches, 407 yards, 5 touchdowns
Round 7 (Comp): OT Seantrel Henderson, Miami
After his pro-day debacle killed his draft standing, Seantrel Henderson needs a redemption story. The Falcons need someone who can be redeemed by a good locker room. The win-win situation here is that Henderson has Jason Peters-level potential as a pro tackle.
However, he needs someone to give him a legitimate chance to earn a spot. He also needs an offensive line coach like Mike Tice who will get on his case when he slacks off. A Tice-Henderson combination could be the dark-horse scenario that gives Atlanta a good left tackle if Sam Baker goes down with injury again.
2013: 8 games started, 12 games played at right tackle
2012: 7 games started, 11 games played at right tackle
2011: 2 games started, 8 games played at right tackle
2010: 9 games started, 12 games played at right tackle
Round 7 (Comp): FB Jay Prosch, Auburn
While normally taking a fullback is a horrible idea, this would be the second-to-last pick of the draft. It's very rare for this pick to even make the roster. On top of that, Jay Prosch would be a starting-caliber fullback for the Falcons instantly.
He also has value as an H-back who lines up as a second tight end to catch the ball out of the backfield sometimes. The worst-case scenario would be that he isn't worth the roster spot, and then Atlanta would just have to cut him. But it is just a seventh-round pick.
2013: 14 games played, 5 carries, 95 yards, 1 touchdown; 2 kick returns, 12 yards, 1 tackle
2012: 12 games played, 12 carries, 38 yards, 2 touchdowns; 5 catches, 19 yards, 1 QB hurry
2011: 12 games played, 2 carries, 9 yards; 1 kick return, minus -3 yards, 11 tackles
2010: 13 games played, 1 catch, 1 yard
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All combine and pro-day info is courtesy NFL Draft Scout. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.
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.