2011 NFL Mock Draft: Atlanta Falcons, a Last Look at Potential First Round Picks
Well, draft day is finally here.
After having a fantastic regular season that would give them the number one seed in the playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons were vastly overpowered by the Green Bay Packers and their quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The defense was torched throughout the game while the offense found some success but sputtered on a consistent basis.
Since the loss, the Falcons have started focusing on the draft and how to best improve the team. Many experts are thinking they will go with a defensive player, but there is still the off chance that they draft a wide receiver with their first pick.
So we will take a look and examine some of these players one last time.
SI.com: J.J. Watt, DE from Wisconsin
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Watt just finished off a very impressive career for the Wisconsin Badgers. The two-time All-American defensive end would be what most consider a safe pick who doesn't have many weaknesses and could produce right away.
Sports Illustrated has this to say on his positives: "Explosive and athletic defensive line prospect with a lot of upside. Possesses solid first-step quickness, plays with good pad level, and quickly changes direction. Powerful, pushes offensive tackles off the line, and works hard to defend the run. Effectively uses his hands throughout the action, rarely off his feet, and makes plays in every direction of the field. Possesses a burst of speed, is fluid if asked to twist or stunt, and fast off the edge. Plays an intelligent brand of football. Gets his hands up and knocks away the throw if he cannot get to the passer. Relentless in pursuit of the action."
The only negative they had being that he needs to "develop more pass rush moves."
While he wouldn't be the sexiest pick, Watt would give the Falcons instant production at a position where they desperately need some.
Fox Sports: Jabaal Sheard, DE from Pittsburgh
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First time I've seen him as our predicted pick, and I did find it a little surprising. Scout.com has him as the 47th overall player in this year's draft.
Mockingthedraft.com had this to say on Sheard: "Sheard is going to be a developmental player with a chance to help out on passing situations early. He is likely looking at the tweener label due to his lack of bulk and limited experience dropping into coverage. Sheard might be best suited to play the outside linebacker position. On tape, he showed good quickness, balance, and coordination which make me feel he can make the switch. However, that switch is going to take some time and coaching. NFL teams are going to look at Sheard's athleticism and production and fall in love. I wouldn't be surprised to see him go in the late 2nd round."
The 6'4", 264-pounder could be a high-risk/high-reward pick, and many other mock drafts have him going lower than this.
NFL Network's Michael Lombardi: Greg Little, WR from North Carolina
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When it comes to being a prototypical NFL wide receiver, not many have the "look" down more than North Carolina's Greg Little.
Listed at 6'3" and 220 pounds, Little ran a 4.53 40 at the combine and posted a 40.5 inch vertical jump while there.
Little would be able to come in and give the wide receiving group a punch as he is very physical before and after the catch. While he does lack big time speed, his ability to break tackles and gain tough yards makes him a potentially very good wide receiver.
Worth noting: Scout.com doesn't have him in their top 50 prospects.
CBS' Chad Reuter: Kyle Rudolph, TE from Notre Dame
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Considered by most to be the clear-cut top tight end prospect in this year's class, Kyle Rudolph would be a good pick up if some of the top defensive linemen are already taken.
He has good hands, great ball skills, big play ability, and is a great competitor. He had some struggles staying healthy at Notre Dame and has some questions about his durability, but Rudolph would really be an asset immediately for Matt Ryan and would be an understudy to Tony Gonzalez.
ESPN's Mel Kiper: Adrian Clayborn, DE from Iowa
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While Adrian Clayborn may not be great at any one thing, he is average to above average at everything. The 6'3" 281-pound defensive end had a fantastic career with the Iowa Hawkeyes, and was considered at one point a top-ten pick. Though he has seen a bit of a slide, Clayborn would still be a fantastic pickup.
Clayborn doesn't have top notch speed or quickness at the position, but is very strong and doesn't stay blocked for very long. He, like so many others on this list, would be a good immediate impact-type of player because of the Falcons need across the front line.
CBS' Rob Rang and ESPN's Todd McShay: Da'Quan Bowers, DE from Clemson
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Am I the only one who would be ecstatic to have Bowers fall to us?
I know Bowers has people thinking that he won't stay healthy at the next level, but the guy has serious talent. He started out the process as one of the early favorites to be the number one overall pick, but has since fallen. However, he possesses top 10-level talent and would be an absolute steal if he were to fall all the way to the Falcons.
Bowers would give the Falcons a good pass-rusher from the moment he is signed and with his big body will continue to improve against the run.
The Wildcard: Justin Houston, OLB from Georgia
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As an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid player, Justin Houston would give the Falcons one of the best pass rushers in this year's class.
Houston has caught some flack recently after testing positive for marijuana at the combine, but it shouldn't hurt him too much on draft day.
Most experts have him somewhere in the 25-35 best overall players in the draft, so there is a great chance the Falcons may pick him up.