Posted: 6:11 am Thursday, March 6th, 2014
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
I wanted to give y’all some early morning snack food before rolling the Batmobile up to Clemson for their Pro Day.
We’ll focus on tackle Brandon Thomas. If the Falcons go edge rusher/linebacker in the first round, Thomas, who could win the right tackle spot, would be a viable second round pick. The Falcons coached him the Senior Bowl.
We caught up with the NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks to pick his brain post-combine.
In his latest mock draft, he has the Falcons picking Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, the meanest and nastiness of the three top tackles in the draft. I think most of the fans could live with that pick.
Brooks, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft, is a former player and is a most excellent draft analyst.
After his playing days were over, he joined the Seattle Seahawks’ pro personnel department as a regional college scout. He served in the same capacity for the Carolina Panthers from 2003 to 2007, before joining CNNSI.com as a football analyst. He joined NFL Media in 2009.
Here’s what he had to say about the offensive tackles:
ON THE TACKLES: “Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan, and Jake Matthews established themselves as top 10 talents at the combine. Greg Robinson, he’s a dominant athlete and a dominant player. … just based on his athleticism, he should be a dominant player for a long time in the league.
“With Jake Matthews, people were surprised that he performed as well as he did athletically (at the combine). People thought he would be physically sound, but people didn’t think he’d be near the athlete as Robinson and Lewan. The fact that he performed well in drills really enhances what he brings to the table as a left tackle.
“With Taylor Lewan, people were just as excited by seeing his athleticism on display. He really hasn’t played offensive tackle long because he switched from tight end to tackle in high school. But when you get a guy of his size, playing and performing the way that he did, people started to believe that he could be a franchise player at the next level.”
ON MACK VS. BARR DEBATE: We asked Brooks to settle the Khalil Mack vs. Anthony Barr debate at edge rusher/linebacker for us. He likes Mack, but later selects Barr.
“That is such a tough debate because I go back and forth. Originally, I was huge on Anthony Barr being a better player. But Khalil Mack, I think he brings more sizzle as a pass rusher just because he’s long and rangy. I see him as a guy who’s very similar to Julian Peterson. When you watched them on the turf together, Khalil Mack appeared to be a better and more natural linebacker right now than Anthony Barr.
“When I look at Khalil Mack I see that he’s big, he’s strong and he’s physical. I liken him to what Ahmad Brooks is for the San Francisco 49ers. I think he’s a solid player. I think he’s a physical player at the point of attack.
“I think Anthony Barr will project as a better cover guy, just because he’s long and athletic. He’s only played the position for a few years. He was a running back in high school. … He’s just a very natural athlete. …I think he has all those traits that you look for in a long, rangy and athletic linebacker that can be a 3-4 rush end or a drop (into coverage) player.”
ON MICHAEL SAM: Since we had him on the phone, we asked about Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who’s attempting to be the first openly gay player in the NFL.
“Everyone kind of knew what he was an athlete after watching him at the Senior Bowl. But really what he is in terms of draft status is a designated pass rusher. He’s a nickel pass rusher. He has the ability to come in on third downs and get after the quarterback. He’s not athletic enough to be that 3-4 outside linebacker and he’s not stout enough to be an every down defensive end. So, you would need to have a role for him.
“When we are looking at the draft, when you are picking players as role players or as specialists, it kind of diminishes their value. He’s a draftable player for sure, but now I think we’re talking about the fifth round. He’s a guy who can contribute to special teams and also as a situational rusher in certain packages.”
ON FALCONS TRADING UP FOR CLOWNEY: We had another question for Brooks. Should the Falcons trade up to get Jadeveon Clowney?
“They are really sitting in the catbird sit. They can sit at six and have one of those offensive tackles fall to them. Or, they can take one of the linebackers, Barr or Mack and they can fill the role that John Abraham had. …I think Anthony Barr is a better fit because of his range. Or, they can move up and go and get Clowney. It would take a King’s ransom to get up to No. 1, but I think if they believe he can be a difference maker. …I think that everyone can see that based on his athletic potential and playing in a dome, they could do it. I think Thomas Dimitroff has shown that he’s not afraid to make that kind of move.”