Posted: 11:46 am Friday, April 18th, 2014
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
The Atlanta Falcons are not playing around.
Next week is a big as the Falcons finalize their board for the NFL draft, which will be held May 8-10. This will be the “grit and toughness” draft. Don’t look for them to deviate on character. They will stay close to normal methods of drafting players with degrees, former team captains and individuals with high football IQ’s.
The Falcons start offseason conditioning on Monday. We’ll have some media access on Tuesday.
Also, several of the top prospects including UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack are scheduled to visit Flowery Branch next week.
The Falcons have also been connected to all of the top tackles in the draft in Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan.
It’s pretty clear that they are going either edge rusher or offensive tackle in the first round of the draft. Because the quarterbacks are dropping, the Falcons will be forced to trade up to get their man.
In our second mock offering, the Falcons will trade up from the No. 6 position to the No. 3 spot to select Robinson. He’s the most athletic of the lineman.
A longtime NFL scout told us at UGA’s Pro Day that Barr was dropping in the draft. We had Barr going 10th to Detroit in Mock 1.0, but he slipped all the way to Miami, which has the 19th pick, in this mock.
Also, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater , who went fifth overall in Mock 1.0, has dropped to Arizona at the 20th spot.
Here’s how the first round of the NFL draft will proceed on May 8:
1. HOUSTON: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina – They’ll worry about getting a quarterback later and take the best athlete in the draft.
2. ST. LOUIS: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – The Rams need to get some weapons around Sam Bradford.
3. ATLANTA (projected trade with Jacksonville) Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn – He has a huge upside and is a relentless run blocker. He showed a willingness to work on his pass sets at Auburn’s Pro Day. The Falcons went over to Auburn on Thursday to get another look. They were also at his Pro Day. He can handle the right tackle spot right away and eventually take over at left tackle. CLICK HERE for our video from Robinson’s Pro Day.
4. CLEVELAND: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A – They Browns are going to keep drafting quarterbacks until they find one.
5. OAKLAND: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo – The Raiders can fill a need here.
6. JACKSONVILLE: (projected trade with Atlanta): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M – The Jaguars elect not to over-draft a quarterback and take the best player available.
7. TAMPA BAY: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M – The Bucs look to replace the departed Mike Williams.
8. MINNESOTA: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida – With Matt Cassel on hand, Bortles won’t have to play immediately and will be allowed to develop.
9. BUFFALO: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan – He is considered the nastiest of the tackles in the draft.
10. DETROIT: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama – He’s the top-rated safety in the draft. He played in 13 games as a freshman before starting 10 of 14 games in the National Championship 2012 season. He has great range and ball skills.
11. TENNESSEE: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State – At the combine, Dennard ran the 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds, which was the 13th fastest time and he was 13th in the bench press with 15 lifts of 225 pounds.
12. N.Y. GIANTS: C. J. Mosley, LB, Alabama – The Giants need to improve their linebacker unit.
13. ST. LOUIS: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State — He had a strong showing at the combine. Some rate him ahead of Dennard.
14. CHICAGO: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh — He was dynamite during the Senior Bowl practices. He has a knack for splitting double teams. He’s 6-1, 288 pounds. Defensive line guru Chuck Smith compared him, size and stature-wise to Geno Atkins.
15. PITTSBURGH: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State — Ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds at the combine, which was second-best of the receiver group.
16. DALLAS: Zach Martin, OT, Miami – He had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl.
17. BALTIMORE: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville – Pryor is the second-rated safety.
18. N.Y. JETS: Odell Beckum Jr., WR, LSU – Beckum has elite speed and can take the top off of defenses.
19. MIAMI: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA – The Dolphins get another piece for the defense.
20. ARIZONA: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville – The Cardinals believe they are getting
value at this spot.
21. GREEN BAY: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina – The Packers must replace Jermichael Finley.
22. PHILADELPHIA: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State – Jernigan was a force in the national championship game.
23. KANSAS CITY: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State – We are going back-to-back Seminoles here. He had the big catch in the national championship game.
24. CINCINNATI: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State – Shazier would add some speed to a slow linebacker group.
25. SAN DIEGO: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State – Roby, of Peachtree Ridge High, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, which was the fourth-fastest time of the cornerbacks at the combine. He also finished in the top 10 in the vertical jump, bench-press and broad jump.
26. CLEVELAND: Ra’Shede Hagemen, DT, Minnesota – He’s massive. He started to turn some heads at the Senior Bowl. He has a good attitude. He didn’t mind when Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox had him doing push-ups after mistakes.
27. NEW ORLEANS: Marqise Lee, WR, USC – The Chiefs elect to pick up another offensive
weapon. He had a drop in production last season after catching 118 passes in 2012.
28. CAROLINA: Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama – The Panthers have to start rebuilding their offensive line.
29. NEW ENGLAND: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas A&M – The smooth route-runner could be paried with Rob Gronkowski in the Patriot’s two-tight end sets. Basically, he’d be an Aaron Hernandez replacement.
30. SAN FRANCISCO: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech – The 49ers are rebuilding their secondary. Fuller is the younger brother of Detroit’s Corey Fuller.
31. DENVER: Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford – A consensus All-American, who was productive for the Cardinal.
32. SEATTLE: Stephon Tiutt, DE, Notre Dame — The Monroe native had 124 tackles and 22 sacks over his career.
FALCONS’ DRAFT BOARD
MEET THE FREE AGENT SIGNEES
2014 NFL DRAFT CENTRAL
–Blog & VIDEO: Clemson QB Tajh Boyd has stellar Pro Day showing
–VIDEO: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins on his Pro Day