If there's an annual spring rite at The Falcoholic, it's my mock draft.
I never put these things together to get it right. Aside from Sean Weatherspoon and Jonathan Massaquoi, I have literally never gotten a single player right. I do this because I'm trying to map out the needs and wants the team has, map out the kind of players that might fill them
Also, it's a lot of fun to be so wrong all the time, no?
#30: Falcons trade up to #18 and #80 in exchange for picks #30, #60 and #92, select Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
When need crosses paths with best player available, sometimes you have to jump.
This is, on paper, one of the best cornerback classes in years. The top five corners on the board all look like immediate starters for a contending team, and the Falcons don't have a bigger hole on the entire roster. You could make a solid argument for upgrading at defensive end or linebacker or even for going for a playmaking tight end, but at the end of the day, the Falcons are short a starting cornerback. They need to get one.
That's why I have them swapping up to get Rhodes. Widely anticipated to be the second or third best cornerback in this draft when all is said and done, Rhodes is an extremely physical man cornerback who resembles an early career (read: good) Dunta Robinson. He needs to work on his form tackling and change-of-direction a bit, but he's got the size, speed and coverage ability to be an immediate contributor. He also adds much-needed physicality to a secondary lacking it.
Rhodes is my personal choice, but I recognize that the Falcons have been linked to other cornerbacks in the first round. I also recognize that teams have been connected to Rhodes before #18, but I think the Dolphins will go in a different direction and Rhodes has a good shot of making it to #18.
Mark my words: The Falcons are going to trade up to get a cornerback if one doesn't fall to them. I think Rhodes is the likeliest choice, but you could talk me in to anyone from D.J. Hayden to Desmond Trufant, too. A Hayden or Milliner would be extremely bold, but potentially game-changing.
#80: Falcons select Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
The Falcons trade up in the third round with Dallas as well to ensure they can get their hands on Lemonier. Not the most popular player in this draft for reasons I'm about to expound upon, but a prospect I like a great deal.
The Falcons still need help with their pass rush. Lemonier isn't the most finished product, but he's got athleticism in spades, long arms and the natural ability to be a force off the edge. The Falcons will be looking for whoever they draft to offer some pass-rushing punch in the rotation, and Lemonier fits the bill.
He'll need to get stronger, learn more moves and leverage that natural ability better than he does now, but he had 24 tackles for loss and 17 sacks in three seasons in college. Getting him in and letting him take some snaps at defensive end and linebacker to see where he fits best should pay dividends for the Falcons, and I suspect he'll be by far the best pass rusher left at this stage of the draft.
Sean Porter is also a strong, strong possibility here.
#127: Falcons select Kwame Geathers, DT, Georgia
You want a big, space-clogging tackle to give the Falcons a different look up front? Geathers gives you that.
The hulking, 342 pound Geathers was not the most productive college player and doesn't have anywhere near elite athleticism for a defensive tackle, but so what? The Falcons have four defensive tackles on the roster right now who are on the smaller side and offer more as backfield-penetrating DTs, but they lack a run-stopping, pocket-collapsing presence. Geathers will need a bit of work on his technique before he becomes a game-changer. As a potentially useful rotational piece and nose tackle when the Falcons go with 3-4 looks, Geathers would be extremely valuable in the fourth round.
#133: Falcons select Vinston Painter, OT, Virginia Tech
The Falcons could use tackle depth. Painter is by far the most intriguing option likely to be left at this point, a big, athletic guy who had some experience playing defensive tackle before he was switched over.
The biggest issue here is experience, as Painter only started one year at right tackle at Virgina Tech and would have to do a lot of work to be a viable backup option at left tackle. His run-blocking is excellent, he has terrific strength and he could kick inside to guard if needed, however, and that's enough to make me very comfortable with the pick. Given the options the Falcons currently have on the roster, he can afford to sit and learn for a year like Lamar Holmes did in 2012.
#163: Falcons select Ryan Otten, TE, San Jose State
The Falcons need to add talent to tight end, and Otten seems like a great way to spend the team's fifth-round pick.
A 6'5", 230 pound receiving tight end who is more than willing to help out blocking, Otten offers a nice all-around game and isn't afraid to fight for catches. That fearlessness could make him an asset over the middle, where the Falcons like their tight ends to be able to make a living. His upside isn't through the roof or anything, but he could be a useful part-time starter at minimum and would have a chance to learn from Tony Gonzalez.
He's a bit of a riser and he could be selected before the Falcons take a chance, but they've had him in for a visit and I can't readily imagine them using a pick on tight end before this if they wind up trading up in the first round. I like the fit.
#198: Falcons select Jayson DiManche, OLB, Southern Illinois
Here's that reach pick that makes everyone shake their heads and/or rage.
DiManche is an athlete, full stop. He's lethally fast, explodes off the edge and tackles well. He's a bit small and the competition level is a question coming out of Southern Illinois, but all DiManche did was produce for the Salukis. He had 37 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks over the last three seasons, which is nothing to sneeze at. He's widely projected to go in the seventh, but I could see the Falcons taking a shot a little early to ensure they get him.
He'll need a little work in coverage, more than likely, and a general coat of polish to his game. If you're looking for someone who might be able to offer pass-rushing heat from OLB, though, DiManche is your man this late in the game.
#236: Falcons select DeVonte Holloman, LB, South Carolina
Between adding Brian Banks, selecting DiManche and selecting Holloman, the Falcons will remake their linebacking corps, add young athletic talent and boost their special teams. Holloman was pretty excellent in pass coverage at South Carolina, and would give the Falcons a different look at linebacker. He's a nice athlete who could be useful as a situational pass rusher, as well.
The only question is if Holloman makes it this far. If he does, I don't hesitate to pull the trigger.
#243: Falcons select Vernon Kearney, CB, Lane
Perhaps my biggest sleeper of the entire draft, Kearney has nice size, athleticism and coverage ability right out of the gate. I think he could leapfrog Peyton Thompson and perhaps even Dominique Franks and serve as a valuable dime package back going forward, at minimum. I think he'd be a great, great pick right here.
#244: Falcons select Cody Davis, S, Texas Tech
The Falcons need to add depth at safety. Davis is a sure tackler who plays the run well. He's got limited upside, sure, but we're talking about a seventh round compensatory pick. He's a solid player who will shore up the depth chart right now
#249: Falcons select Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh
Is it a stretch to think Graham gets here? Too bad. A classic bruising power back with decent hands, Graham could be the next Jason Snelling for this team and an option for goal-line carries once Steven Jackson rides off into the sunset. Another player who may not have huge upside, but could be a valuable reserve for many, many years for this Falcon's team.
So that's my mock. Tell me what you think of it in the comments.