The first round draft order is set, and Mock Drafts are popping up across the internet, even before the January 15th deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft. Several Falcoholic mocks have even started to appear in posts and blogs. So what follows is my ridiculously early draft mock, with an explanation of my picks. I haven't adjusted the overall pick numbers for compensatory picks, though it will ultimately affect the draft order in later rounds. I suspect the Falcons will end up with a 4th round comp. pick (for Grimes) and two 7th round comp. picks (for Svitek and McCown), but I'm not including those yet. I have, however, adjusted my overall pick numbers to accommodate the "cycling" for same-record teams that occurs after the first round.
So, without further ado, here goes:
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M - I can hear the screaming now, but here's my thinking... Even as a top-three prospect in most early consensus lists, most mocks currently have him available when we pick. He's the best offensive tackle in the draft, with an NFL pedigree (his father, Bruce, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007; even his grandfather, Clay Matthews, Sr., played in the NFL). Jake could arguably add an immediate upgrade to our offensive line at right tackle. It's extremely unlikely that Clowney falls to us at #6. The Rams are quite likely to trade their #2 pick, and somebody (Tampa?) could trade up to take Clowney. If there's one thing that was proven last season across the NFL, you can't have enough good tackles on the Oline, and we arguably don't have one. Matthews would be a pick that could help Ryan and our running game for years going forward, and I think we can't afford not to pick him if he's available at #6. He's even been the long snapper for the Aggies, so he could possibly clear an additional spot on the roster, or at least provide backup for that position. "But we need Defensive Line help," you say? That can be addressed...
With the 5th pick in the Second round, #37 overall, the Falcons select...
Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford - As the 2nd-to-4th ranked DE on most big boards, Murphy is a big fifth-year Senior, Team Captain, Consensus All-American, ranking first nationally with 1.1 sacks/game and sixth nationally with 1.7 tackles for loss/game. While he played quite a bit as an OLB at Stanford, he's billed as a 4-3 DE in the NFL. Murphy's a character guy that can play some ball. And for some additional line help...
4th pick in the Third round, #68 overall:
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh - As quickly as Donald is rising up boards, he might not be available at number 68, but he's still showing up available there on several mocks, so I'm taking him. Winner of the 2013 Bronco Nagurski Trophy, College Football Defensive Player of the Year, he's described as "disruptive," having lead the nation in tackles for loss. With ten quarterback sacks, he's a guy that could change the play of our interior line. "That's great," you say, "but what about the interior of our Offensive Line?"
3rd pick in the Fourth round, #99 overall:
Tre Jackson, OG, Florida State - Another fast riser on the big boards, Jackson is a two-year starter for an undefeated FSU interior line that showed a tremendous resurgence in their running game. He's only a junior, but is expected to declare for the draft. Things are likely to change considerably after the Fourth round, due in part to compensatory picks, so we'll truncate the narrative a bit:
5th Round, #135 overall - Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia - A local boy, he fits the Falcons' blocking TE mold. I'd take him or Fresno State's Marcel Jensen here.
6th Round, #166 overall - C. J. Barnett, FS, Ohio State - I don't think anyone would argue we need some competition at the free safety position. The way Kenny Ladler is rising, I think he'll be gone by this pick, so Barnett is likely the best free safety available here, though if we do get a 4th round comp. pick, I'd like to slide things up and take Ladler in the 5th.
7th Round, #197 overall - Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State - At 6'-2", 215 lbs., Moore has the size; as a member of the prolific OSU offense for over four years, he has the experience. He could be a good pickup for our receiving corps.
One bonus dark horse selection, for a late-round compensatory pick, or for pickup as a UDFA:
Chad Young, FB, San Diego State - Despite the fact that FBs are a dying breed in the NFL, we still use one, and I'm surprised this guy's not farther up (or even ON) more draft boards. A 5'-10", 240 lb. former walk-on for the Azteks, he's become a team leader and he's a high-character guy, with no injury issues and a non-stop motor that played considerably on offense and special teams. I watched him closely in the Idaho Potato Bowl, where he hammered several blocks to spring the running back, and caught a touchdown pass. I saw an example of his hustle when the camera caught him blocking downfield for a fast wide receiver on a long pass play. Incredible.
So there you go, another ridiculously early draft mock, but one with serious potential upgrades to both lines that would, I think, help craft the Falcons into a very serious contender.