The Atlanta Falcons enter the 2014 NFL Draft with arguably four major needs. In no particular order, the Falcons need to come out of this draft with capable starters at outside linebacker, defensive end, free safety, and tight end. In this draft scenario, the Falcons trade up to land the most prized defensive prospect in nearly a decade.
Round 1- Pick #2
Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, South Carolina
The Falcons will gladly give up their 2014 and 2015 second round picks to secure them the rare ability and potential that Clowney brings as a pass rusher. Clowney has a once in a generation type combination of size, speed, instincts, and athleticism that are downright freakish for someone his size. Questions surrounding Clowney’s work ethic and character are completely overblown, and fans can be sure new defensive line coach Brian Cox will get the most of him. The 6’5’’, 266-pound specimen would immediately become the Falcon’s best pass rusher since John Abraham’s heyday the minute he steps foot on the field, and will ideally transform the entire defense and make every player around him better. That’s what special players do.
Round 3- Pick #68
Terrence Brooks, FS, Florida State
The Falcons land their free safety of the future in the rangy, aggressive FSU product. Brooks has the versatility to come down and help in run support as well as be the single-high safety the Falcons can trust on an island. He has fluid hips and a smooth backpedal to go along with above average ball skills and zone awareness. The Falcons got a good look at Brooks during the Senior Bowl and will welcome his confidence and upside.
Round 4- Pick #103
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
Needing legitimate competition for second-year player Levine Toilolo, the Falcons opt to go with the solid, if unspectacular C.J. Fiedorowicz. The big-bodied tight end of out Iowa is more of a throwback type player who excels as an in-line blocker and underneath pass catcher with soft hands and good body control. Fiedorowicz has the potential to start right away if Toilolo isn’t quite ready to fill the shoes Tony Gonzalez left behind. In any case, the duo of Fiedorowicz and Toilolo would create premium mismatches in the redone at 6’5’’ and 6’8’’ respectively.
Round 4- Pick #139 (Compensatory)
Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
Charles Sims to the Falcons makes a ton of sense. Displaying his talent for the Falcons at the Senior Bowl, Sims showed he can be exactly the type of dual-threat running back that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter dreams about. Sims is a dangerous one-cut back with soft hands and vision to find room to run after the catch. Although Sims lacks elite top-end speed, he’s tough to bring down and will fight for extra yards after contact. Steven Jackson is old, and the Falcons need to bring in someone they can groom to be the number one guy for the future.
Round 5- Pick #147
Daniel McCullers, NT, Tennessee
The Falcons add another essential piece to their evolving defense. A true 3-4 nose tackle, Daniel McCullers would initially backup Paul Soliai in the defensive line rotation while being groomed to start once Soliai is done. At 6’7’’, 352 pounds, McCullers is the definition of a lane-clogger and would take on double teams with ease. McCullers needs to work on his hand usage and leverage before becoming anything more than a backup, but he has the raw potential to be great.
Round 6- Pick #182
Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
This is another pick that makes too much sense for it not to happen. Seantrel Henderson is somewhat of an enigma. Henderson has everything a team desires at the right tackle position in size, strength, athleticism, and ability. The problem with Henderson lies within himself. Henderson’s already fluctuating draft stock fell when he was unable to finish his workouts at Miami’s Pro Day due to being out of shape. Henderson needs to mature mentally and dedicate himself to becoming the great player he’s capable of becoming. Offensive line coach Mike Tice particularly enjoyed the challenge that Henderson was at the Senior Bowl, and would no doubt love to bring him in to Atlanta to help him reach his full potential.
Round 7- Pick #220
Preston Brown, ILB, Louisville
The Falcons need an true inside linebacker on the roster, especially when running their 3-4 looks. At 6’1’’, 251 pounds, Brown has ideal size for a middle linebacker. Brown is a downhill tackler with the physicality and instincts that could make him an enforcer in the middle.
Round 7- Pick #253 (compensatory)
Brandon Thomas, G, Clemson
Brandon Thomas’ draft stock severely plummeted from a day two pick to potentially an undrafted player as he recently tore his ACL in a private workout. The Falcons would be getting excellent value by taking Thomas here, although he’ll spend the year on injured reserve and won’t play in 2014. Thomas uses his long arms and excellent hand usage to keep pass rushers at bay and even held his own against Jadeveon Clowney without any help. Thomas needs work to develop as a useful run blocker, but has the tools to effectively do so. Thomas would eventually become the starter when the team moves on from Justin Blalock’s ridiculous contract, and even has the coveted versatility to fill in at tackle.
Round 7- Pick #255 (compensatory)
J.C. Copeland, FB, LSU
After parting ways with the oft-injured Bradie Ewing, all the Falcons currently have at fullback on the roster is the mediocre Patrick DiMarco. Coach Mike Smith has stated he wants the Falcons to be able to run the ball successfully when everyone in the stadium knows a running play is coming. Bringing in the sledge hammer that is J.C. Copeland will make running the ball in short yardage situations a lot easier. Copeland doesn't offer much as a receiver, but makes his presence felt in the run game with power and physicality.