While a growing number of draft experts believe the Falcons will look for Jadeveon Clowney at the top of the 2014 NFL Draft, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay are going in a different direction.
As two of the premier draft gurus working today, Kiper and McShay offer ever-evolving predictions that are still usually wrong. Again, I offer the latest picks up to give you a sense of how the Falcons' needs are being perceived, as well as the kinds of players who may well be available if they stand pat at #6. It also gives us something to get fired up about, and I like y'all fiery.
Let's start with Kiper, because his hair demands this treatment. He has the Falcons going after an athletic, dynamic defender by the name of Anthony Barr.
Analysis: There will be questions about the type of scheme Barr is best suited for, but we probably pay too much attention to that. In Atlanta, Barr could easily work in what we'd traditionally call a 4-3, standing up on the edge and using his exceptional quickness to create pressure, something the Falcons need to find. Last year, they looked to upgrade the secondary, but that group will be exposed if they can't find a more consistent rush. I also think Barr can add some muscle without losing that lightning first step.
I think Barr will someday be a fine player, but I'm not enamored. Barr needs to work on his pass rushing moves and potentially bulk up a bit to be a real asset, making him the kind of player who could be useful in year one but may not be excellent until year two or beyond. I'm certainly not going to complain if the Falcons draft him, but I don't know if he'll be an immediate upgrade.
Todd McShay looked on the other side of the ball for his pick, picking one of the premier offensive tackles in this class. That would be Jake Matthews.
Analysis: Defensive end, offensive tackle and tight end are the Falcons' top needs in this draft, and Matthews is a guy who fills a need and is also a top-five talent in this class. He brings versatility, having played both right tackle and left tackle for the Aggies, and he has good bloodlines (Bruce Matthews is his dad), commitment to the game and an understanding of what it takes to succeed. This feels like a good, safe pick for a team that needs to better protect QB Matt Ryan in 2014 and beyond.
I really enjoy when draft experts can't properly evaluate the needs on the teams they're looking at, as I think it's inarguable that defensive tackle and guard and more pressing needs than tight end and offensive tackle. That may just be me, but Matthews looks like a solid pick who could potentially man the left side or right side of the line for a long time. I just don't believe the Falcons will use their first pick on a tackle.
So yeah, here I am, ruining dreams. Your thoughts on these 2014 mock drafts?