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Mel Kiper Mock Draft: The Falcons Get A Defensive End, Unsurprisingly

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The Falcons pick up touted Florida defender Dante Fowler Jr.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons will be shopping to front seven help this offseason, and draft guru and pomade enthusiast Mel Kiper is only too eager to point the team in the right direction. In his mock draft, which dropped today, he has the Falcons taking Florida defensive end Dante Fowler.

Analysis: A known commodity since he arrived on campus, Fowler actually frustrated me some coming into the year because the talent looked better than the production. But he really put it together this season and made more plays, finishing with 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He offers the strength to set the edge as a 4-3 defensive end and becomes quick for the position in that role. While he lacks what I consider elite explosiveness, he has great strength and can both set the edge and occasionally drive a blocker backward. The Falcons need this kind of a player, as the pass rush was a weakness all year.

Fowler's versatility is his calling card, as the Gators lined him up at defensive end, outside linebacker and defensive tackle throughout his college tenure. With his underrated speed and athleticism, plus quality functional strength and a handful of good pass rushing moves, he could be an immediate factor for a scuffling Falcons defense. The Falcons are likely to settle him at one position—my guess would be end—but there's certainly the possibility he could be used in multiple spots. There's real upside here, as illustrated by some of these takes.

What Fowler needs is better strength to help him in run-stopping and better recognition of how a play is developing, and he'll obviously need to fine tune his pass rushing moves at the next level. Kiper is raving about his strength here, but that's more germane if Fowler is a linebacker at the NFL level, where that strength will be tough for many to deal with. If he's a defensive end, he'll need to develop a bit before he's fighting his way past quality NFL tackles. I know more than a few scouts are wary about his ability to turn into more than just a decent pass rusher at the next level, and the Falcons quite obviously need more than decent. Again, though, that's far from a universal opinion.

The Fowler connection makes even more sense, potentially, if Seattle's Dan Quinn is the next head coach. Quinn was the defensive coordinator in Florida before his two-yea stint with the Seahawks, and may be familiar enough with Fowler to champion him to the front office. This is a solid pick, either way, though I might prefer Vic Beasley, who Kiper has going to the hated Saints.

What say you?