The Atlanta Falcons have gaping holes at linebacker. This is no secret to anyone who has followed the team in recent years, given that the team can trot out Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu and Prince Shembo and not much else, especially if they were dreaming of 3-4 looks. This is a team in need of a talent boost and more warm bodies to fill spots, period.
Mocking The Draft's Dan Kadar attempted to solve that little problem for us with his latest two-round mock draft. He starts things off by giving the Falcons a highly-touted pass rusher and likely outside linebacker at the NFL level.
8. Atlanta Falcons: Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri
Ray was extremely productive at Missouri due to his athleticism, and while he played plenty of DE in college, Kadar told me he believes Ray projects as a linebacker at the next level.
His first step is the biggest reason. He really fires off the ball in a hurry and uses his burst to beat a tackle to the edge. I also like his closing speed and relentlessness, so that gives credence to being able to shift out to linebacker. I also wonder about his length and if he can hold up at end. I think being at linebacker allows him to emphasis his speed and quickness, especially on counter moves, to get off blocks.
Given the team's thirst for both pass rushers and linebackers, Ray could fit the bill. He'll need to develop more pass rushing moves and improve his strength a bit to avoid getting tangled up with linemen at the next level, but the talent is certainly there. For more, read Jake Bennett's profile.
The second draft pick from Kadar also addresses linebacker, though not outside. Instead, he shifted his focus to the interior and gave the Falcons Miami ILB Denzel Perryman. He's a productive run defender, a good wrap-up tackler and someone appears comfortable in coverage, giving him the potential to be the kind of three-down ILB the Falcons lacked in 2014. He's an excellent prospect.
If the Falcons added both of these players, they'd be able to shift Worrilow into more of a two-down role, move Bartu and Shembo to more part-time roles and rush the passer, and give guys like Marquis Spruill and Tyler Starr further development time. It's entirely possible both Ray and Perryman would be immediate starters for the Falcons in 2015.
What do you think of this mock draft?