The landscape of the NFL Draft is becoming clearer as the college football season winds down to a close. With rivalry week, championship weekend, and bowl season approaching it seemed appropriate to point out specific names that the Falcons could be targeting in the draft.
Based on team needs and projecting where they'll be picking in the first round (18-22 range), here are the top ten prospects the Falcons should be targeting.
1. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Checking in at number one on the Falcons list is former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. Jack was a dynamic linebacker who unfortunately suffered a season ending meniscus tear towards the end of September. He would add an explosive element to the middle of the Falcons defense that Paul Worrilow doesn't add.
Jack has the ability to play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and even strong safety in a pinch. He has the ability to be a building block for Dan Quinn's defense. Think Bobby Wagner when Jack's name comes up during the offseason.
2. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
One of the great draft cliches is the idea of the "safe" prospects: low floor players who should be able to come in and play from day one. Ragland definitely fits the bill there. He's a much bigger linebacker prospect than Jack, but offers a lot of the same traits to a lesser degree.
Ragland is going to get tagged as a slow thumper due to his size, but he has sideline to sideline ability and can fluidly make drops in coverage. Aiding in his potential transition to the Falcons defense is the fact that he plays under Nick Saban at Alabama, who runs a lot of the same principles that Dan Quinn does.
3. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Atlanta's passing attack has been stagnant in the games that Leonard Hankerson has missed. Due to his injury concerns and drops, he's not guaranteed to come back next season. The Falcons would be wise to invest premium resources into the receiver position next offseason.
Corey Coleman is a talented receiver from Baylor who fits the profile of the number two receiver in Kyle Shanahan's offense. He's extremely athletic and was catching touchdowns at an absurd pace this season before Baylor lost the top two quarterbacks on their roster. Coleman can stretch the field vertically and horizontally while taking pressure off of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan.
4. Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn
If it weren't for injury concerns, Carl Lawson probably wouldn't be on this list. In a vacuum he's arguably a top three or four player in the upcoming draft class. Unfortunately for Lawson his draft stock will undoubtedly be affected by a litany of injuries he's suffered in his three seasons at Auburn.
However, in the middle to late first round the value is too good to pass up. Lawson can play strongside linebacker and weakside defensive end in Falcons defense. The Falcons are currently last in the NFL in sacks; any help would be much appreciated and Lawson would form a devastating duo with Vic Beasley.
5. Shaq Lawson, EDGE, Clemson
Clemson fields a talented edge rusher for the second season in a row. Lawson is a much different player than current Falcon Vic Beasley, but his skills may translate a bit quicker to the next level. He's thick, powerful rusher with solid burst; his technical proficiency (especially in regards to his spin move) should allow for immediate NFL success. He'd fit into the Falcons defense like Michael Bennett does the Seahawks defense: a versatile chess piece with the ability to wreak havoc from just about any defensive line spot.
6. Jayron Kearse, S, Clemson
William Moore has had a long career with the Falcons that appears to winding to an end. Injuries have really caught up with him this season as he's struggled to cover tight ends across the field and make an impact versus the run.
Jayron Kearse may reminds Dan Quinn of Kam Chancellor, one of the leaders of Seattle's "Legion of Boom". Like Chancellor, Kearse is more than an imposing figure in the back seven. He possesses legitimate range in coverage and has flashed some ability to play free safety over the top. As Quinn, Richard Smith, Scott Pioli, and Thomas Dimitroff add new pieces to this defense an injection of youth at safety could be in play.
7. Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA
Taking an interior defensive lineman in the first round would be a bit of a luxury pick that the Falcons might not be able to afford right now. However, Kenny Clark is a stud defensive tackle dripping with potential. He's been the anchor of the UCLA defensive line ever since Eddie Vanderdoes went down with a knee injury week one against Virginia.
Clark is a bit of an unfinished product right now, but he's one of the smartest defensive linemen in the country who's still learning how to use his freakish athleticism. For an in-depth look at Clark, check out this video I made breaking down the first half of his game against Stanford.
8. Jonathan Allen, DL/EDGE, Alabama
Jonathan Allen is very similar to current Falcons Adrian Clayborn. Allen offers a bit more upside because his role coming out of college is clearly defined. He won't be asked to purely play defensive end like Clayborn did coming out of the University of Iowa. Allen is a versatile, albeit a bit stale, defender who's explosive coming downhill. I did a video breakdown for Jonathan Allen as well looking at his game versus the LSU Tigers.
9. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
Yes, Another linebacker. Atlanta needs speed in the middle of the defense and Darron Lee is one of the more athletic linebackers in the country. Lee isn't the same caliber athlete as Myles Jack, but not many are. He's a fluid athlete who can easily cover sideline to sideline. When the Falcons run their under fronts where the middle and weakside linebacker have to account for a lot of space on the second level, a linebacker of Lee's ability would be a tremendous add to the defense.
10. Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky
Spence was a blue-chip recruit that originally attended Ohio State, but ran into trouble with drugs and found himself at Eastern Kentucky after two season. Based on pure talent, Spence is one of the most talented edge rushers in all of college football. He has top ten talent; it comes down to answering questions about his past and how NFL teams can count on his availability going forward.
If Spence can keep his head on straight he can be a dynamite, impact pass rusher in the NFL. In regards to Atlanta, he can play both strongside linebacker and weakside defensive end (like Carl Lawson) and be a force off the edge.