Matt Miller, Bleacher Report's NFL Draft Lead Writer, has been pumping out NFL Draft content as the regular season winds to a close. His most recent work was a three round mock draft factoring in team needs and the current draft order. It's early December so any projection made in a mock draft is almost guaranteed to be wrong, but it's still a fun exercise that gives a great view of the NFL's current state.
Right now the Falcons' biggest needs are inside linebacker, pass rushing talent, wide receiver, strong safety, guard, and center. Let's take a look at how Miller filled these needs for the Falcons.
Round 1 (Pick 17): Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Other First Round Considerations:
Su'a Cravens, LB, USC
Jayron Kearse, S, Clemson
There isn't anything to dislike about this selection. At this point in the mock draft Myles Jack, Jaylon Smith, and Reggie Ragland were off the board. Atlanta desperately needs an upgrade at receiver and Josh Doctson has a strong case for being considered the best in the draft. Doctson has been compared to Cincinnati Bengals star A.J. Green (stylistically). His refined nuance as a route runner and ability to dominate at the catch point would make him an immediate threat in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
If you've watched the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, you've noticed the passing game is basically Matt Ryan to Julio Jones. And that's about it.Roddy White, Leonard Hankerson and the rest of the wide receiver crew have been disappointing. It's time for White to be moved and for a young target to come in and energize this offense.
Doctson isn't a speedy outside receiver, but he's a physical presence who dominates the catch point and runs precise routes with a veteran-like ability to find space with his size and timing. Opposite a speedy Jones, Doctson can become a huge threat with his sure hands and route-running skills.
The Falcons do need another wide receiver across from Julio Jones to take the pressure off of him. Doctson has great ball skills and uses his 6'4" frame to win contested catches at the point of attack. He could stand to strengthen his hands, but that will come with time and with training from Julio. He also needs to work on improving his routes.
The Falcons would definitely need him to bulk up, too. At just 190 pounds, he needs to get bigger to take the pounding that the NFL will put on him. Atlanta faces a pair of physical defenses in Carolina and Tampa Bay every year, so Doctson would have to make sure he had the weight to absorb the abuse in 2016.
Potential Other Option: LB Sua Cravens, USC
Atlanta needs a lot more speed at linebacker. Paul Worrilow and Justin Durant just haven't performed well within the new scheme and both are replaceable. Unfortunately, only one of them will be replaced with a draft pick while the other would need to be replaced with a free agent signing along the lines of a Danny Trevathan or Jerrell Freeman.
Round 2 (Pick 17): Tyvis Powell, FS, Ohio State
Other Second Round Considerations:
Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State
Jeremy Cash, S, Duke
Adolphus Washington, DL, Ohio State
Jonathan Allen, EDGE/DT, Alabama
Shilique Calhoun, EDGE, Michigan State
Selecting Tyvis Powell in the second frame is a major reach. From the tape he's put out, Powell looks much more like a fringe draftable talent than a bonafide day two selection. Also, free safety isn't a big enough need that Atlanta needs to spend a premium resource to upgrade the position. Ricardo Allen appears to have played well enough this season to earn another chance to start in 2016.
After drafting Doctson in the first, it would've made a lot of sense to add William Moore's future replacement in the second round. With the way the draft fell, grabbing a stud safety prospect like Jeremy Cash or Vonn Bell to pair with Ricardo Allen would have been a steal.
The Falcons also could use some youth on the defensive line. Adolphus Washington and Jonathan Allen look to be future integral fixtures on whatever defensive line they end up on. Adding an edge rushing presence like Shilique Calhoun in the second round would take some pressure off Vic Beasley who's currently the only edge rushing threat on the team.
The Falcons need a playmaking safety in the intermediate level of the defense. Tyvis Powell is being listed as a free safety by Miller, but he'd play strong safety replacing the mediocre William Moore. Powell is definitely a playmaker who hits hard and does well in coverage. He plays the ball well and can make quarterbacks pay if they don't pay attention to where he is.
He's one of the few safeties who can play the run as efficiently as he plays coverage. The biggest issues come from his tweener status. If the Falcons do get Powell and play him at strong safety, his range is much better than Moore's is. That alone would make the pick make sense. Atlanta needs that strong safety role to play better because that's why tight ends are abusing the defense.
Potential Other Option: DL Adolphus Washington, Ohio State
The Falcons would love a guy in their base defense who could not only stuff the run the way Tyson Jackson has been doing but also provide some pass rush off the edge. Ideally, they get someone who can emulate what Michael Bennett does. However, he's a rare breed, so the 6'4", 290-pound Washington makes sense due to his pass rush prowess as a 3-tech and 5-tech.
Round 3 (Pick 17): Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
Cassanova McKinzy, LB, Auburn
Kendall Beckwith, LB, LSU
Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford
Sheldon Rankins, DT, Lousiville
While the Falcons should try to find an upgrade for Jacob Tamme, it would make a lot more sense to address the trenches or linebacker position after eschewing them in the first two rounds. Jordan Leggett is an exciting playmaker at the tight end position, but it doesn't make too much sense here after not filling out higher positions of need.
Cassanova McKinzy and Kendall Beckwith are two SEC thumpers that play a rough, tough, vicious brand of football endearing to Dan Quinn. Joshua Garnett has been a stalwart guard for the Cardinal over his career; Garnett could slide in nicely to replace Andy Levitre. He also fits in well with Shanahan's blend of man and zone blocking concepts. Sheldon Rankins is an underrated defensive tackle prospect, but flashes (even looking outright dominant sometimes) whenever Louisville plays. Adding him would bring in yet another young, talented defensive lineman to Atlanta.
This is a pick that just makes too much sense. It's doubtful that he'd be here this late if he can run as fast at the combine as he does on film. He's a true all-around tight end that would make sense in the west coast offense because he can block down effectively in a zone running game and catch passes in the intermediate and short routes.
With his 6'5", 255-pound frame, he's already got the ideal build for a tight end as well. The Falcons would luck out if he was there, but there are a couple of options that could be better. As far as addressing need, this is definitely one of the best fits as Jacob Tamme cannot block well and Levine Toilolo is just plain useless in this offense.
Potential Other Option: OL Cody Whitehair, Kansas State
The Falcons need someone who can block for Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman. Cody Whitehair is an ideal fit for a zone blocking scheme and would be an ideal addition. While a tight end would be a nice addition, the Falcons biggest needs on offense are an interior lineman and a wide receiver. Whitehair could slide right in at either left or right guard and be an upgrade for Atlanta.
Charles' Overall Mock Draft Grade: C
Again, it's tough to put too much stock into a mock draft in early December. The Falcons' draft needs will clear up after they spend money in free agency and clear a few poor contracts from the team.
Looking at this mock draft in vacuum, it'd be hard to get excited about this class as a Falcons fan. The draft fell in an awkward way (as it usually does), but Atlanta could've easily added more impact players in the second and third round.
Scott's Overall Mock Draft Grade: B+
Be on the lookout for more draft content in the coming weeks!