Falcons fans are certainly aware that the team should probably make the pass rush their focus with the eighth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and draft analysts Dan Kadar of Mocking the Draft and Todd McShay of ESPN both agree, based on their latest mocks.
Kadar has the Falcons taking Nebraska's Randy Gregory with the eighth overall pick. Gregory is supremely talented, and certainly would be a substantial upgrade for the Falcons as an edge rusher. Gregory also failed two drug tests at Nebraska as well as a drug test at the NFL Combine, which means he will enter the league in stage one of the NFL's substance abuse program. This creates a decided disadvantage should Gregory not stay clean in the future. However, one of the best things Mike Smith did for the Falcons was to help create a strong locker room culture, and that's certainly something I would expect Dan Quinn to not only continue, but strengthen. I think Atlanta would provide Gregory with the support and resources he will need to stay clean.
Per Kadar, Gregory's issues may present an opportunity for the Falcons to address their pass rush with a player who might otherwise not be available when the Falcons are on the board.
Teams have plenty of questions for Gregory after he failed two drug tests at Nebraska and another one at the combine. While he may fall out of the top five, the need for pass rushers in the draft is heavy. That's especially evident with the Falcons. A team will take a risk with Gregory considering he's already in Stage 1 of the NFL substance abuse program. But if he stays clean, he could make a big impact.
McShay also has the Falcons addressing the pass rush with the eighth overall pick with Missouri's Shane Ray. Ray was the 2014 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American, and he led the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss. Ray is an explosive athlete who would also upgrade the Falcons' pass rush. He needs to work on some elements of his technique, but that's something that can certainly be taught.
Per McShay, it's also possible that the Falcons would opt for Dante Fowler at this spot if he's still available.
The Falcons desperately need to upgrade their pass rush, and they'll have several edge rushers from which to choose in this scenario. I have them going with Ray over Vic Beasley, because while both have elite first-step quickness, Ray has better length and is more relentless. The fact that he doesn't show much of a power element to his game on tape is a bit concerning, but he fills a need here. One thing to keep in mind, if Dante Fowler Jr. is available at this spot: New Falcons head coach Dan Quinn coached Fowler while at Florida in 2012.
Your thoughts on these projections for the Falcons' first round choice?