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Narrowing down possible Falcons first round selections

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Who might the Falcons walk away with in late April?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The point of this exercise is to try to figure out who will be there when the Falcons pick (which is probably a fool's errand) and who out of that list the team might be interested in (a little easier). There are certainly other options here, but based on what we know about the Falcons' needs, draft patterns, and who's available in the class, I think this is a solid list.

Winnowing down

We can safely assume the Falcons will not be drafting a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tackle, center, or tight end at #17, given the way the class lines up and their needs. They're also likely to shy away from drafting a cornerback, given that they have both Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford.

Given the team's persistent offseason of bad publicity, I can see Arthur Blank and the front office avoiding guys with major character concerns, which probably rules out the likes of Robert Nkemdiche and perhaps Noah Spence. It's not necessarily fair or wise, but don't shoot the messenger here.

That leaves the Falcons selecting from guards, defensive linemen, linebackers, and safeties, and determining who might A) actually be there at #17 and B) would make sense for the Falcons. Here's our list.

Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

The Falcons still haven't truly addressed the pass rush, unless you think Derrick Shelby and Courtney Upshaw are somehow massive upgrades, so a physical, well-rounded option like Lawson would make a ton of sense for them.

Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Lee has the speed the team covets, could be an asset in coverage sooner than later, and may be a useful pass rusher as time goes on. He just isn't that big and misses tackles, but certainly there's a lot of upside here.

Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

If Lee is fast, Ragland is physical. There are questions about his speed and agility in space and he's not going to be a huge asset in coverage, but he's a thumper, an immediate asset against the run, and a pretty complete player despite his limitations.

Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

Lawson's linemate in Clemson was extremely productive in his last season and has the tools you look for, but there's simply not a ton of production and history to go on, so there's some projection involved with taking him. He could turn into Michael Bennett (a popular pro comparison), but there's risk involved with taking someone who is still figuring his game out.

Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

The position isn't a huge need, but the player might be. Rankins is strong, physical, and draws frequent comparisons to Aaron Donald, who is a tremendous football player the Falcons barely considered in his class. Don't sleep on this possibility.

Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia

There are plenty of arguments about where he fits and whether he's got enough bulk, but Floyd is a terrific athlete who could be intriguing to the Falcons at linebacker, and he's versatile! Dan Quinn's fired up about versatility.

Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

He's arguably the best linebacker in the class, and the only way the Falcons have a shot at him is if his medicals raise any issues or they trade up. I can't see the latter happening, but we'll dream of the former.

Who would be your pick?