It's time for my annual, always inaccurate mock draft! Let's have some fun.
I'm not making any trades in this mock, but I'll say this for the record: If the Falcons do swap down in the first round, I think the target will be Su'a Cravens, who they'll likely need to snap up before the Panthers make their pick.
First Round, Pick #17: LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
I've vacillated like crazy on this pick, going between Shaq Lawson, Ragland, and Darron Lee, and even asking our resident draft guru Charles McDonald to give me feedback on a draft that featured both Lee and speedy linebacker Deion Jones (I'm not sure he was impressed). If the Falcons stay put, though, I think they'll wind up with a player I believe could be truly special.
The primary knocks on Ragland have to do with speed and coverage ability, which are legitimate concerns given that nobody wants to use the Falcons' first round pick on a limited, two-down player. I do believe Ragland is a better athlete than he's given credit for, however, and that his run defense, upside as a part-time pass rusher, and incredible instincts make him an ideal player in the middle of this defense. He would be such a massive upgrade over what the Falcons are currently trotting out that he could be transformative for this defense, and I'd love the pick.
I will now accept your angry comments.
Second Round, Pick #50: S Keanu Neal, Florida
The Falcons get their safety of the future in the second round. I've consistently stuck with Neal in the second round because A) I believe he'll be available and B) he seems like such a good fit for what Dan Quinn wants in his strong safety. He's a rangy, big hitter with a good all-around game who knows Quinn from their mutual Florida days, and I imagine he'd step in as the immediate starter.
Third Round, Pick #81: OLB Deion Jones, LSU
The Falcons elected not to add a ton of speed to linebacker in the first round, so they do so in the third round with Jones, assuming he's still here. Jones is a tremendous athlete with a ton of upside, even if he's not the most consistent player, and I could see him being a very good Falcon with a little bit of time to adjust to the NFL and to his new team.
The only real question is whether he'll still be here in the third round. Fingers crossed.
Fourth Round, Pick #115: C/G Graham Glasgow, Michigan
Glasgow is a projected fourth rounder, he's expected to be able to play guard at the NFL level, and the Falcons have shown a level of interest in him, which would be enough for me to make this pick. When you throw in the fact that he moves pretty well, has good awareness and a little versatility, and you've got a player the Falcons can groom for guard and the team's backup center for 2016 if they're terrified at the mere thought of Mike Person there.
Seventh Round, Pick #238: TE David Grinnage, NC State
The team gets a developmental tight end who is already a solid enough blocker and pass catcher to contribute, but has considerable room to grow. Wade Harman will need to work closely with Grinnage, who isn't a polished route runner or plus athlete, but he could become a useful backup for a team that will effectively have zero tight ends under contract in 2017.
This draft class delivers the Falcons urgent athleticism, as Thomas Dimitroff might say, and gives the Falcons some serious speed at linebacker. Neal slots in as an immediate starter at strong safety, Ragland starts in the middle while Jones plays a reserve role and moves between safety and linebacker, Glasgow is a top interior backup the team will hope to develop into a future starter at guard, and Grinnage is an interesting, athletic project at tight end. The team didn't solve every one of its needs with this class, but it got better, and in a perfect world (caution: we do not live in a perfect world) every single player here is a contributor. You don't get three immediate starters, but you get two with a chance for four.
Expect the Falcons to take a hard look at a quarterback in their UDFA crop with this class, as well as some young cornerbacks, wide receivers, and tackles. Let me know what you think of the draft in the comments.