If you pay close attention, slowly peeking over the horizon is the ‘2017 NFL Draft’ logo, which means the days are drawing near.
The excruciating wait will be worth it once it brings us to the Atlanta Falcons upgrading their already talented roster. Since my last Falcons mock draft, the team has added two veteran pieces to the team in nose tackle Dontari Poe and receiver Andre Roberts. The two free agent acquisitions changes the draft strategy for the Falcons and makes things a little more interesting. Will the Falcons still target an edge rusher in round one? When will Atlanta snag a right guard for their offensive line? Let’s indulge in the another full Falcons mock draft.
Round 1, 31st Overall - Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
I kicked off my last mock draft the same way with the Falcons drafting an intriguing pass rusher out of the Pac-12. McKinley brings plenty of skill to the table and I have constructed a scouting report via the Falcoholic here on McKinley and what he has to offer.
One thing about McKinley is his versatility. The athletic 265-pounder can be an asset and give the Falcons plenty of snaps as a weak-side defensive end or “LEO” in base defense then be a menace on the right side as an edge rusher on passing downs. McKinley is nursing a shoulder injury currently that resulted in offseason surgery. His draft stock has taken a slight hit because but rest assure, McKinley can be a great addition and provide a second athletic pass rusher along Vic Beasley Jr.
Round 2, 63rd Overall - Dion Dawkins, OG , Temple
Chris Chester will retire. That means the Falcons will have a sizable void on their solid offensive line.
Former Colts third-rounder Hugh Thornton was signed during the offseason, but the often-injured lineman is not necessarily a sure-fire starter at this point. The Falcons will need some youth and athleticism to give quarterback Matt Ryan and the talented Falcons backfield a complete set of bodyguards
If you notice in the GIF above, Dawkins is the left tackle in a 2-tight end set. Watch Dawkins chip the defensive tackle and passes him to the guard and get to the next level to wipe out the linebacker for a big gain. This is what the 314-pound blocker can do and this is what he can provide to the Falcons loaded offense.
Round 3, 95th Overall - Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
There’s not many of us, but there are some who feel that a true, reliable #2 tight end is still needed in this offense. The Falcons offense was truly a force when the likes of Austin Hooper and Jacob Tamme were catching passes from the Ryan last season.
Tamme entered this offseason as a free agent and on top of that, he is coming off a season-ending shoulder injury and missed roughly half of the season. I’m fairly confident when I say that we will not be a Falcon in 2017.
Although the team re-signed Levine Toilolo this offseason, he’s better at the blocking element and not necessarily reliable in the passing game.
So Hodges comes in and gives the Falcons an athletic upgrade over Tamme who has the capability to improve as a blocker as time goes on. Hodges is a matchup nightmare and can bring a skill set to Atlanta that can, believe it or not, take the Falcons offense to a different level.
Round 4, 135th Overall - Larry Ogunjobi, DT , Charlotte
Ogunjobi appeared on my last Falcons mock in the same exact round. What is intriguing about Ogunjobi is his mirror image to current starter Grady Jarrett. Ogunjobi is slightly taller at 6’3, but he has the athleticism and penetrating ability to mesh well with the trio of Poe, Jarrett, and Ra’Shede Hageman.
Bringing in Poe gave the team a true nose tackle. His acquisition somewhat diminished the “need” for a defensive tackle in Atlanta. Especially when you factor in the starters and the multiple rotations that will be utilized along the defensive line. However, there is room for one more. Ogunjobi has nice size, active hands, and the ability to beat offensive lineman with his quickness. Adding Ogunjobi provides a rotation at defensive tackle that the Falcons have not had in years.
Round 5, 174th Overall - Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB , Tennessee
Maybe not a prime need, but with an athletic talent such as Reeves-Maybin, it may be hard to pass up on a natural fit for the defense.
A lack of NFL prototype size and injury history in college is enough to push JRM down draft boards of many teams. However, behind stud linebackers Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell, Atlanta does not have great depth. JRM fits exactly what is often coveted in this type of scheme: a linebacker that has a skill set that allows him to play fast and physical when in space.
Round 7, 249th Overall - Matt Dayes, RB, NC State
An interesting choice here very late but the Falcons have enough room to roll the dice a little. Dayes runs with plenty of patience and very good vision. Two traits that highly utilized in the Falcons zone blocking scheme. Although Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman make up one of the best rushing duos in the league, it’s never a bad idea to add depth and possibly special teams help.
Dayes played all four years at North Carolina State and is coming off a very solid senior season with a career-high 1,166 yards, 10 touchdowns plus 32 catches.