The NFL Combine is technically a thing of the past at this point. Which means the actual Draft is only several weeks, thousands of hours, and an incredible amount of minutes away.
So to keep your minds occupied until Commissioner Roger Goodell hits the podium, I’ve come up with a plan to present a fresh seven round mock draft to entertain the masses. This Combine has helped the draft stock of many prospects at key need positions for the Falcons (DL, OG, TE, LB). So now that the Combine is over, what direction will the Falcons go? Who is on their radar? Let’s skip the small talk and get on to the nitty gritty.
Round 1, 31st Overall - Takkarist McKinley, DE , UCLA
If you recall from my last mock a few weeks back, I went interior defensive line by taking Caleb Brantley. However, the more I watch Takkarist McKinley, the more I feel Dan Quinn and the Falcons defensive coaching staff can mold this athletic defender into a defensive line terror for offenses.
He has more than one deficiency in his game of course (just like every prospect) but at 6’2 265 lbs with an elite 10-yard split for his size (1.61), a notable 40-yard dash (4.59), and a relentless pursuit, McKinley can be the ‘yin’ to the pass rushing ‘yang’ provided by edge rusher Vic Beasley.
He has enough size to be a three-down defensive end for the Falcons on either side and his athleticism is versatile enough to have him showcase his agility in space and make plays. Shoulder surgery sets him back for a few months which will affect his draft stock enough for the Falcons to grab him.
Round 2, 63rd Overall - Dorian Johnson, G , Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh guard had a place on my previous mock. This time around, he finds himself in the second round.
Johnson is an athletic guard with prototypical size to fit the Falcons desires (6’5 315). One thing about Johnson’s game is his ability to lead block in space as he is excellent with his lateral footwork. Things don’t look exactly favorable for veteran guard Chris Chester returning to the team for 2017. In the likelihood that the team moves on from Chester (which is very likely at this point), Johnson is a solid addition and provides an injection of youth on the veteran offensive line.
The team has limited cap space this offseason and although many would like to see the Falcons win the Kevin Zeitler sweepstakes, the odds of the team traveling that route seems considerably low. Here’s a nice fix for the Falcons.
Round 3, 95th Overall - Jonnu Smith, TE , Florida International
Smith was another face on my previous mock. At the tight end spot, reports have surfaced that the team will attempt to re-sign Levine Toilolo this offseason. The same may not be said for veteran Jacob Tamme. It is also likely the team will move on from Tamme.
Having Toilolo around only aides the blocking department. Toilolo does not provide much as a pass catcher and new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian likes to utilize multiple tight ends.
With Austin Hooper a sure bet to see a boost in production next season, this is where Smith comes into play. Smith showcased his talent and athleticism at the Combine with a 38 inch vertical, 10.5’ broad jump, and a shade over 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. He has nice size at 6’3 and 248 pounds. Smith also led the Panthers in catches during his freshman and sophomore seasons. His blocking is better than expected and his presence will provide a one-two athletic combo at tight end with Hooper. Adding a prospect like Smith can elevate the Falcons offense.
Round 4, 135th Overall - Larry Ogunjobi, DT , Charlotte
A mid-round selection for the Falcons that is a definite sleeper. Ogunjobi provides quality ability to be a gap penetrating, 3-technique defensive tackle and his notable quickness stands out on film.
Ogunjobi is one of the better athletic interior linemen in the entire draft class. His 29.5 tackles for loss in two season with UNC-Charlotte is evidence that Ogunjobi lived in opposing backfields. With that limited cap space mentioned earlier, I think the Falcons will reel in Giants defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins, which will provide a talented nose tackle for the Falcons. So adding Ogunjobi with Grady Jarrett and Ra’Shede Hageman gives the Falcons a nice combination of athleticism and quickness on the interior.
Round 5, 176th overall - Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado
Obtaining a free safety early in this draft has somehow transcended into the norm now for some of the Falcons fan base. Current starter Ricardo Allen improved as the season went along and his play in the playoffs was evident as to why Allen should remain the starter going forward.
So taking Thompson does not necessarily mean that Allen’s job is on the line. What it does is provide a little competition at the position, which does not have the greatest of depth at the moment. Thompson is 6’1, a little over 205 pounds, and has the ball skills that can benefit the Falcons. His football IQ is a strength of his as well. Whether or not Allen has a place with Atlanta beyond 2017 remains to be seen. In case he is not, Thompson can be a reliable option for Atlanta.
Round 7, 252nd Overall - Isaiah McKenzie, WR , Georgia
I have been criticized for making this type of selection but I will continuously stick by it. We all saw the lack of spark that veteran Eric Weems brings to the return game. A change is needed.
The team selected receiver Devin Fuller last year but his shoulder injury in preseason delayed his rookie appearance. While we don’t know about his status, Fuller is still an unknown at this point.
Taking a chance on a spark plug like McKenzie in the seventh round is not that great of a risk. His ability to be a home run threat as a returner will provide competition in camp with Fuller. McKenzie is small in stature but his electric ability can alter a game. His placement as a returner could give the Falcons a true threat in special teams.