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Falcons land promising defensive tackle in collaborative mock draft

Malik McDowell falls - and we catch him.

NFL: Combine
Would you have passed on Malik McDowell at #31?
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Dave represents the Falcons in the annual SB Nation Writers mock draft, and he selected Derek Rivers for us with his first round pick. I represented the Falcons in mocks on the old CBS forums, and one of those mocks (now in its eighth year) survived and moved elsewhere.

That mock is going on right now (I’ll write about it later), but the creators of that mock tried an additional experiment this year. They added a second collaborative mock that encompasses the entire offseason - including the salary cap, free agency, cap cuts, franchise tags, RFAs and ERFAs.

It’s an experiment still in the “alpha testing” stage, and so far nothing about it has been made public. But now that the draft portion is complete and the whole thing is winding down, I thought I’d share the Falcons results.

After all, everyone craves mock drafts at this time of year, and this one’s a bit different from the rest. Since the draft is probably what you care about most, I’ll start there...

Draft Selections

Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State. wasn’t expecting him to fall to us at #31, but he did. I couldn’t pass him up. For those who are wondering, Forrest Lamp was already gone.

Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State. As you’d expect, pass rushers were dropping off the board pretty quickly, so I was happy to grab Willis in the second round. I also had Dave’s choice Derek Rivers in mind here, but he was taken about six picks ahead of me.

Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Charlotte. Yes, I tripled up on defensive linemen. You’ll see why when we get to the free agency portion of the mock. I thought that Ogunjobi was too good a value here to pass up.

George Kittle, TE, Iowa. This is projected as one of the better TE draft classes of the last decade. Looking to the long term, Austin Hooper and Kittle should make a fine duo.

James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh. We haven’t had a really good short yardage runner since Jason Snelling retired. Conner is tough as nails. I see him doubling as a fullback down the road.

Matthew Dayes, RB, NC State. The Falcons played much of last season with only two running backs on the 53-man roster. I consider that as risky, and I think it was a factor in the loss to the Chargers last year. So I added Dayes and also picked up injured Maryland running back Trey Edmunds in the UDFA stage.

But what about the offensive line?

What makes this mock so different from every other collaborative mock I’ve participated in before is that this one included free agency ahead of the draft - with all GMs competing for the available free agents in open bidding. Teams could also choose to release players to free up cap space, and those players became part of the free agent pool.

For this mock, we started with the rosters as they were the day after the Super Bowl. Everything from there is up for grabs. Here’s what I did by position group:

QB - Signed Christian Ponder and Connor Shaw. They have their flaws, but they both have the intelligence and mobility to take on our scheme.

FB/RB - Re-signed Patrick DiMarco. I have a feeling some of you will like my mock for this reason alone. Now figure Freeman, Coleman and Conner at RB with Dayes, Ward, and Edmunds competing for the depth spots.

WR - Tendered/signed Taylor Gabriel, resigned Aldrick Robinson. It’s the same group as last year, minus Weems. I decided not to mess with a Good Thing.

TE - Re-signed Jacob Tamme. The obvious risk is that we haven’t heard anything at all about his physical situation coming off of IR. But assuming he’s healthy, Tamme, Hooper and draft pick George Kittle should be a very nice trio. Toilolo is still available, and I still might scoop him up as insurance in case Tamme isn’t cleared medically. We also have Joshua Perkins and D.J. Tialavea in the mix.

OL - Signed Don Barclay, signed Joe Hawley, signed Donald Stephenson, resigned Ben Garland (ERFA), resigned Tom Compton. I would picture Barclay winning the RG battle, but Hawley, Garland and Trevor Robinson would be in the mix too. I’d imagine Stephenson beating out Compton and Schweitzer for the swing tackle role. My guess is that Compton and Robinson would end up being the odd men out at the end of preseason.

DE - Signed Damontre Moore, resigned Dwight Freeney to a vet min deal. Moore has been a journeyman, but he has shown flashes of talent. With Clayborn injury-prone and in his final contract year, adding Moore made sense as he wasn’t expensive. Note that we did NOT land Crawford in this mock, so the DE group would be the healthiest or best of Beasley, Shelby, draft pick Jordan Willis, Clayborn, Moore, Freeney, and possibly Brooks Reed (though I’d move Reed back to LB).

DT - Signed Terrell McClain, signed Vance Walker, signed Stefan Charles. Walker and Charles were dirt cheap signings for competition purposes. Like Tamme, Walker is coming off an injury and might not be medically cleared, so while I love the idea of Swagger Vance coming home, I’m not counting on either him or Charles for anything. Also noteworthy: In this mock we lost Courtney Upshaw to free agency. That was part of doubling down at DT in the draft. We’d be looking to form a five man group out of Jarrett, Malik McDowell, Larry Ogunjobi, McClain, Hageman, Charles, Swagger Vance and returning prospect Chris Mayes. That shouldn’t be too difficult.

LB - Signed J.T. Thomas, resigned Kemal Ishmael, resigned LaRoy Reynolds, signed prospect Adarius Glanton, resigned Sean Weatherspoon (cheap), resigned Paul Worrilow (cheap), resigned Tyler Starr (ERFA). I was happy to hear that Ishmael might become a linebacker for the real team, as I had him in mind for the mock. Move Brooks Reed back to LB and add Thomas, and we have real depth in the LB group. For those wondering why I’d bother with Starr, I stocked the roster with the practice squad in mind as well as the 53-man list, and Starr has two years of practice squad eligiblity remaining. Josh Keyes is also in the mix for a roster spot or practice squad spot.

CB - Re-signed Akeem King (ERFA). Otherwise stood pat, as we’re already overloaded in that group.

S - Signed Bradley McDougald, signed Rafael Bush, resigned Ricardo Allen (ERFA). Those three with Keanu Neal make a really nice quartet at safety. McDougald vs Allen for the starting free safety role would be a fun competition to watch in preseason. We still have Neasman as well, and Akeem King is a natural safety.

Specialists - No changes. The main question would be who takes over at PR/KR. Fuller, Hardy and Nick Williams would all be candidates. Aldrick Robinson might be the KR choice (he was the return man on the “hands” unit last year), and with more depth at RB we might see Tevin Coleman or Matthew Dayes doing return duty as well.

Coaching staff - Acquired Bill Musgrave as QB coach. (Personally, I’d take Musgrave as OC in a heartbeat. But since Quinn wants Sark, fine, Quinn gets Sark.) One risk I see for 2017 is that Sarkisian has very little actual NFL experience, incoming QB coach Bush Hamdan has no NFL experience at all (virtually no experience as a QB coach either), and our new offensive assistants also have no NFL experience.

Since Musgrave is willing to return to his roots as QB coach, he’s perfect for us. Matt Ryan already knows him quite well, and he’s an expert at breaking down an offensive system and teaching it to quarterbacks - which would help with new backups Ponder and Shaw. Bush Hamdan also comes aboard, but as an offensive assistant / assistant QB coach.

So there you have it. In my mock universe, we have Bill Musgrave back as QB coach, Patrick DiMarco back, free agents competing for the RG and swing tackle roles, depth at running back, a trio of top defensive line prospects and a new pair of backup QBs.

I hope you like it, though I’m sure you’ll tell me all about what you don’t like in the comments below. Have at it.