Every week in the run-up to the 2017 NFL Draft, SB Nation’s Dan Kadar is publishing a new mock. As he sees who teams are sniffing around, evaluates their needs, and shifts his draft board, the players each team gets tend to shift around as well.
For example, last week saw the Falcons pull down zone-friendly guard Dan Feeney with the 31st pick, which is a very defensible if unsexy pick. This week, Kadar flipped the script and gave the Falcons one of the most high-upside players in this class, albeit one with significant risks associated.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
Defensive line versatility is an asset in Atlanta, and that’s exactly what a player like McDowell provides. He can work all over the line in Atlanta’s system and if anyone can get him to consistently play hard, it’s Falcons head coach Dan Quinn.
I would like this pick, even if it will scare many because of the echoes of Ra’Shede Hageman, an early second round pick with a similar player profile who got dinged for his effort and consistency coming out of college. Hageman has improved since he arrived in Atlanta and was a useful player last year, but he hasn’t come close to realizing his upside, and it’s understandable that many would be wary of McDowell given that those concerns have also dogged him.
On the other hand, McDowell is a bit lighter on his feet than Hageman, can play inside and outside, and figures to be more capable of getting after the passer. Dontari Poe is only on a one year deal and Hageman’s rookie contract is up after this year, so it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world to land another defensive tackle who could spend significant time in Atlanta. McDowell probably will have about as much upside as anyone left at the position with pick #31.
What do you think of the selection?