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Report: Falcons could trade up for Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne

The AJC adds an interesting wrinkle into Falcons draft assumptions.

NFL Combine - Day 4 Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Alright, so, again, happy mock draft-a-palooza season, one and all. How’s about a few tidbits of news that might change how we look at the Falcons’ draft potentials?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter published his second mock draft of the season, which has the Falcons taking South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst. That’s different from the other, more logical Hurst (DT Maurice) that some mock drafts are slotting for Atlanta.

What’s even more interesting is what Ledbetter hints at about where the front office’s mind might be right now.

They’ll want to trade up to get one of the defensive tackles, either Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne. They do like Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan, too.

But at every opportunity, coach Dan Quinn has pointed out that this draft is deep at the defensive tackle position. When pressed, he has not been overly concerned about replacing Dontari Poe in the run defense.

Quinn clearly believes that he can find a run-plugging defensive tackle either in the draft or later in the offseason.

“This is a unique group,” said Quinn of the defensive tackles in the draft. “There are a lot of big guys somewhere between 280 and 300 pounds that can really move. Having that kind of versatility, where a guy can penetrate and get up field, those are the things that I really look for at the (tackle) positions.”

So! Between that, and D-Led mocking Hayden Hurst to Atlanta at pick 26, perhaps the organization really is more open-minded to not taking a defensive tackle at the top of the hour like we were all expecting. And, if they do, it might come at the cost of a midround draft pick or two.

Vea and Payne are seen as the premiere names in this draft class, and the team met with the former at the combine. If the team were to pop up the board, it’d assuredly cost them a some mid-round capital. They gave up their second rounder last year to get Takkarist McKinley, which may preclude them from doing that again, particularly if they feel that they can get a good run-stuffer later in the draft. But, the fact that they’re interested in a trade at all might indicate they’re more comfortable with their depth on the roster than some of us are, and wouldn’t be against parting ways with a second rounder again this year (and perhaps more).

If Ledbetter’s mock came true, Hurst would eventually take over as the starting tight end and slide Austin Hooper to the second slot, which would give the team a tremendous amount of depth at the position, with vet Logan Paulsen and the developing Eric Saubert in tow. It’d be a little surprising to see them give up on Hooper that soon after a pretty good 2017, but maybe they just want two caliber players at the position there to run 2-TE sets.

Ledbetter also hints to keep an eye out for these prospects.

Some other intriguing players to the Falcons, not necessarily first-rounders, are Ohio State defensive end Jaylen Holmes, Memphis linebacker Genard Avery, Mississippi State defensive end Breeland Speaks and Limestone wide receiver Vyncint Smith is set to workout for the Falcons on Monday.

So, right now, defensive linemen, linebackers and pass catchers look like the team’s points of intrigue this draft season, with other positions scouted here and there. Defensive tackle still feels like the smart bet for the first pick, as D-Led says the team also likes first round prospect Taven Bryan, but I suppose it’s not a certainty like some of us think.

A trade up for Vea or Payne would be an exciting moment for that opening night, but would also leave the team with less draft capital to fill out depth spots on the roster. But, hey, if they’re going all-in for 2018, adding one of those guys would be huge (literally and metaphorically).

So, stay tuned for lots more draft nuggets to come as we inch closer to draft night. It’s shaping up to be a fascinating season.